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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 133–170 | Cite as

The cemetery of Houlouf in northern Cameroon (AD 1500–1600): fragments of a past social system

  • Augustin F. C. Holl
Article

Abstract

The research presented in this paper aims to study the transfer of patterns of social behaviours into mortuary contexts. It is an attempt to bring to light nested levels and conflicting aspects of human social actions during the relatively short time represented in the Houlouf archaeological record. Different parameters of mortuary evidence are considered at different levels of structuration using competing or alternative models to make sense of the diversity, variability and patterns observed. The studied cemetery appears to have emerged during a period of tension between competing peer-polities and to have been used for the inhumation of a small elite fragment of the whole society. This elite was composed of four groups interpreted as ‘descent groups’. Individuals belonging to this elite were divided into three main ranked occupational categories, and they were probably buried by a craft specialist; a blacksmith acting as undertaker and grave-digger.

Keywords

Social System Social Behaviour Social Action Alternative Model Cultural Study 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Résumé

Les recherches présentées dans cet article visent à analyser la façon dont certains aspects des comportements humains sont transférés dans les contextes mortuaires. Il s'agit de mettre en lumière l'imbrication des multiples niveaux du système social, ses aspects conflictuels qui se manifestent dans le traitement et l'enterrement des morts pendant une séquence temporelle relativement courte de l'occupation de Houlouf. Different paramètres archéologiques du programme mortuaire sont étudiés et évalués à différent niveaux d'argumentation afin de comprendre et d'expliquer le sens de la diversité, de la variabilité et des configurations des vestiges observées dans le cimetière. Il apparaît ainsi que le cimetière étudié a été mis en place au cours d'une période particulièrement marquée par des tensions entre polities en compétition dans la plaine tchadienne. Ce cimetière était réservé à l'enterrement d'une fraction de la population, l'élite. Cette élite se composait de quatre groupes considérés comme ‘groupes de descendance’ dont les membres étaient répartis en trois principales catégories de rôles. Le rituel funéraire et l'inhumation étaient vraisemblament exécutés par un forgeron-fossoyeur.

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Copyright information

© Cambridge University Press 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Augustin F. C. Holl

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