Archaeological investigations in southern Mauretania have revealed a wealth of rather spectacular stone masonry villages which were occupied by prehistoric cultivators as early as 1000 B.C. It is argued that the inhabitants of these villages were Negro and very probably Soninke, and that the basic elements of their culture had developed without major influences from outside the area. The apparent sophistication and complexity of this cultural manifestation, combined with the close fit of developments in this area with Carneiro’s theory of state formation, suggests that this prehistoric complex represented at least a powerful chiefdom which embodied many of the characteristics of subsequent West African states. The first demonstrable outside influences in the area began about 600 B.C. with the arrival of Libyco-Berbers from North Africa. Rather than causing still further cultural advances, the initial effect of this contact was the collapse of this sociopolitical organization. But with subsequent adjustment, plus the potential from trans-Saharan trade carried out by the North Africans, the basic, pre-existing pattern re-emerged, resulting eventually in a second and much more powerful African political organization in this area – the Ghana Empire.