Red Chalk Palimpsest: The Logic of Somba Landscape

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Red Chalk Palimpsest: The Logic of Somba Landscape


  • Fabrice Noukpakou Faculty of Architecture, Architectural Engineering and Urban Planning, UCLouvain, Belgium
  • Ghita Barkouch Faculty of Architecture, Architectural Engineering and Urban Planning, UCLouvain, Belgium
  • Nawri Khamallah Faculty of Architecture, Architectural Engineering and Urban Planning, UCLouvain, Belgium
  • Renaud Pleitinx Faculty of Architecture, Architectural Engineering and Urban Planning, UCLouvain, Belgium


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Abstract:  This article presents the results of a study on the traditional settlement patterns of the Somba people, living in the department of Atacora, north-western Benin. Adopting a methodology based on both a generative approach and André Corboz’s (1983) territory–palimpsest analogy, the study specifically questions the ‘dispersed’ character of the Somba habitat. Built upon two hypotheses, according to which Tatas Somba settle approximately to pre-existing Tatas and near to watercourses, this study seeks to understand the reasons and conditions of this dispersal throughout history. By cross-checking on-site inventory and geographic information system data allowing to analyse the distances between Tatas, archaeological sites and nearby watercourses, and thus revealing the permanent, the persistent, and the disappeared landscape elements, this article aims to prove that the settlement of the Tatas Somba is not determined by geometrical compositions, landmarks, or infrastructures, but rather by a combination of social, agricultural, environmental, and subsistence factors.

Keywords:  Atacora; palimpsest; Somba landscape; Tatas Somba; watercourses

Published:   30 June 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v5i2.2796


© Fabrice Noukpakou, Ghita Barkouch, Nawri Khamallah, Renaud Pleitinx. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.