Djenné-Djono and Djenné are located on the trans-Saharan trade route, and are true confluences between the wandering world and the sedentary world. The caravans which crossed the desert towards Timbuktu exchanging slaves and gold for salt, passed by these cities as they experienced extraordinary development. The exceptional environmental conditions of security and abundance in this region supported a true artistic explosion, more especially so in that the Islamization of Djenné along the Niger river in 1043 did not prevent in any way artistic production from developing in the entire river basin... The 13th century is regarded as the peak of production of these splendid human and animal figurines from this civilization Production would start to decline starting in the 14th century.
In 1943 Theodore Monod discovered the first terra cotta statuette from the civilization of the Middle Niger on the Kaniana hillock, about two kilometers from Djenné. Since this date, many other terra cotta objects have been found in different buerial mounds, as well as pieces in iron and bronze. These pieces are the work of the Djenné culture which developed from the 8th to the 18th century. To our knowledge, there are 65 active excavation sites in the immediate periphery of Djenné.
In the 1970's some statues appeared on the art market which astonished collectors and researchers. These statues were found in the interior delta of the Niger, a vast, often flooded land between Ségou and Timbuktu, in Mali.
The first of these, which we have seen, was found close to Djenné, and these stones and statues were improperly called the "Djenné stones" , "Djenné statues", and "Djenné style". The truth is that a great part of these statues was found very far from Djenné...
As usual, and how can they be blamed, the local inhabitants launched wild excavations and the pieces circulated, without classification, without drawings, dating tests, research etc... Most of the finds have come in the last twenty five years, when modifications began in the rhythm and the quality of the Niger delta floods, leaving new areas of dry land. Thermoluninescence tests of these pieces dates these statues from the 11th and 12th centuries to the 18th century. The majority are from the 14th and 15th centuries.