Skip to comments.Team hopes to unlock mysteries of Cameroon’s granite strongholds!
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) 540-7306 (cell)
August 15, 2002
U of C-led team hopes to unlock mysteries of Cameroons 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 dont 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. Its 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 Cameroons 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 Sterners.
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 institutions 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.
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.
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.
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.
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A pity the Arabs are still stuck in the 7th cntury.
Still no news from vannrox or RightWhale?
I hope they’re still alive!
They were both very active when they dropped out, and were not in any visible confrontations here.
I was in daily contact with RightWhale...then, nothing.
He told me once that he had high cholestoral...that's all.
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)
“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.
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?
Thanks, I hadn’t heard about these.
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.