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an archaeological culture that existed from the tenth through 19th centuries A.D. in the regions along the lower Chari and lower Logone rivers, in what is now the Republic of Chad. According to legend, the culture was created by the Sao people, who arrived in the Lake Chad area from the Saharan oasis of Bilma. The Sao were hunters, fishermen, and land cultivators. They knew the metallurgy of iron, copper, and bronze and practiced various handicrafts.

Excavations were conducted in the area inhabited by the Sao in the mid-1920’s by T. Monod and F. R. Wulsin and from 1936 by the French archaeologist J. P. Lebeuf. The remains of numerous settlements were studied. The ruins of city walls and pisé houses and many articles made of clay, including sculptures, burial urns, children’s toys, ornaments, and large vessels for storing grain, were uncovered, as well as articles made of metal, bone, horn, and mother-of-pearl. The most interesting clay sculptures, which date mainly from the tenth century, are heads and statues with astonishingly grotesque facial proportions. The Sao culture evidently influenced the culture of the Kanem-Bornu Empire, as well as the cultures of other neighboring countries.


Mirimanov, V. B. Afrika: Iskusstvo. Moscow, 1967.
Lebeuf, J. P. Archéologie tchadienne: Les Sao du Cameroun et du Tchad. Paris [1962].
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