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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Vol. 6 (2) 2008

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C. Meister & M.K.H. Eggert

On the early Iron Age in southern Cameroon: the sites of Akonétye

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 6 (2), 2008, pages 183-202, DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10109

Abstract
This paper presents the results of archaeological fieldwork at Akonétye which is situated in the rainforest of southern Cameroon near the border to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
First we briefly describe the archaeological features and finds of two sites at Akonétye which we designate as the 'southern' and 'northern site'. The main features of both are pits which yielded a considerable amount of ceramics. In addition, a part of a V-shaped ditch was excavated, that might have been part of a defensive structure. Most important, however, was the discovery of two elongated features in which ceramics and various iron objects, especially spears, hoes, bracelets as well as anklets were found. According to ethnographic literature some of the iron objects may represent special-purpose currency. The shape, decoration and thinness of some of the iron furnishings, e.g., the hoes, imply that they did not serve as utilitarian tools.
Although no skeletal remains have been recovered, both the outlay and the content of these features suggest that they are graves. According to radiocarbon dating these graves have to be put within the early second to final fourth century AD time bracket. They are thus the oldest graves with rich iron offerings excavated in Central Africa and beyond.
In the remainder of the paper the findings at Akonétye are discussed in the context of Central African archaeology.

Résumé
Dans cet article nous présentons les résultats de recherches archéologiques à Akonétye. Le village d'Akonétye est situé dans la forêt équatoriale du Sud-Cameroun, près de la frontière de la Guinée Equatoriale et du Gabon.
Il y a deux sites à Akonétye, un à l'entrée nord (« site nord ») et l'autre quelque cent mètres en dehors de l'autre côté du village (« site sud »). La plupart des structures de ces sites sont des fosses contenant une quantité considérable de céramique. En outre, une partie d'un fossé montrant un profil en forme de « V » a été fouillée. Il est possible que ce fossé appartienne à un système défensif. Cependant, la découverte la plus importante est la présence de deux structures oblongues dont la fouille a permis de mettre au jour de la céramique ainsi que des objets en fer comme des pointes de javelot, des houes, des bracelets et des chevillères. Parmi ces objets nous avons trouvé des formes plates et pointues dont nous ignorons la fonction. Selon des sources ethnographiques de la région, il s'y peut agir d'une sorte de moyen d'échange uniquement destiné à des domaines particuliers comme le système matrimonial. La forme, la décoration et la minceur d'une partie des objets en fer, par exemple les houes, suggèrent un usage non-utilitaire de ces objets.
Bien que nulle trace d'ossement n'ait été détectée, le contour de la structure, la présence de poterie et d'objets en fer ainsi que leur arrangement donnent à penser qu'il s'agit de tombes. Selon les dates radiocarbones obtenues, ces tombes se situent entre le début du IIe et la fin du IVe siècle de notre ère. Elles sont donc les plus anciennes tombes dotées d'un riche mobilier en fer fouillées en Afrique centrale et au-delà.
Dans la partie finale de l'article les résultats d'Akonétye sont discutés dans le contexte de l'archéologie d'Afrique centrale.




Keywords: burials, Central Africa, ceramics, iron objects, pits, rain forest, southern Cameroon, Southern Cameroon


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