Between 2005 and 2013, new archaeometallurgical finds and features in central Nigeria resulted from several excavation campaigns conducted by the Nok research project, Goethe University, Frankfurt. This article presents the first excavation results and compares the newly generated data to the publications on the Nok iron smelting site of Taruga from 40 years ago. All newly excavated sites find close resemblance in each other in regards to dates in the middle of the first millennium BCE, furnace design, find distribution and find properties. In some cases, the finds from the Taruga valley fit in the new and homogeneous picture of Nok iron metallurgy. However, Taruga differs from the new sites in its variety of furnace design and number of furnaces.
Whereas furnace bases with a width of around one meter based on slag pits partially filled with slag seem to be the rule for all newly excavated Nok furnaces, only some furnaces at Taruga exhibit these characteristics. Furnace variability at Taruga could be explained by a longer and/or subsequent site usage through time. Modern era finds like a clay smoking pipe, the higher number of furnaces per site as well as a higher dispersion of absolute dates and the variability of furnace design could support this assumption. This paper concentrates on the archaeological context of a specific type of early iron technology in central Nigeria; ongoing archaeometric analysis of all related finds will be presented elsewhere.
Since their discovery in the mid-20th century, the terracottas of the Nok Culture in Central Nigeria, which represent the earliest large-scale sculptural tradition in Sub-Saharan Africa, have attracted attention well beyond specialist circles. Their cultural context, however, remained virtually unknown due to the lack of scientifically recorded, meaningful find conditions. Here we will describe an archaeological feature uncovered at the almost completely excavated Nok site of Pangwari, a settlement site located in the South of Kaduna State, which provided sufficient information to conclude that the terracotta sculptures had been deliberately destroyed and then deposited, emphasising the ritual aspect of early African figurative art.
Similar observations were made at various other sites we had examined previously. But the terracottas found at Pangwari not only augmented our insights into the advanced stylistic development of the Nok sculptures, they also exhibited scenes of daily life like a relief of a dugout boat with two paddlers, or remarkable details like a marine shell on the head of a human figure – details indicating trans-regional trade and long-distance contacts. Other finds from Pangwari deepen our knowledge of therianthropic creatures among the terracottas of the Nok Culture.
A brief report is given on preliminary results of a study dedicated to the Nok Culture of Central Nigeria. The Nok Culture is mainly known by its terracottas which represent the earliest figurative art in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the context of the art remains almost completely unknown. For this reason our study was focussed on settlement sites. It resulted in promising discoveries which need to be investigated in more detail in the future.
Settlement activities of the Nok Culture considerably decreased around 400 BCE and ended around the beginning of the Common Era. For a better understanding of the decline of the Nok Culture, we studied the charcoal assemblage of the post-Nok site Janruwa C, dating to the first centuries CE. Janruwa C differs from Middle Nok sites in ceramic inventory and a wider set of crops. 20 charcoal types were identified. Most taxa are characteristic of humid habitats such as riverine forests, while those savanna woodland charcoal types that had been dominant in Middle Nok samples are only weakly represented. The differences between the Middle Nok and post-Nok assemblages do not indicate vegetation change, but rather different human exploitation behaviors. It seems that the Nok people avoided forest environments while in the first centuries CE, other, possibly new populations settled closer to the forest and were more familiar with its resources. The new exploiting strategies might be explained as adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Our results, together with data from other palaeo-archives in the wider region, point to climatic change as a potential factor for the decline of the Nok Culture. We argue that erosion on the hill slopes, maybe due to stronger seasonality, was responsible for land degradation after 400 BCE and that the Nok people were not flexible enough to cope with this challenge through innovations.
Until recently the Nigerian Nok Culture had primarily been known for its terracotta sculptures and the existence of iron metallurgy, providing some of the earliest evidence for artistic sculpting and iron working in sub-Saharan Africa. Research was resumed in 2005 to understand the Nok Culture phenomenon, employing a holistic approach in which the sculptures and iron metallurgy remain central, but which likewise covers other archaeological aspects including chronology, settlement patterns, economy, and the environment as key research themes. In the beginning of this endeavour the development of social complexity during the duration of the Nok Culture constituted a focal point. However, after nearly ten years of research and an abundance of new data the initial hypothesis can no longer be maintained. Rather than attributes of social complexity like signs of inequality, hierarchy, nucleation of settlement systems, communal and public monuments, or alternative African versions of complexity discussed in recent years, it has become apparent that the Nok Culture, no matter which concept is followed, developed complexity only in terms of ritual. Relevant information and arguments for the transition of the theoretical background are provided here.
The Central Nigerian Nok Culture and its well-known terracotta figurines have been the focus of a joint research project between the Goethe University Frankfurt and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in Nigeria since 2005. One major research question concerns chronological aspects of the Nok Culture, for which a period from around the middle of the first millennium BC to the first centuries AD had been suggested by previous investigations. This paper presents and discusses the radiocarbon and luminescence dates obtained by the Frankfurt Nok project. Combining the absolute dates with the results of a comprehensive pottery analysis, a chronology for the Nok Culture has been developed. An early phase of the Nok Culture’s development begins around the middle of the second millennium BC. Its main phase, in which terracotta figurines and iron production appear, starts in the 9th century BC and ends in the 4th century BC. A later phase with vanishing evidence extends into the last centuries BC. On sites dating from the first centuries AD onwards no more Nok terracotta or pottery are found; the end of the Nok Culture is thus set around the turn of the Common Era.
BOOK REVIEWS Newell S. Booth (Ed.), African Religions: A Symposium. New York, London, Lagos, Nok Publishers, Ltd., 1977. Plates, 390 p.p. & 18.50. This is not so much a symposium as a miscellany. If there is a governing concern, it is the perennial one of how to explain African religions to
, 1996, 106p. NOK 100,- or US 15.00 (Bibliography Series 6). ISBN 82 991913 7 8/ISSN 0802 6556. This bibliography focuses on scholarly literature explicitly relating texts or motives from the Old Testament to corresponding features in tropical Africa. Two hundred books and articles from African as well