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Tin Hinan  

Allen J. Fromherz

Saharan Berber ruler. Radiocarbon dated to the second half of the fifth century, the bones of a Saharan woman, Tin Hinan, continue to spark the intense interest of archaeologists and historians. The tomb and remains of the pre-Islamic desert queen have confirmed Saharan oral-historical accounts, as well as the written accounts of Roman and Arab scholars and travelers, about the practices and legends of Tamachek-speaking Saharan Berbers. Her skeleton and bone structure were remarkably similar to that of the living Tuareg (the veiled Berber nomads of the Sahara).

Little can be confidently said about events in the life of this remarkable woman. Her grave, much more elaborate than others from this period, suggests that she was a queen or a respected chieftess. Although her existence was probably well known to the inhabitants of the area, her tomb was first seen by modern Europeans only in 1927 when Byron Khun ...



Edna G. Bay

high official in the government of King Glele (1858–1889) of the Fon kingdom of Dahomey (located in what is now southern Benin), held the key office of Tononu, a position that is sometimes compared with that of the head wife in polygynous marriages (e.g., the woman who directed all others in the household). Reportedly the king’s favorite, Visesegan was one of thousands of the king’s wives or dependents, all of whom—women and men—were called ahosi. A woman grown wealthy through commercial activities, Visesegan played a central political role in two major internal struggles of the late nineteenth century: the question of which prince would succeed Glele, and the development of appropriate responses to French demands that led to the 1892 invasion and conquest of Dahomey.

In the late nineteenth century an estimated five thousand plus women and a much smaller number of eunuchs inhabited a series of ...