By Hassoum Ceesay, NCAC
Pa Sanyang aka Stoneman who died last week aged 63 was a long serving staff of the NCAC of 18 years service. He worked as Site Attendant at Wassu Stone Circles site from 2001 to 2019 when he retired. During this period, he won fame for his very wonderful and sometimes fantastic interpretation of the megaliths.
Many visitors found his interpretation very interesting and would return to Wassu site just to hear him again repeat his interpretation of the sites. Although there are more than 200 stone circles sites in The Gambia, the Wassu site is the biggest and most prominent. Stoneman was very familiar with the stones at Wassu and keen to interpret their meaning and stature.
\While the traditional interpretation of the circles is based on the skulls, skeletons and scabbards found there in archaeological digs in the 1965 Anglo-Gambian expedition, which concluded that the circles were burial sites, Stoneman gave the astronomical explanation to the megaliths replete with queer numbers and letters.
The Gambian Stone Circles form the southern part of a larger Senegambian Stone Circle complex that extends from the River Gambia north to the River Saloum in Senegal. The Stone Circles are part of a major collection of sites that includes various forms of burial mounds, isolated pillar stones, single circles and groups of stone circles that may represent cemeteries, or burial sites. Much research is still needed to solve their mystery.
Stoneman was also a tour guide to natural and heritage sites in other parts of the CRR North. On his own, he created a popular nature tour which allowed visitors to see wildlife like hippos in the river Gambia. He was indeed an entrepreneur in the heritage and tourism sector.
During the long process of listing Stone Circles in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006, Stoneman was a important player in the NCAC team, led by Baba Ceesay, which worked very hard to get the listing into the prestigious list.
Stoneman indeed gave the Wassu stone circle site much attention and a very high profile. He worked hard to bring visitors to the site, and is sorely missed by all those who have interacted with him at the site including children, scholars and ordinary tourists. We at the NCAC miss him also.
To his family, I pay condolences and pray that his soul rest in perfect peace.
(Pa Y. Sanyang, aka Stoneman: Tour Guide of The Gambian Stone Circles, born 1957 died at Georgetown October 1 2020)