French Archaeologists Discover 113 Intact Ancient Guadeloupe Burials

Nathan Falde (Ancient Origins) writes about a large number of intact Taíno burials in Guadeloupe, dating back to the 11th to 13th centuries.

French archaeologists working for  INRAP (the National Institute for Preventive Archaeology Research) recently found something unique and unprecedented on the archipelago of Guadeloupe in the southeastern Caribbean. They found a large number of intact Guadeloupe burials, dating back to pre-Columbian times (the 11th to 13th centuries). In total, the Guadeloupe burials archaeologists found contained  113 separate graves, which consisted of the skeletal remains of both adults and children. 

The Largest Collection of Guadeloupe Burials Ever!

This is easily the largest collection of ancient skeletons ever found in  Guadeloupe, a chain of six inhabited islands that is currently a department of France. The island’s  volcanic soil  is highly acidic, which usually causes buried bones to decay significantly over time. But in the newly found Guadeloupe burials, the remains survived long enough for archaeologists to discover them and recover them while they were still in good condition.

The bodies in the grave were folded in different positions so they could fit in relatively tight spaces. This style of burial explains why the skeletal remains were so well preserved, since the folding of the bodies created uneven surfaces that the acidic earth could only partially cover.

The Guadeloupe burials was not an isolated discovery. Digging further around the burials, the INRAP researchers found hundreds of deep imprints in the ground they identified as  post holes . Tracing the post hole patterns, they could recreate the shapes of the residential structures the associated posts would have supported.

More than 50 pits were also unearthed. These wider holes may have been used for storage or garbage disposal, or some combination of both. Inside of them the archaeologists discovered a multitude of interesting artifacts. They found stone tools, shards of pottery, and heating stones, along with the discarded bones and shells of both land and sea animals, which were presumably used for food. The archaeologists were digging at the planned site of a future housing project, on Guadeloupe’s most populous island (Grand-Terre) on the outskirts of its largest city, Les Abymes. As a precautionary measure, government officials in Guadeloupe had requested the services of INRAP, to make sure no valuable artifacts would be destroyed once construction began. 

This turned out to be a wise decision. Because it has been so difficult to find sites left behind by  pre-Columbian indigenous people , this surprising discovery could yield vital information that will boost the fortunes of Caribbean island archaeology.

Who Were the Lost People of Ancient Guadeloupe?

The archaeologists were able to date the settlement and the burials to the period from 750 to 1500 AD. This time is known as the Late Ceramic Age in the Caribbean, in honor of a distinctive style of pottery that was common in the area. At this time, the Lesser Antilles (of which the archipelago of Guadeloupe is a part) were occupied by the  Arawak people . Two different Arawak groups were present in the region, one that lived on the South American mainland and one that settled the Caribbean islands. To distinguish between the two, scholars often refer to the island Arawaks as the Taino.

The Taino were skilled agriculturalists who lived in small villages. They also hunted, fished, and harvested shellfish from the beaches and the sea. They were peaceful and communal, and created cooperative societies that shared the bounty of the land fairly, so that everyone could survive. [. . .]

Up to now, the Arawak or Taino footprint in the Lesser Antilles has been exceedingly limited. They left behind quite a bit of  rock art , which did reveal important information about their daily lives and spiritual traditions. But their absorption by the Caribs plus the poor soil conditions that tended to destroy most bones and artifacts on Guadeloupe made it impossible for scholars to expand their knowledge of the ancient Arawak people any further. 

That is why the new discovery near Les Abymes is so noteworthy. The French archaeologists can now perform a more in-depth study of the material culture of the ancient inhabitants of Guadeloupe, who first arrived on the archipelago in approximately 3,000 BC. 

To deepen their understanding even further, the archaeologists hope to extract readable DNA samples from the intact skeletal remains found in the recent Guadeloupe burials. This will allow them to create genetic maps that connect the individuals buried based on family relationships and common ancestors.  This genetic information may also help researchers establish links between the long-lost Taino of Guadeloupe, and Taino peoples who lived elsewhere. Such information would be highly valuable, because it could help archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians create more detailed and accurate maps of ancient migration patterns in the Caribbean and the surrounding area.

There are many blanks to fill in before a complete picture of the demographic history of pre-Columbian Guadeloupe can be obtained. The process of discovery may be speeded up substantially, thanks to this exciting Guadeloupe burial discovery and the new data it will provide scientists.

For full article, see https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/guadeloupe-burials-0015334

[Shown above: One of the 113 Taino Guadeloupe burials (referred to as burial #60) recently discovered in Les Abymes, Guadeloupe. (Jessica Laguerre/Inrap)]

David Diop wins International Booker for “At Night All Blood Is Black”

Sian Cain (The Guardian) writes about David Diop, the first French writer to win the prize for translated fiction – split with his translator Anna Moschovakis – for novel about a Senegalese soldier fighting for France in the first world war.

Diop, the author of two novels, and his translator Anna Moschovakis, split the £50,000 annual prize, which goes to the best author and translator of a work translated into English. At Night All Blood Is Black follows Alfa Ndiaye, a Senegalese soldier fighting for France in the first world war, whose descent into madness after the death of a childhood friend on the frontline begins to show itself in extreme brutality against enemy German soldiers in the trenches.

Approximately 135,000 Senegalese tirailleurs fought in Europe, with 30,000 killed. Diop was inspired to write the book by his Senegalese great-grandfather’s silence about his time in the war. “He never said anything to his wife, or to my mother, about his experience. That is why I was always very interested by all the tales and accounts which gave one access to a form of intimacy with that particular war,” he recently told the BBC.

Chair of judges, the historian Lucy Hughes-Hallett, called At Night All Blood Is Black “an extraordinary novel”.

“The book is frightening – reading it, you feel you are being hypnotised,” Hughes-Hallett said. “Your emotions are all jangled up, your mind is being opened to new thoughts. It is an extraordinary piece of narrative, very powerful, very compelling. The protagonist is accused of sorcery and all of us, we judges, did feel this book had somehow put a spell on us. It is that hypnotically compelling.”

She described it as “a story about war, but also about love, the comradeship of those young men who fight together and the extraordinarily intense relationships that are formed by people who are risking death alongside each other. It is also a story about language – the protagonist does not speak much French, so it is a story written in French, which we read in English, about a man thinking in Wolof. Diop has done something very clever in creating a kind of incantatory language that somehow conveys that sense of what it is like to think outside your own language, as it were.”

She said that she hoped the violence would not put off prospective readers. “You can read the last act of King Lear when the bodies are piling up on stage and still be responding not just to the horror but the great beauty of the language,” she said.

“This book does what the best poetry does, entering the reader’s consciousness at a level that bypasses rationality and transcends the subject matter. So yes indeed, you are reading about horrible mutilations and a soldier going mad … but all the same, the whole tragedy relies on this dichotomy, of the awfulness of what you are being told and the beauty of how it is being expressed. So there is a great deal of pleasure to be had from this novel.”

Born in Paris in 1966, to a French mother and Senegalese father, Diop spent his childhood in Senegal before returning to study in France, becoming a professor of 18th-century literature at the University of Pau. Since it was published in 2018, At Night All Blood Is Black has been a bestseller in France where it was shortlisted for 10 literary prizes and won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. Its translations have also won Italy’s Premio Strega Europeo and the Netherlands’ Europese Literatuurprijs.

At Night All Blood Is Black was picked as the winner of the International Booker from 125 submitted books. Hughes-Hallett said that many of the books submitted this year, including Diop’s, examined colonialism or migration, “which is of course the sequel to colonialism,” she said. “That story about people moving around the world, maybe being welcomed by their new host countries or maybe being kept out, is one that a lot of the authors wanted to address.” [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jun/02/david-diop-wins-international-booker-for-frightening-at-night-all-blood-is-black

Comment Barthélémy Toguo transforme les drames en œuvres d’art

Alexandra Parodi (Numéro) explore le travail de l’artiste camerounais Barthélémy Toguo et son exposition au musée du Quai Branly :

« S’il place toujours sa sensibilité au service de l’actualité désastreuse du monde – conflits politiques, crise des migrants, pénurie d’eau –, Barthélémy Toguo prend soin d’éviter dans sa pratique plastique l’écueil du misérabilisme. Couleur, pétulance, vivacité… le travail de l’artiste camerounais, à l’affiche jusqu’au 12 décembre d’une exposition personnelle au musée du Quai Branly, conserve en dépit des drames dont il se fait l’écho, une inépuisable foi en la vie. Décryptage en 3 œuvres, emblématiques de cet engagement. [. . .] »

« Avant même que la question migratoire ne fasse la une de l’actualité, Barthélémy Toguo se confrontait dès 2008 à cette tragédie humaine. À l’époque, il crée une installation : une barque en bois débordant de baluchons multicolores, ployant sous sa lourde charge, au milieu d’une fragile mer de bouteilles en plastique, la précarité de la surface contraste avec la lourdeur de l’embarcation, chargée à ras-bord. Le risque d’un chavirement est suggéré, délicatement, par la simple représentation de ce bateau en déséquilibre. Si le sujet traité est d’une dureté radicale, l’artiste prend le parti d’en atténuer la violence. Avec leurs formes rondes, leurs motifs contrastés et leurs couleurs vives, les ballots en wax de l’installation Road to exile évoquent moins les photographies funestes des naufrages que les embarcadères fantastiques d’un dessin animé de Miyazaki. L’œuvre de Barthélémy Toguo n’en est pas moins engagée et puissante. Le spectateur est d’autant plus interpellé que le drame suggéré ici par l’artiste est invisible, invitant le public à le ressentir par lui-même à travers son propre imaginaire. »

Lire plus à: https://www.numero.com/fr/art/barthelemy-toguo-musee-quai-branly-exposition-paris

FilmAfrica (BAM, May 28-June 3)

The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and the New York African Film Festival present FilmAfrica, from May 28 to June 3, 2021. The cinematic companion to the 2021 virtual DanceAfrica celebration of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) showcases the best new narrative, documentary, and short films from across Africa and the diaspora, with a special focus on films from and about Haiti.

Caribbean films:

Meurtre à Pacot [Murder in Pacot]
Raoul Peck, 2014, 2 hr 10 min
Inspired by Pasolini’s classic Teorema, Raoul Peck’s intense family drama is set in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, asking fundamental questions about responsibility in the face of disaster.

In the Eye of the Spiral
Eve Blouin and Raynald Leconte, 2014, 55 min
Real Maravilloso
Raynald Leconte, 2018, 1 hr
Two documentaries touch on themes from art and spirituality to magical existence as lens into life in Haiti and Cuba.

Ayiti Mon Amour
Guetty Felin, 2016, 1 hr 28 min
Set five years after the devastating 2010 earthquake, Guetty Felin’s neorealist tale strikes a tone of healing and hope, avoiding the images of the disaster that saturated screens around the world.

Toussaint Louverture
Philippe Niang, 2012, 3 hrs
A historical action epic about the man behind the slave revolt that led to Haiti’s independence.

For more information, see https://www.bam.org/film/2021/filmafrica

[Photo above: Jimmy Jean-Louis as Toussaint Louverture.]

MonAfrique (Part # 2)

Our warmest congratulations to the students who helped organize MonAfrique 2021. It would be impossible to thank everyone, as we are told that over 20 people were involved in the planning the event and making it a success. We will mention just a few people here:

Allen Mico (who did great work this semester as a teaching assistant in FREN 322: Seminar in Francophone Studies);

the models featured in the MonAfrique photography exhibition, Goleba Lefatshe and Salama Doucouré;

and last but not least, Kwaku Bruks, the gifted photographer of the exhibition. See some examples of his work below.

Congratulations, Kwaku! For more information on his work, contact Kwaku.Asamoah-Bruks1@marist.edu.

Bigflo & Oli et Petit Biscuit– ” Demain “

Hi’ilei partage une chanson de Bigflo & Oli et Petit Biscuit. [Merci, Hi’ilei!] Elle nous explique : « La chanson parle des inquiétudes des gens et les paroles soulignent que les gens ont besoin de respirer. Tous leurs soucis concernant l’avenir ou leurs problèmes actuels seront résolus. Il dit qu’il est nécessaire de trouver du réconfort en dansant et en profitant de la nuit. »

Was Napoleon Bonaparte an enlightened leader or tyrant?

Repeating Islands

Bicentennial commemorations of Bonaparte’s death fuel debate about his legacy, France’s colonial past, and the leader’s ties to Haiti. “In the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, where commemoration events are planned, some see the French government’s bicentennial recognition as an affront— another example of a nation that prides itself as operating on a colorblind, egalitarian creed but acts with blinders on when it comes to slavery’s legacy.”Read full article by Jacqueline Charles, with photos by Sergio Ramazzotti, at National Geographic.

The year was 1802. France’s wealthiest colony, Saint-Domingue, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola—today shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic—was in turmoil. As former slaves battled their French overlords, an alliance of Black and mixed-raced generals fought to restore order under the French flag.

Then came news from Guadeloupe, another French colony in the Caribbean. Freed Blacks who had rebelled against French troops trying to…

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Ben Mazué & Pomme–«J’attends»

Hi’ilei Amundson partage une chanson de Ben Mazué et Pomme. Hi’ilei explique : « Cette chanson incorpore un va-et-vient, un appel et une réponse entre les deux artistes. Le garçon s’excuse et la fille répond, le réconciliant. Ils soulignent qu’ils attendront que la colère de l’autre disparaisse et que leur amour revienne lorsque le moment sera venu. Le clip vidéo montre des SMS échangés entre le couple. »

Voici le clip (suivi par la version acoustique) !

La France est-elle raciste ?

Jillian Lavery shares a fascinating two-part debate in which many guest speakers from key organizations discuss the question: Is France racist?

[Part of these debates stemmed from several racist comments including slurs directed at former French Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, including an attack by the right-wing magazine Minute, which put her photo on the cover with the slogan ‘clever as a monkey’ and used the subtitle ‘Taubira retrouve la banane’—Taubira finds her banana; banana also means ‘smile’. The Franco-Caribbean politician was also depicted as the face of “Banania”—a brand that traditionally used simplistic, insensitive representations of Africans.]

Part 1 (19:04 minutes)

Part 2 (25:31 minutes)