African Culture And Women

About African Women, Culture and who they Are In The Society.

The Material Culture of Twins in West Africa.

Posted by cultureafrico on February 28, 2011

Culture Africo

Introduction:

Ethnoarchaeology is the study of living societies in order to better understand the past. If we can learn the cultural dynamics of an existing culture, we may have more tools to interpret what we find in the archaeological record. Ethnoarchaeology often focuses particularly on the behaviour patterns responsible for creating physical objects and their spatial distribution. Material culture a reflection of our culture through the material goods we leave behind. For example if you look inside your house and imagine everything that would survive in the ground for a thousand years you soon realize that only non-organic, hard things would make it. Think again what this would tell people about how you live your everyday life, how you think, how you act, how you dress etc. It wouldn’t tell them a lot, would it? You can now see one of the hardest parts of archaeology…using the leftovers to understand the complete culture! This study, using the ethnoarchaeological approach, is useful for helping archaeologists in West Africa to understand what they find in an excavation.

The reason I chose to do this particular study is personal. My husband is from Cameroon and we were lucky enough to have identical twin boys. Only once I was immersed in the respect and ritual given to a Manyi (mother of twins) did I realize how important twins are in that culture. West Africa has the highest rate of fraternal twinning in the world, as high as 48 twin births in every thousand. Compared to North America’s average of 10-15 twin births in every thousand you can see the significance of such a rate. There are over four times as many sets of twins born in West Africa than in North America! This is changing however as the use of fertility drugs is becoming more rampant in North America.

Background Information on Twins.

It is important to define a few terms before I continue. I hadn’t realized how little people know about twins until I had my own! I still suffer questions like “if one of them hurts themselves, does the other one feel it?” or “They’re identical? So is one a boy and one a girl?”. But my all time favourite incident was when one of my sons was awake in the stroller and one was sleeping. A passer-by commented that they must not be identical, because one is awake! She assumed identical twins had to do everything together!

There are generally two different types of twins recognized, fraternal and identical. The rate of identical twins is pretty steady throughout the world at about 2 births in every thousand. Identical twins occur when a single egg is released and splits after fertilization. One very rare and almost undocumented occurrence is when the egg splits before fertilization and is fertilized by to different sperm. True identical twins share 100% of their genetic information. If one identical twin has a child, it is impossible to tell which twin is the parent! That is how much DNA they haven guess you could call them nature’s clone. Because of this, identical twins are always the same sex (i.e. boy-boy or girl-girl).

Fraternal twins are much more common and happen when two eggs are released and fertilized by two different sperm. These twins have no more DNA in common than any two siblings in a family, they are just carried together and born together. Fraternal twins can be born as opposite sexes (i.e. boy-girl, boy-boy or girl-girl). There has been some speculation that the West African diet leads to the high number of twins. Yams are eaten by certain ethnic groups in Nigeria and Cameroon. These are not the yams that we have here, which are in fact sweet potatoes. There are many types of yams eaten but they all share an important element in common, the presence of a phytoestrogen. This natural hormone may act upon the woman’s body and stimulate the ovaries to produce an egg from each side. This in fact may be one of the reasons the rate of twin births is so high.

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