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18Aug

Ancient Nok Culture of West Africa 
Hillary Smith

Archeologists Peter Breunig and Nicole Rupp of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany are leading a team of German and Nigerian students, researchers, and former looters, continuing the excavation of Nok sites after a forty-year hiatus.

In the 1940s, British archeologist Bernard Fagg first discovered evidence of the previously unknown ancient African civilization that he later named the Nok. A terracotta head was brought to the archeologist’s attention in 1943 that resembled a terracotta monkey that Fagg had seen some years before. Neither piece fit the canon of any known ancient African civilization. Fagg began the search for similar artifacts, setting up camp outside the modern day Nigerian village of Nok. Fagg soon acquired close to 200 terracotta pieces. Using radiocarbon dating, a new technology at the time, vegetal matter found on the terracotta figures was dated to between 440 B.C. and A.D. 200. The terracotta head, which instigated Fagg’s search, was later dated by thermoluminescence, a process that determines the time since the clay was fired, to around 500 B.C. Near the Nigerian village of Taruga, Fagg discovered thirteen iron furnaces. Carbon dating of charcoal found in the furnaces date as far back as 280 B.C. Nok terracotta figures were found in close proximity to the iron furnaces. Both the figurines and evidence of iron smelting, along with indications of a densely settled population in these areas suggest an advanced and complex civilization had developed in West Africa much earlier than previously thought.

0 comment  |  Did you know?  |  Link  |   18 August 2011 - 20:09:42

11Apr

It has been known that Homo sapiens traveled out of Africa across the Sinai Peninsula, north of the Red Sea, settling in modern-day Israel, about 120,000 years ago. New findings suggest a separate group of Homo sapiens may have migrated out of Africa across the southern Arabian Peninsula even earlier. Stone tools dating between 125,000 and 90,000 years ago have been found at the site of Jebel Faya in the United Arab Emirates. The tools found at this site appear to be manufactured by techniques used by Homo sapiens in East Africa and Northeast Africa. Blades created with the bifacial flaking technique, where pieces of stone are removed from both the top and bottom faces to form the blade, have been found. Another tool called a "foliate" has also been found at the site. These types of instruments have not been found in the early settlements of Homo sapiens to the north of the site.

It is believed that environmental factors were crucial in the migrations of Homo sapiens. From 200,000 to 135,000 years ago, the Arabian Peninsula was very dry, serving as a barrier, preventing Homo sapiens migration. However, between 135,000 and 120,000 years ago, low water level of the Red Sea would have made crossing to the Arabian Peninsula possible. The wetter conditions and mild climate would also have made the peninsula an appealing location to settle. It is believed that the climate of the Arabian Peninsula again became drier around 90,000 years ago. The Homo sapiens settled in Jebel Faya and surrounding areas may have returned to Africa at that time as a result of the less hospitable climate.

0 comment  |  Did you know?  |  Link  |   11 April 2011 - 17:02:16

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