Shamil Jeppie is Associate Professor in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town. He was educated in Cape Town and Princeton. He is the founder of the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project based at the University. Through this project he has fostered an approach to the written materials in the Sahara/Sahel that bring them into dialogue with other traditions of manuscript production and book history. His edited volume The Meanings of Timbuktu (2008) brought to a wide readership both cutting-edge scholarship on histories of writing in Africa and images of these texts.
There are hundreds of inscriptions spread throughout the region around Timbuktu that dates to the period between the early 11th century and the 1450s. Studies on them in the early 20th century by the key figures in Islamic epigraphy such as Van Becrchem and Sauvaget did not give them much significance. However, a decade ago, Paulo de Moraes de Farias published a major work on the inscriptions. While at I Tatti I plan to undertake a re-reading of the funerary inscriptions only from within the larger corpus of inscriptions. The material aspects of the inscriptions will be addressed but mostly I will reflect on the cultural or ideological work of commemoration of the dead. Hopefully my work will also serve to call attention to wider presence of epigraphy in the Sahara/Sahel region.