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The graves of Nosy Mangabe

If you visit the special reserve Nosy Mangabe in northeastern Madagascar, you will find some kind of graveyard halfway up to the highest point of the island. It is located in the west of the island, not far away from the campground and directly adjactent to one of the round trails.

The graveyard belongs to the Betsimisaraka people who lives along the eastcoast and also on the mainland around Nosy Mangabe. As it is usual among Betsimisaraka, the people sheltered the stone coffins in a rock cave from rain and sun. Legend has it that some hundred years ago, there was a small tongue of land leading from the mainland to Nosy Mangabe. After the legend, the stone coffings were brought this way by foot to the island. Nowadays noone brings coffins anymore to the island. But the graveyard is still fady which means sacred and taboo.

There is no agreement even among Madagascans concerning the persons who were laid to rest on Nosy Mangabe. Many claim that it was a family named Mangabe who had owned the island some centuries ago. Others mean it could be the first inhabitants of the island who probably came from Asian countries. Since there are no names engraved on the coffins and no contemporary witness is alive anymore, this will probably remain a secret forever.

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