The Holocene Archaeological Sequence of Shum Laka Rock Shelter (Grassfields, Western Cameroon)


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Publication Date

December 2001


Until recently the Grassfields (western Cameroon), cradle of the Bantu languages, were an unknown zone from the archaeological point of view. The excavations of Shum Laka rock shelter by de Maret and his team brought the most complete sequence in West Africa, spanning the Late Pleistocene and the Holocene. After 20 millennia of microlithic tradition (Late Stone Age), a new culture, with macrolithic tools, polishing and pottery (Stone to Metal Age), slowly developed ca. 7000 B.P. onwards. From this early period on, forest hunting was associated with the exploitation of Canarium schweinfurthii. Around 4000 B.P., an industry with waisted axes, blades, and pottery had emerged. With a striking technological continuity, this culture survived throughout the Iron Age. Increasing importance and diversity of trees exploited through the “Stone to Metal Age” and the Iron Age suggests “arboriculture.” Regional comparisons show that, between 5000 and 2500 B.P., an original culture developed in the Grassfields and the Cross River basin.


Cameroon Grassfields, Late Stone Age, Stone To Metal Age, Iron Age, Hunting, Aboriculture

Document Type



African Archaeological Review, Vol. 18, no. 4 (2001-12-01).