At one point, he cites an author who gave a detailed and accurate description of elephants--and who then went on to claim that dragons liked to catch and eat them. This book appears to collect very interesting and new-to-me information about the history of the tribes that make up modern Liberia. Unfortunately, when he writes about things I do know about, I find startling errors.
The core, and most important part of the book, is the use of oral histories of Liberian tribes, tribes in other countries, and linguistic analysis to map out the tribal migrations. He contends that much of the region near the coast was very sparsely populated, and that groups squeezed out of more inland regions could find places to live. Their traditions preserve some information about where they came from--though identification is sometimes tricky. In a few cases he mentions a language vanishing from a region, which makes me suspect there were some forgotten exterminations.
Pressures from rising and falling empires shifted populations around West Africa, Muslim pressures did too, and when long droughts shrunk the range of the tsetse fly, horse-borne raiders came farther south and west--until the climate changed again.
My complaint about his overlooking Moslem slavers was premature--he gives a pretty thorough description later on of what's known. (It was larger and longer than the European slave trade in Africa, and to this day Mauritania still has slaves.)
Some details clarify: wrt Dan and Krahn wooden carvings--"in none of the figures is any stress laid on likeness to the original [human model]; but it is essential that the pattern of the cicatrization works on the body and face should be followed exactly. The mode of dressing the hair must also be reproduced accurately. Any ornaments worn must be copied, and the very common umbilical hernias are faithfully reproduced also. In the case of women, stress is also laid on a faithful representation of the breast."
I get the impression that the carvings are to represent you as you are represented in relation to your tribe (scars, ornaments and hair) and your family (umbilicus, breast). Representing you might be problematic: perhaps because you are not so easily knowable as your representation, or perhaps because a representation of you might be used against you. Or maybe the solitary you doesn't matter as much as the you in relation. I may seem to be drawing too many conclusions from a small detail, but this ties in with other things.
The European description of the Poro society back in 1616 mentions male circumcision, but that of the Sande omits female clitoridectomy. He thinks that means the latter is a relatively recent innovation, though it could be that men talked about different things and what happened to the women wasn't so obvious. It certainly wasn't obvious to me when I lived there.
My copy of the book has a number of corrections scribbled in it--and he would have done well to have an editor look it over to get rid of some typos. And he would have done well to put in some modern maps. Some fact checking would have been nice--a funeral feast isn't uniquely African, for example. And claiming that iron working was independently invented in Africa is kind of ludicrous.
If you are interested in what can be learned about history before the official histories, by all means read it. But don't trust everything. I'm glad I bought it.