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Conserving Gabon’s cultural heritage

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A treasure trove of 14th century artefacts was discovered deep within a conservation area of Olam’s palm plantation in Gabon. The ‘Iroungou cave’ is an underground burial site 25 meters below ground containing over 500 artefacts, from knives, axes and spear tips to bracelets and collars, as well as human remains.

During 2019, an archeological mission funded by OIam and led by the Gabonese National Park Agency (ANPN) has been investigating the cave which has sat undisturbed for hundreds of years. Until the discovery, the cave’s existence and its contents remained unknown even amongst the peoples who live in the region. Located within a conservation area that makes up 50% of Olam’s palm concessions, the cave has been well protected and is thought to be part of an invaluable cache of cultural artifacts concealed by the forest.

The cave is the only grave site of its kind to be discovered in Africa. As the history of central Africa from this time is largely unrecorded and little is known about the people who inhabited the region, this discovery provides a rare opportunity to learn more about the region in that period.

“This is a unique discovery in Africa, because human remains are almost non-existent. This cave will enable us to find out a little more about these peoples of central Africa, largely unrecorded in history.” Richard Oslisly, Archeologist, Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (ANPN)

"Olam invests a lot in conservation in Gabon, often focussing on the social and the environment, and we are now happy to also be able to contribute to the enhancement of the country's cultural and archaeological heritage." Quentin Meunier, Head of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, Olam Palm Gabon

Further archaeological research is being conducted on other artefacts to carry out DNA sampling and 3D-scanning which will contribute to Gabon’s cultural heritage.

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