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The ancient Nok settlement and its sculptures

The ancient Nok settlement and its sculptures
Photo by ABORISADEADETONA- Ask Nigeria

It is known for terracotta sculptures of human heads, human figures and animals.

The ancient Nok settlement is located at a village called Nok in present-day Jaba, Local Government Area of Southern Kaduna in Kaduna State, Nigeria. The Nok culture’s material remains have been named after the Ham people of Nok. They are known for their terracotta sculptures, which were first discovered in 1928. The culture is one of the earliest known West African societies that existed in modern-day Nigeria between around 500 BCE and 200 CE. However, archaeologists claim that they may have been around since as far back as 1500 BCE.

They were known to farm crops and make sculptures using iron tools. Historians and archaeologists call this culture Nok because the artifacts were found near the modern Nigerian village of Nok. The settlement frequently attracts visitors and tourists. The Nok is famous in the world and even the academia. Antiquities and artifacts from the culture are found in various museums and galleries across the world. However, despite the popularity of the Nok in the world, the little village remains a rustic hamlet till the present day.

Terracotta discovery in 1928 was accidentally unearthed, showing the skills of the first Nok.

Colonel Dent Young, a co-owner of mining partnership company near Nok in Kaduna State, discovered the first Nok terracotta in 1928 when he accidentally unearthed it at a level of 24 ft (7m) from an alluvial tin mine. Colonel Young sent the sculptures to the Jos Museum of the Department of Mines. Fifteen years later, a new series of clay figurines were discovered while mining tin near the village of Nok in 1943. A clerk in charge of the mine had taken a head of one of the figurines home to serve as a scarecrow and an archaeologist and administrative officer named Bernard Fagg noticed it.

Fagg and his colleagues eventually determined that the unique-looking artifacts belong to the then unknown culture, which is now called Nok. They were mostly sculptures of human heads, human figures and animals. An identifying feature of Nok sculptures is the triangular or oval-shaped eyes on human faces and elaborate hair styles on human figures. Typically, humans are depicted as seated with their hands on their knees. The function of the sculptures is still unknown. They are preserved in scattered fragments.

Little is known about their function in the expansive civilization.

Archaeologists and historians know little about the original function of the pieces, but assumptions include ancestor portrayal, grave markers, and charms to prevent crop failure, infertility, and illness. Also, based on the dome-shaped bases found on several figures, they could have been used as finials for the roofs of ancient buildings. Margaret Young-Sanchez, Associate Curator of Art of the Americas, Africa, and Oceania at The Cleveland Museum of Art, reveals that most Nok ceramics were shaped by hand from coarse-grained clay and sculpted in a manner that suggests that they had an influence from wood carving.

The clay used by the Nok people has been analyzed by archaeologists. They discovered that all clays likely came from the same source, which suggests that there was a central authority controlling the supply of the clay. The Nok sculptures have been unearthed across an area of about 78,000 square kilometers (more than 30,000 square miles). It suggests that the artists, although got their clay from one source, were part of an expansive civilization and culture.

Large scale looting and repatriation of terracotta sculptures.

Terracotta figurines have been heavily looted since the 1970s. It is reported that even larger-scale looting commenced in the Nok settlement in the 1990s. By 1995, two main local traders emerged. Each of these traders reportedly employ about 1000 diggers a day to work for them. Although they unearthed fragments, most of the sculptures were intact and sellable. Hundreds of the Nok cultural sites have been illegally dug in search of these terracotta sculptures. Historical studies carried out show that over 1000 terracotta sculptures have been looted and smuggled into Europe and the US. In February 2013, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation re-claimed five Nok statuettes looted by a French thief in August 2010. They had been seized by French customs agents and were repatriated following a Nigerian government directive.


Related Link

National Geographic: Website

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Admin
1
13 days ago

The ancient Nok settlement and its sculpturesIt is known for terracotta sculptures of human heads, human figures and animals. – Express your point of view.

Member
8
12 days ago

Despite the little knowledge and assumptions of these historians, assumptions which includes; ancestor portrayal, grave markers, and charms to prevent crop failure, infertility, and illness. The function of the sculptures is still unknown yet they are being preserved? I see no importance of this things.

Last edited 12 days ago by Iyanu12345ogg
Abusi
Member
8
12 days ago

The Nok settlement is an historical piece of history. The Nok sculptures are so well and beautifully carved. We really have one of the earliest form of sculptures in the Nok settlement.

Member
9
12 days ago

It is known for terracotta sculptures of human heads, human figures and animals. We really need to more about history in Nigeria, is very important for the country

Member
8
12 days ago

The Nok is well-known throughout the world and in academics. There are numerous museums and galleries around the world that house items and antiquities from the culture.

Member
8
12 days ago

The material remains of the Nok culture have been given the name Ham after the people who originally inhabited Nok.

Member
8
12 days ago

One of the earliest known cultures to have originated in West Africa, this culture can be found in what is now the country of Nigeria.

Member
8
12 days ago

Since this artifacts belonging to this civilisation were discovered close to the contemporary hamlet of Nok in Nigeria, historians and archaeologists refer to it as the Nok culture.

Member
8
12 days ago

These terracotta statues have been illegally excavated from hundreds of Nok cultural sites. More than 1,000 terracotta statues have been stolen and transported into Europe and the US, according to historical investigations.

Member
8
12 days ago

Wow so the triangular or oval-shaped eyes that are painted on human faces and the ornate hairstyles that are painted on human figures are two distinguishing characteristics of Nok sculptures.

Member
8
12 days ago

It is unfortunate that the small community has retained its rustic hamlet character up until the present day, given the widespread renown of the Nok throughout the world.

Member
8
12 days ago

Good that they made the discovery that all of the clays most likely originated from the same source, which shows that there was a centralized authority managing the supply of the clay.

Member
8
12 days ago

We absolutely need to learn more about Nigeria’s past because it is so vital to the development of the country.

Member
8
12 days ago

This is a important story The ancient Nok settlement and its sculptures which known for terracotta sculptures of human heads, human figures and animals this are discovery from past history which we should know about

Member
8
12 days ago

Nigeria is rich in historical artifacts like that of terracotta of NOK in Kaduna state. The federal government should bring alive all tourist centers in Nigeria. They are point of generating revenue for the country. Government should endeavor to get back all stolen artifacts for all the tourist areas in Nigeria.

Member
8
12 days ago

Federal Government should make all effort to recover all stolen artifacts and ensure that every every tourist centers in Nigeria are upgraded for tourism.

Member
8
12 days ago

This is a significant tale. Known for its terracotta sculptures of human heads, human figures, and animals, the ancient Nok village and its sculptures We should be aware of these historical discoveries.

Member
9
12 days ago

Most of our terracotta was stolen by the so called colonial masters that are just been returned after so many years while claiming they are here to colonise us,but all these sculptural heads are important to our historical facts.

Member
9
12 days ago

All hands must be on deck to protect and preserve all this sculpture either by the federal or state government.I think some law should be put in place to preserve and protect them.

Member
8
12 days ago

These historians’ assumptions include ancestor depiction, grave markers, and charms to avoid crop failure, infertility, and disease. Why are the sculptures being preserved since their purpose is unknown? This matters little to me.

Member
8
12 days ago

Thousands of Nok cultural sites have had their terracotta statues stolen. Historic research indicates that over a thousand terracotta statues were stolen and shipped to different locations in Europe and the United States.

Member
8
12 days ago

A significant piece of history was left behind by the Nok colony. The Nok statues are incredibly detailed and intricate works of art. In the Nok village, we actually find what is considered to be one of the earliest forms of sculpture.

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