Burial of a Chief, Gold Coast or Angola, late 16th cent.

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Image Reference

Theodore and Johan Israel De Bry, Indiae Orientalis pars VI [India Orientalis. pt. 6], (Frankfort, 1604), plate 22 (Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library)

Noting that when a chief dies his closest friends want to ensure that he lacks for nothing in the next world; thus, they kill his family and servants and bury them in the chief's grave along with his weaponry. Dishes of food offerings are placed on the grave, and the heads of the slain servants are modelled out of clay and mounted on stands around the grave while one or two guards (shown on either side of the gravesite) watch over the site. The De Brys had never visited Africa and constructed their illustrations of Africans from the late 16th century eye-witness accounts by the Dutchman Pieter de Marees of the Gold Coast, and by the Portuguese Duarte Lopez of the kingdom of Kongo. For an extended discussion of the De Brys' illustrations of Africa and their sources, see Ernst van den Boogaart, De Brys' Africa, in Susanna Burghartz, ed., Inszenierte Welten: Die west-und ostindischen reisen der verleger de Bry, 1590-1630 [Staging New Worlds: De Brys' Illustrated Travel Reports, 1590-1630] (Basel, 2004), pp. 95-149; for this image in particular, see pp. 136-38. (Problems in scanning this volume have resulted in distortions in the left-hand side of the image.)