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Settlement activities of the Nok Culture considerably decreased around 400 BCE and ended around the beginning of the Common Era. For a better understanding of the decline of the Nok Culture, we studied the charcoal assemblage of the post-Nok site Janruwa C, dating to the first centuries CE. Janruwa C differs from Middle Nok sites in ceramic inventory and a wider set of crops. 20 charcoal types were identified. Most taxa are characteristic of humid habitats such as riverine forests, while those savanna woodland charcoal types that had been dominant in Middle Nok samples are only weakly represented. The differences between the Middle Nok and post-Nok assemblages do not indicate vegetation change, but rather different human exploitation behaviors. It seems that the Nok people avoided forest environments while in the first centuries CE, other, possibly new populations settled closer to the forest and were more familiar with its resources. The new exploiting strategies might be explained as adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Our results, together with data from other palaeo-archives in the wider region, point to climatic change as a potential factor for the decline of the Nok Culture. We argue that erosion on the hill slopes, maybe due to stronger seasonality, was responsible for land degradation after 400 BCE and that the Nok people were not flexible enough to cope with this challenge through innovations.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Due to the different legal backgrounds of its judges, the International Criminal Court (icc) constantly faces the challenge of reconciling common and civil law approaches in its daily proceedings. At the same time, it must accommodate the special needs of international criminal justice and of the concrete trial in question. After elucidating the underlying problem of legal pluralism in international criminal procedure, the divergences of common and civil law procedural concepts and their interplay at the icc, the article faces this challenge by analysing two disputes that recently culminated in icc trials, concerning rulings on the admissibility of evidence and the admissibility of leading questions respectively. Based on these case studies, it develops practical guidelines on how civil and common law approaches could possibly be balanced within the icc’s unique procedural framework in the light of its own special needs.

In: International Criminal Law Review

Identification of archaeological or soil charcoal in a species-rich biome, such as the Central African rainforest, is challenging because of the large number of woody taxa with similar and overlapping wood anatomical features. Valid environmental or archaeological interpretations can only derive from reliable and transparent identifications that allow comparison of and referencing between different charcoal assemblages. The identification of 30 archaeological charcoal types from the site Dibamba in southern Cameroon serves as a starting point for a discussion on classification and naming. These 30 types are fully documented and illustrated in the Supplementary Online Material (SOM). The discussion underlines the basics of “good practice” of charcoal identification in a speciesrich tropical environment. The value of differential diagnosis is stressed, as is the importance of leaving identification levels on higher taxonomic level if necessary. We argue that the level of identification must be reflected in the name of the charcoal type. Names of charcoal types are written in small capitals to clearly distinguish them from botanical taxa with which they are not necessarily identical. The Dibamba charcoal assemblage offers the first and so far unique possibility to directly comprehend human impact on the structure and composition of West Central African rainforest over the last 3000 years. The paleoenvironmental significance of the results presented here will be subject of a forthcoming publication.

In: IAWA Journal

The Bantu expansion, a major topic in African archaeology and history, is widely assumed to correlate with the spread of farming, but archaeological data on the subsistence of these putative early Bantu speakers are very sparse. However, finds of domesticated pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) in southern Cameroonian archaeological sites, dated between 400 and 200 BC, open new perspectives on the history of agriculture in the Central African rain forest.

Linguistic evidence suggests that pearl millet was part of early agricultural traditions of Bantu speakers, and has to a great extent been distributed during the course of their expansion over large parts of western Bantu-speaking Africa, possibly even originally from their homeland in the Nigerian-Cameroonian borderland.

In combining archaeobotanical, palaeoenvironmental and linguistic data, we put forward the hypothesis that an agricultural system with pearl millet was brought into the rain forest during the first millennium BC, and that its spread across Central Africa coincided with the dispersal of certain Bantu language subgroups.

In: Journal of African Archaeology

Since 2003, a joint research project of the universities of Frankfurt and Tübingen (Germany) has explored the changing interrelationship of environment and culture in the forest-savanna regions of West and Central Africa. This paper provides the first archaeological and archaeobotanical results of three field seasons in the rainforest of southern Cameroun. Excavations were carried out at Bwambé Hill in the vicinity of Kribi at the Atlantic coast as well as at Akonétye, Minyin and Abang Minko’o, all located in the hinterland near Ambam. At all sites a number of pit structures, which contained mostly ceramics, were excavated. In addition, at Akonétye two graves with rich ceramic and iron offerings were unearthed. They seem to be the oldest graves with iron objects yet known in Central Africa.

A large body of archaeobotanical material was retrieved from the structures excavated (charcoal fragments, charred fruits and seeds, phytolith and starch samples). Of high importance is the presence of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) at Bwambé Hill and Abang Minko’o in archaeological contexts dated to about 2200 bp. Charcoal and pollen data indicate that the ancient settlements were situated in a closed rainforest which was, however, massively disturbed and partly substituted by pioneer plant formations.

In: Journal of African Archaeology