While travelling in different parts of Senegal (West Africa) I frequently came across grain stores which were very similar to the copies of prehistoric granaries which we have built in the Prehistoric Park (Oertijdpark) next to the Hunebed Centre. The Dutch word for these granaries is ‘spiekers’ . They are effectively small barns raised up above the ground and supported by poles, usually four in number but sometimes more. They are designed in this way to store grain and other crops out of the reach of rats and other vermin.  

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Spieker or granary in the Prehistoric Park next to the Hunebed Centre

Granaries of this type date as far back as the Bronze Age. No complete example has been found in Dutch excavations, all that has been found are stains in the ground which show where the wooden poles must once have stood. We do not know exactly what they looked like but we do have some idea. On that basis, a number of granaries have been reconstructed in various places in the Netherlands, including at the Hunebed Centre.

Granaries in Senegal

And then in Senegal, on the west coast of Africa, you suddenly come face to face with a granary which has been designed and built on the same principles. It is as if prehistory has come to life.

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You see these granaries standing near many villages in the countryside of Senegal.

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Village in Senegal

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Granary in Senegal

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Granary in Senegal

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Granary in Senegal

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Granary in Senegal

Groups of granaries in the Saloum Delta

The Saloum Delta on the coast of Senegal is a remarkable area. The Saloum Delta consists of brackish channels with more than 200 islands, mangrove swamps, an Atlantic marine environment and dry woodland. The region extends over 5,000 square kilometres and people manage to live here through fishing and collecting shellfish. Next to the villages, groups of granaries have been erected to store the crops and protect them from vermin. At high tide the poles stand in the water and at low tide on dry land. The granaries in the Saloum Delta are one reason why this region is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The red dot shows the location of the World Heritage Site of the Saloum Delta

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Village in the Saloum Delta

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Village in the Saloum Delta

Group of granaries in the mangrove swamp at the edge of the village. At high tide the poles stand under water, at low tide they are accessible

Tekst                          Harrie Wolters

Translation                Alun Harvey

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