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ARCHAEOLOCY AND EXCAVATION

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Last update (09-09-2018)


Archaeology is a method of about the past by studying the things left behind by former people. These things may consist of the remains of their houses, their fortress, or their places, their tools and weapons, their pots and pans, personal adornments or those things found in their graves and burials.

An archaeologist is therefore a person who uses scientific techniques to find and examine the remains of human being and get information from them.

Archaeology is the techniques of digging up the remains of the ancient times and study those things they left behind to gain knowledge of the past events.

It’s also to reconstruct the way they had lived. It’s a way of having, close contact with the ancient civilizations.

Archaeology can tell us the story of man’s past before writing started. It supplements the historical records when there are no written records or documents. They can tell us a complete story of the ancient people. Archaeology is a part of history, but not the same as history. It can only give a part of history. For example archaeology can tell us the kind of ceremonial dress of the past kings of what a chief wore some thousands of years ago, but it will not tell the very name of the king. Some other objects that archaeologist took for, are impressions made on the surface of rocks, rockslides rock shelters; cave paintings or sculptures on stones or rocks. Some are biological materials such as the skeletal remains, fossil desiccated vegetables, remains and seek of plants.

There are also places, bones of domesticated animals, notable deposit such as pottery grind stones, objects such as wood, leather, basketry and cloth and some of these do not last long in the soil because they can rotten away, but they are still materials of value to archaeologists.

Archaeology reveals man’s records in the ancient times when there were no records at all. Most of these periods were known as the Stone Age before man had knowledge of metals.

Man first used stones as implements and there were many stone tools in Nigeria and other parts of the world that had helped archaeologists to known the past, in Nigeria, much archaeological progress had been made in finding out about the Nigeria past and discoveries had taken place in areas such as lwo Eleru. Ilesa. Ife. oyo, lgho-Ukwu in Anambra, Ewoaina in the Rivers. Kursakata, Diama and Shilma in Borne, Birnin Kudu in Kano. Kaora Namoda in Sokoto, the Nok culture area in Plateau and Kaduna. Through the study of objects found in these areas through archaeology, a lot has come to light about the Nigeria past, dating back in some places to about three thousand years ago.

Unknown civilization and cultures with oral origins and even ancient writers (1Sth -I9th) centuries of Egyptian and Arabs were informed through archaeological methods. Archaeology also enhanced a better knowledge of cities or historical sites with splinters. Such as Ile-Ife, Benin City, Kumbi Saleh, Kongi, Manso, Bagho, Bono, Niani Kilwo etc.

With this discipline, one can have more coherent pictures of the link between ancient civilizations and the last pre-historic cultures even if it is with several other incomplete aspects.

THE BENIN CITY MOATS
The Benin City meals system which require a comprehensive archaeological work otherwise called the Benin Walls, have been described by Kenneth .C. Murray (1967) as “the most impressive city walls in the Southern part of Nigeria. At their highest point, the walls were 30 feet high and the ditch 30 feet deep, making a total incline of 60 feet”

A recent historical sketch Net Work of archaeology by archaeologist
Graham Connah (1975) in a hook titled ‘The Archaeology of Benin” made many suggestions for the preservation and conservation of the Benin Moats.

The Moats were described in”Guinness Year book “as one of the greatest earth works in the world. Before the moats were declared a monument in 1961, people had started using the walls as a source of building materials. An appeal has gone to natural rulers, chiefs and eiders including the Youths to help the museum greatly by educating the people and enforcing traditional laws to prohibit the use of the walls as a quarry. We cannot only depend on Benin Memorial Heads and plaques for the history of Benin Kingdom. The National commission for Museum and monuments has been conducting documentation and conservation survey and assessment of monuments and sites in an effort to curb encroachments and destructions which have been quite rampant in Benin (Abu Edet 1990) Conservation is a means by which cultural property are protected from decay and damage. Benin Moats have a lot of history to tell. The age or the origin, it has been suggested that they were not dug during Oba Oguola, but during Ogiso periods. But Oba Oguola in 1280 AD deepened it for the protection of the city because of Akpanigiakon, an Udo warrior. We still depend on archaeologist to work on the age of the Benin Moats.

EXCAVATION
Excavation is a special method of digging into an ancient site to learn from it, all about the inhabitants and their way of life.

Archaeological excavation is not a treasure hunt for objects of arts but for any piece of materials that can lead to the activities of the ancient man. It could be potsherds (pieces of broken pots) which will be very important to an archaeologist for any possible information.

This could lead to the people changes in population and movements of people from place to place. These diggings help him co build up his findings. Before excavation takes place in some areas, there must be special permit. An archaeologist can know where lo dig or excavate by

(a) Following up chance hike the NOK culture, lfe and Igbo-Ukwu sites

(b) Information from people and careful observations of some old Sites.

(c) People who are not archaeologists have by chance or accident digs a place and found ancient materials.

It is also very important to the archaeologists to know how what is found in the ground is lying. More often, what is found in sites are heads, bones, pottery shells, figuring, carved stoves, metal or iron
Places to excavate are:

1. Mounds: - This may be former burial sites. Structures, settlements coast or river mounds.

2. Old Village Sites: - This can be revealed by a scatter of pottery, vegetation such as groups of Newbodia trees, (Ikhinmwin) baobabs in savanna zones.

3. Earth Works: - Decayed walls of earth, defensive ditches (iya) can sometimes be traced for valuable historical evidence.

4. Stone Works: - In rocky areas, there are signs of ancient hills with carved marks, caves, stone walls standing stones etc

5. Iron Smelting Sites: - This can be 200 - 2,500 years old. There can be backed clays; drought pipes. Generally, archaeology has done much for us to recover and to interpretĀ  the riches of Benin or Nigerian cultural heritage and to reconstruct our unwritten history we could readily see that archaeology and excavations are sources of history because those artifacts dug out by archaeologists are used in tracing history of mankind.

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