Block Museum publication “Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time” shortlisted for Alice Award

Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa,” co-published by The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University and Princeton University Press, has been short-listed for the prestigious Alice Award in publishing. The book, released in January 2019, is the companion publication to the exhibition of the same name. Caravans of Gold is the first major exhibition addressing the scope of Saharan trade and the shared history of West Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe from the eighth to sixteenth centuries.

The $25,000 Alice award is given annually to a richly illustrated book that makes a valuable contribution to its field and demonstrates high standards of production. The award is administered by Furthermore, a program of the J.M. Kaplan fund. Furthermore is committed to supporting the publication of illustrated books at a time when support for such publications is dwindling. The award is intended to recognize the lasting value of illustrated book. Fields considered include the fine arts, natural and built environments, and related social issues.

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The “Furthermore Frog”

“We are honored that Caravans of Gold has been recognized by the Alice Award jury” notes the publication’s editor and exhibition curator Kathleen Bickford Berzock. “The publication is unique for bringing together contributions by scholars who work across academic disciplines and geographic regions that are rarely considered holistically. Reading their work side by side generates fresh ways of understanding the history of the medieval period, and of seeing the importance of Western Africa in this time .”

With over 300 pages and almost 200 color illustrations, Caravans of Gold draws on the latest archaeological discoveries and art historical research to construct a compelling look at medieval trans-Saharan exchange and its legacy. Contributors from diverse areas of study present case studies that form a rich portrayal of a distant time. Topics include descriptions of key medieval cities around the Sahara; networks of exchange that contributed to the circulation of gold, copper, and ivory and their associated art forms; and medieval glass bead production in West Africa’s forest region.

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The fascinating book demonstrates how the rootedness of place, culture, and tradition is closely tied to the circulation of people, objects, and ideas. These “fragments in time” offer irrefutable evidence of the key role that Africa played in medieval history and promote a new understanding of the past and the present.

“Rich and unique in its interdisciplinarity, Caravans of Gold places West Africa at the center of the Medieval world and, as the best illustrated books can, reconstructs a place and time that has long been understudied. We are very proud to see this important book recognized by the Alice Award committee.” notes, Michelle Komie, Publisher of Art and Architecture at Princeton University Press

“Being named to the Alice Award shortlist is meaningful recognition of the contributions to scholarship of the Caravans of Gold book, the most recent addition to The Block Museum’s publishing program and our second collaboration with Princeton University Press,” says Lisa Corrin, The Block Museum Ellen Philips Katz Director. “Through this publication, we are bringing a fresh, global view of the medieval era to a wide public. As a University art museum, The Block is dedicated to supporting innovative and cross-disciplinary scholarship in conjunction with our exhibitions, nourishing new research long after the exhibition closes.”

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