Herodotus Returns

Clay Figures Found in Ghana
February 18, 2010, 11:02 am
Filed under: Ghana | Tags: ,

Eighty mysterious ceramic figures have been excavated in Ghana. Dug out of a series of mysterious mounds in Northern Ghana by the Universities of Manchester and Ghana, the sculptures depict human and animal figures. They have been dated between 1400 and 800 years old. The find is significant because it shows that a sophisticated civilization lived in the area before the Islamic empire took over.

The mounds, which also contain human skulls, are thought by Ghana’s Dr Benjamin Kankpeyeng and Manchester’s Professor Tim Insoll to be the sites of ancient shrines.

Using state of the art analysis of the number, context and arrangement of the figurines, Dr Kankpeyeng and Professor Insoll hope to gain insight into the past ritual practices and beliefs of this sophisticated society – filling in a gap in our knowledge of that period in Africa.

Hundreds of mounds are densely packed in an area only 30km square: it took just two weeks to excavate the 80 figures in January.

But illegal excavation of the treasures means the archaeologists are in a race against time to ensure they are safely removed.

“These finds will help to fill a significant gap in our scant knowledge of this period before the Islamic empires developed in West Africa ,” said Prof Insoll.

“They were a sophisticated and technically advanced society: for example some of the figurines were built in sections and slotted together.”

Dr Kankpeyeng said: “The relative position of the figurines surrounded by human skulls means the mounds were the location of an ancient shrine.

“The skulls had their jaw bones removed with teeth placed nearby – an act of religious significance.”

Prof Insoll is to carry out analysis funded by the Wellcome Trust of the residues of material which were packed into holes within the figurines to provide more clues about the society.

More on the find in Ghana.


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