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Team hopes to unlock mysteries of Cameroon’s granite strongholds!
University of Calgary ^ | August 15, 2002 | Greg Harris, Media Relations

Posted on 08/17/2002 9:23:34 AM PDT by vannrox

UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS |PH: (403) 220-3500 | FAX: (403) 282-8413

Greg Harris, Media Relations
(403) 220-3506
(403) 540-7306 (cell)

August 15, 2002

Centuries-old African structures have never been excavated

U of C-led team hopes to unlock mysteries of Cameroon’s granite strongholds

A University of Calgary archaeologist is leading the first expedition to excavate the so-called Strongholds of Cameroon, which are some of the most remarkable stone-built structures anywhere in Africa.

Located in the Mandara Mountains of northern Cameroon, the strongholds range in size from small standalone structures, to complex, castle-sized fortresses with  platforms, terraces and covered passageways. The curving walls on some of the larger strongholds are over six metres high and strong enough to serve as defensive barricades, although their exact function is still unknown. (To download print-quality photos, see http://www.fp.ucalgary.ca/unicomm/news/strongholds/camphotos.html. A slideshow is at http://www.mandaras.info/StrongholdsNCameroon/sld001.htm and includes detailed commentary.)

U of C archaeology professor Dr. Nicholas David and other team members completed a preliminary survey of the 10 previously known or suspected stronghold sites earlier this year, discovering an 11th on the last day of fieldwork. He and close to a dozen other researchers – including co-investigator Judy Sterner, other archaeologists, a U of C grad student, a German ethnologist, Cameroonian students, and a conservation architect from Rome – will begin their four-month project this September. 

“We really don’t know much yet about these amazing structures,” David says. “One local story has it that they were used by groups who were almost constantly at war. People of the area also relate fantastic legends involving men with coppery skins, horses, cannibals and slaves, although the architecture of the strongholds seems quite unsuitable for trade in slaves. At present, my best guess is that they represent complexes of tombs.”

In 1823 Major Dixon Denham, a British explorer, met a group of chiefs on horseback from the area of the strongholds who were paying tribute to a local sultan. He described the chiefs as wearing animal skins, bone jewelry and “one to six strings of what I was assured were the teeth of the enemies they had slain in battle.” Those chiefs may have been the descendants of the people who built the strongholds. 

Although they are likely over 300 years old, the strongholds have never before been the subjects of scholarly inquiry. “It’s a very curious thing how sometimes these plums remain unpicked,” David says. “The colonial period resulted in Africans being denied their history, but of course knowing that history is a vital part of nation-building. Archaeologists, by uncovering information, make a real contribution to the building of stable nation-states. These stone-built strongholds build Cameroonian identity.”

Cameroon is located in west Africa between Nigeria and Chad. It is slightly larger in area than California and has a population of nearly 16 million people.

The significance of the strongholds has been recognized by the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Culture Property, which is supporting Cameroon’s conservation efforts in its Africa 2009 program. (ICCROM was founded through UNESCO in the late 1950s.)

A sizable Cameroonian contingent will be involved in the archaeological project, including several conservation experts. Some of the other participants include Judith Sterner, an anthropologist who is co-principal investigator and an instructor at the Alberta College of Art and Design, Gerhard Müller-Kosack, an  ethnologist from Johann-Wolfgang Goethe Universität in Germany, Frank Kense, an archaeologist who trained at the University of Calgary and is now an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta, Andrea Richardson, a U of C MA student in archaeology, and Owen Murray, an illustrator and former student of Sterner’s.

Work will begin first on one of the smaller strongholds, which David hopes will provide important information on how to excavate the larger ones without jeopardizing their structural integrity. 

The project is being funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The University of Calgary has a world-renowned archaeology department that contributes to one of the institution’s overall strengths in understanding human behaviour, institutions and cultures.

Note to news editors: for print-quality photographs, please see the web site at http://www.fp.ucalgary.ca/unicomm/news/strongholds/camphotos.html. A slideshow is also at http://www.mandaras.info/StrongholdsNCameroon/sld001.htm and includes detailed commentary.

To speak with Dr. Nicholas David, phone (403) 220-5227 or (403) 932-6569, or contact Greg Harris, U of C media relations, at (403) 220-3506 or cell (403) 540-7306. 

Greg Harris, media relations 
Ph: (403) 220-3506 | e-mail gharris@ucalgary.ca | fax: (403) 282-8413
UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS



TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: archaeologist; calgary; cameroon; discovery; excavate; expedition; fortress; godsgravesglyphs; history; mandara; mountain; mystery; past; periplusofhanno; phoenicians; strongholds; tunnel; unusual

1 posted on 08/17/2002 9:23:34 AM PDT by vannrox
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To: vannrox
"“The colonial period resulted in Africans being denied their history, but of course knowing that history is a vital part of nation-building."

Okay, they have to throw in an anti-West slam. The truth is of course the opposite, Africans had almost no idea of their history, they didn't have history as such, but legends, myths and stories. Only with the scholarship of the West, the archaelogy as demonstrated by the effort chronicled in this article, has given Africa and other parts of the world, their history back. 200 years ago, most of the civilizations of the world were lost civilizations. No one knew a thing about them until the West and scientific scholarship arrived on the scene.

2 posted on 08/17/2002 9:57:08 AM PDT by Kermit
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To: Kermit
I wouldn't be surprised if these structures were built by the people of north africa (i.e. Arabs, etc...) as a way-station for their slave caravans that travelled through the area...
3 posted on 08/17/2002 11:10:35 AM PDT by Chad Fairbanks
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To: Kermit
Yes, that is true.

Think about the 900s! The West itself was virtually unknown - a mere dream - known better in fairy tales than in fact - Arabic archaologists and scholars worked on rediscovering it and they preserved many ancient Greek and Roman manuscripts. By the time the Western barbarian armies began marching on Jerusalem the East's passion to study the West was really underway. By the 1200s, Turkish sultans began investing heavily in the exercise.

By the 1400s so much had been recovered that Westerners themselves began to earnestly pursue their own history. Accommodations relating to the transfer of libraries of ancient knowledge were formally established in Islamic and Christian Spain so that nothing would be lost. When a Moslem city would fall, Christian scribes would move in and start copying the books.

Recovery moved ahead nicely after that.

Whether Africans in Cameroon learn about their own history from the West or from their own sources is of no consequence. It is history, and no one can change it - only illuminate it!

The man whose name I use in FreeRepublic, "Muawiyah", had risen to power over the Arab Empire and discovered how to separate church from state in the furtherance of justice while Europeans did well to cluster around open fires in wattle and daub huts while picking lice - and thought themselves lucky.

Be proud that our West is able to give the people in Cameroon a picture of themselves. This is a privilege the West did without for nearly a thousand years.

4 posted on 08/17/2002 11:12:50 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah
I was just looking through the slide show... still not done yet, but it's pretty interesting... Based on the maps and such, I'm more inclined to think now that these were actually built to protect FROM slave raiders and other not-nice people... they seem to cluster around and throughout a valley, and feature agricultural terraces still in use today by the people of the area (the Mafas)...
5 posted on 08/17/2002 11:22:04 AM PDT by Chad Fairbanks
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To: vannrox
Archaeology bump.
6 posted on 08/17/2002 11:27:43 AM PDT by blam
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To: Chad Fairbanks
Like the antiquities of the Americas and Rhodesia, the local people knew nothing of these structures and attributed them to long-vanished "ancient ones" or even "gods", "celestials," "star people," etc.

This even if conceivably their own remote ancestors DID build them. The peoples had already long since lost their own history, if they ever had it, before the West ever arrived. The West if anything, is the only reason they DO now have any knowledge of it.

7 posted on 08/17/2002 11:30:06 AM PDT by crystalk
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To: crystalk
In all honesty, I doubt those structures are more than 500-700 years old... maybe a 1000 tops, but I could be wrong... :0)
8 posted on 08/17/2002 12:54:29 PM PDT by Chad Fairbanks
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To: StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; 2ndDivisionVet; 31R1O; ...

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Note: this topic is from August 17, 2002. Thanks vannrox.

Blast from the Past.

Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
 

· History topic · history keyword · archaeology keyword · paleontology keyword ·
· Science topic · science keyword · Books/Literature topic · pages keyword ·


9 posted on 12/12/2010 12:35:44 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
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To: muawiyah

A pity the Arabs are still stuck in the 7th cntury.


10 posted on 12/12/2010 2:03:56 PM PST by Mmogamer (I refudiate the lamestream media, leftists and their prevaricutions.)
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To: SunkenCiv

Still no news from vannrox or RightWhale?


11 posted on 12/12/2010 2:40:21 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

I hope they’re still alive!

They were both very active when they dropped out, and were not in any visible confrontations here.


12 posted on 12/12/2010 2:46:56 PM PST by editor-surveyor (Obamacare is America's kristallnacht !!)
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To: blam

Nope, nada.


13 posted on 12/12/2010 2:51:37 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
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To: editor-surveyor
"I hope they’re still alive!"

Yup.

I was in daily contact with RightWhale...then, nothing.
He told me once that he had high cholestoral...that's all.

14 posted on 12/12/2010 2:57:50 PM PST by blam
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To: vannrox; RightWhale

ping


15 posted on 12/12/2010 3:02:53 PM PST by Repeal The 17th
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To: blam

High colesteral is no biggie for most people, but if you get talked into taking statins you set yourself up for heart attacks due to the loss of co-Q10.


16 posted on 12/12/2010 3:08:47 PM PST by editor-surveyor (Obamacare is America's kristallnacht !!)
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To: editor-surveyor
"High colesteral is no biggie for most people, but if you get talked into taking statins you set yourself up for heart attacks due to the loss of co-Q10."

Yup. I quit taking statins years ago. I've been persuaded to take 1500 mg of niacin daily as I refuse to take statins.
I have two brothers (one older - one younger) who died of heart attacks at age 51.
I'm 67, I take niacin and aspirin, that's it! (Oh...4,000IU of vitamin D daily)

17 posted on 12/12/2010 3:37:43 PM PST by blam
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To: vannrox

“The project is being funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.”

I was shocked to see my tax money wasn’t paying for this.

Glad to see some other chump on the hook this time.


18 posted on 12/12/2010 3:40:04 PM PST by SharpRightTurn (White, black, and red all over--America's affirmative action, metrosexual president.)
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To: blam

Interesting blam - I have just started on statins for my high cholesterol. Thanks for the info - any links where I can read more on the topic?


19 posted on 12/12/2010 8:26:30 PM PST by indcons (Lurker mode off)
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To: vannrox; SunkenCiv

Thanks, I hadn’t heard about these.


20 posted on 12/15/2010 12:17:48 PM PST by colorado tanker
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To: Kermit

the tribes of southern Africa might have been pre literate, but those with contact with Arab traders do have a history. This site is in Camaroon, which is in the sphere of influence of the various Arabian empires.

The PBS had a special on the libraries of Timbucktu...it made me wonder who is translating the stuff.


21 posted on 12/18/2010 9:10:59 PM PST by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
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