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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Cemetery of Houlouf in Northern Cameroon (AD 1500-1600): Fragments of a Past Social System
Author:Holl, Augustin F.C.ISNI
Periodical:African Archaeological Review
Geographic term:Cameroon
Subjects:social structure
prehistoric graves
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Anthropology and Archaeology
External link:https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01953041
Abstract:In AD 1500-1600 the southern part of the Chad basin witnessed important changes in the balance of power between competing polities and the arrival of new immigrants with a different socioeconomic system: the Arab pastoralists. The reactions of local communities to this new situation were varied; some of them initiated new symbolic features aiming to root themselves in their land. Formal disposal areas were one of the strategies adopted, but only a small fraction of the actual societies was buried in cemeteries. This study focuses on the cemetery of Houlouf (northern Cameroon) in the period AD 1500-1600. It is shown that the elite of Houlouf buried in the cemetery was not homogeneous, but was divided into categories which have been interpreted as descent groups with different occupations such as warriors, administrators, ritual performers, etc. These occupational groups may have been structured according to grades of unknown nature. The archaeological context suggests that the mortuary rituals were performed by a craftsman, a blacksmith acting as undertaker and grave-digger. The fragments of the past social system of Houlouf show that processes of horizontal and vertical social differentiation had already generated a ranked society with complex hierarchical systems. Fieldwork for this study was carried out between 1982 and 1991. Bibliogr., sum. in English and French.