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How to begin?

How to begin to describe Sukur culture, and how to differentiate it from Sukur society, language, and other of our heading categories? Our headings are for convenience, but it would seem that we might well start by discussing the Sukur calendar, the temporal framework within which Sukur live their lives.

The Sukur calendar

Moon (Tiya) Approx. month Major Community Ceremonies Iron smelting (in the past) & House building Agricultural Round
1. Tiya zuŋ April   iron smelting begin clearing fields
2. T. bak May     plant if enough rain
3. T. makən June     plant, start first weeding
4. T. fwaɗ June/July   women collect ore 1st weeding continues
5. T. dlam July/Aug. Initiation - Ɓər (26-30/8/92) (even years) women collect ore 2nd weeding, 1st maize harvest
6. T. məkwa Aug./Sept. Purification - Zwaku (annual) (23/09/92) women collect ore 2nd weeding, 1st maize harvest
7. T. maɗaf Sept./Oct.   women collect ore weed bean fields, clear land for next year, harvest early sorghum
8. T. təkuz Oct./Nov.   women collect ore, cut thatching grass harvest beans, groundnuts
9. T. mətli Nov./Dec. Yama pə Patla 28/11/92 (annual)   start main sorghum harvest
10. T. waŋ Dec./Jan.     harvest continues
11. T. Yawal Jan./Feb. Chief's festival - Yawal (20-23/2/93) (held irregularly) men fell trees, build houses, make mats threshing
12. T. Hən dlə Feb./Mar. Bull festival - Hən dlə (even years) men cut up & pile trees, build houses, make mats; women gather firewood threshing
T. Dzava da Fa
Mar./Apr. Dzava da Fa (in odd years) marriages finalized men prepare and family transports charcoal  

The Sukur calendar comprises -- in theory at least -- thirteen lunar months, each of which starts when the new moon is first visible. This might seem to pose problems as a mean lunar month is 29.53059 days and thirteen months total 383.8977 days as against the 365.25 day solar year. However, the changing seasons are more important to the Sukur and most other African peoples than astronomical calculations. So they adjust the calendar according to the seasons, and particularly according to the coming of the rains. Thus, if the rains are early, the 13th month may be cancelled, or if late, the first month can be repeated. Ceremonies are tied to the months and to the phases of the moon. For example, however many days are set aside for the final, celebratory, phase of Ɓər, the male youths' initiation, the dances end on the first day of the 6th month (days being calculated from dusk to dusk) when the new moon becomes visible.

We don't know what happens to Dzava da Fa if the 13th month is omitted, but are sure this poses no problem to the Sukur! Similarly, our indications of the agricultural and (formerly) iron-making taking place each month is impressionistic, depending not only on climatic conditions but upon a variety of other factors: health, size of family and the need to schedule other activities, among others.


Archaeology of course involves material culture and attempts to "read" it in such a way as to reconstruct a piece of the past. In 1993 we dug a substantial test excavation in a midden located above the Hidi house. Our description of the dig and analysis of the finds (except for the pottery which awaits analysis at the National Musum Yola) and the important inferences that we drew about later Sukur history can be found here.

Material culture

Given that our research at Sukur was primarily ethnoarchaeological in nature, we should perhaps explain why this website relatively little that is explicitly about material culture. The answer is that a prime task of ethnoarchaeology is to relate material culture to culture in general, and in the near absence of anthropological studies prior to our arrival in 1991, our first task was to learn as much as possible about culture, past and present, in general.

Now however we are turning our attention to two notable categories of Sukur material culture. First on our list are the Sukur furnaces at the heart of their iron production. That page is now complete and will, we hope, assist both archaeologists and students of cultural heritage in future endeavors. We have also prepared a page on the famous paved ways that are such a signature feature of Sukur culture.






















































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