Earthworks of Ijebu-Ode

Sequel to the archaeological survey carried out in Ijebu-Ode 2017, sites were identified and excavated in the 2018 field season. These sites are situated around the vicinity of earthworks. Earthworks are common in West Africa. Some researchers have argued that the functions of earthen architectural features in the form of banks, walls, and ditches vary from simple domestic usage to formal military defense of cities. Others have argued that they are defensive structures employed by elite and non-elites in their respective zones. In patterns, some earthworks appear in packed and clustered forms and are mostly boundary markers between landed property owners. Others are linear and extensive, enclosing a community. In the Yoruba-Edo region of Nigeria, these earthworks vary from small-scale enclosures surrounding modest compounds to walls around towns, and large-scale embankments enveloping urban centers. This year, I examined the Ijebu earthworks, in particular, those enclosing Ijebu-Ode, the capital of Ijebu polity. I report on the most recent survey and excavation carried out in Ijebu-Ode. I draw upon the relationship between Ijebu inner walls and the outer enclosures.Capture   Picture1

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Salvaging Earthworks in Ijebu-Ode: A Fruitful Archaeological Survey

For three weeks now, my team and I have been carrying out a pedestrian survey across the town of Ijebu-Ode, in Nigeria. The town is growing at a frantic pace, and its archaeological relics was fastly disappearing. This archaeological enterprise becomes pertinent at such a time as this. Up till now, what we know about Ijebu-Ode’s past in the light of archaeological record was its centeredness within the longest single monument in Africa, known as Sungbo Eredo. The Ijebu Kingdom is surrounded by Sungbo-Eredo which is about 180km in circumference and stretches along two states (Ogun and Lagos). The monument was first documented by the Portuguese Chronicler, Pacheco Pereira in the early 16th century as a large ditch that surrounds a kingdom. While Peter Lloyd and Patrick Darling were the first archaeologists/Historians to document this earthwork in 1959 and 1996 respectively, David Aremu, and the Chouin-led team of archaeologists from William and Mary, and the University of Ibadan respectively have consistently studied Sungbo Eredo within the last 10 years. It was thus concluded, although still under analysis, that the ditch is up to 600 years. That is, probably built around the second half of the fourteenth century or the beginning of the fifteenth century.

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In Search of Earthworks: Ife-Sungbo Archaeological Project begins

IMG_5894The other members of the team arrived Nigeria on the 4th of June 2017. I arrived a little bit earlier to catch up with Family and friends, and to do preliminary preparations for the project. Ile-Ife has an intriguing past, it is well known for its naturalistic objects regarding artefactual endeavor as well as its recognition as the home/birthplace of the Yoruba civilizations.

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Success in paradise

Five weeks after the initial problems brought on by my last minute surgery, I had regained more mobility in my foot. Finally I was able to execute my original plan from the beginning, of doing systematic surveying on Tridacna shells in the lagoon. On Mo‘orea, I, along with my fellow graduate student Summer Moore, had the opportunity to go out into the lagoon with three local Tahitians whom we worked with on the excavations. We paddled outriggers to an outer area of the lagoon on the east coast of the island. From there I selected a pole that was embedded in a coral to be my starting point for the modern survey. I systematically worked my way out from the pole towards the outer reef measuring the Tridacna while they were still embedded in the coral. The work could be tedious and the shells difficult to find in the coral heads so the others helped me look and record my measurements. I certainly was not expecting the collection of measurements to be easy, but the work was even harder than anticipated and would have been almost impossible without additional help. Also, the supplies I purchased with money from my Reves Center grant were essential to the collection process and if I were to do it again, there are a few other tools I would have purchased in addition. Valuable lesson: you only truly know what you need and are up against after doing it once. Despite the difficulties, I complied over 75 samples for the one area alone, which already significantly increased the modern Tridacna shell measurements available.

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Bajan Excavation

The students working at St. Nicholas Abbey during the 2015 field season.

The students working at St. Nicholas Abbey during the 2015 field season.

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Challenges in Paradise

 

Ally Campo doing measurements of Tridacna shells in Mo‘orea, French Polynesia, Summer 2015

Ally Campo doing measurements of Tridacna shells in Mo‘orea, French Polynesia, Summer 2015

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