Researchers Launch New Inquiry into Igboukwu Archaeology

  …Celebrate Shaw’s Excavations at 60

By Chioma Ndife

60 years after excavations at Igbo-Ukwu, Aguata LGA of Anambra State by a British Archaeologist, Prof. Thurston Shaw, two researchers had launched an inquiry into the Igboukwu Archaeology in order to celebrate the efforts of Shaw and advance on what was done 60 years ago.

In celebration of the excavation, the duo researchers, Dr. Abidemi Babatunde Babalola from University of Cambridge, UK and Dr. Kingsley Chinedu Daraojimba of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, organized an exhibition, on Wednesday, 5th January, at National Commission for Museums and Mounuments, Umudege Village, Igbo-Ukwu.

Fides gathered that the exhibition put together by the duo was to enable them revisit what had been done by Shaw and interact with indigenes of Igbo-Ukwu community, the primary source of the discoveries.

Speaking to Fides, Dr. Babalola, regretted that people across the shores of Nigeria have limited knowledge about Igboukwu Community, aside from what was done by Thurston Shaw 60 years ago.

He noted that the exhibition was put together to bring back past memories of the excavation, noting that it would help them think ahead new areas they need to focus on.

He identified recent developments in terms of house construction, as a challenge to the project and wondered how the team would navigate such. He said that through the studies carried out, it was discovered that Prof. Shaw’s involvement of the community indigenes was a significant factor that led to the success recorded 60 years ago and explained that the recent project will advance what was done in the past.

Babalola explained that the ‘Igboukwu Archeology and Heritage Project’ conceived by himself and Dr. Daraojimba, had received a start-up grant from an organization in the  University of Cambridge, called Cambridge Africa Alborada, noting that the grant will enable them compensate people especially land owners during the excavation process.

He disclosed that archeologically research required heavy funds and appreciated support from Igboukwu Community, noting that about 16 indigenes will be trained on basic archeological skill to enable them fit into the project properly.

He revealed that the team had the intention of building on what Thurston Shaw had done, saying that Thurston Shaw’s widow, Pamela Shaw, was ready to spend her last kobo to put Igboukwu Archaeology on the world map.

Contributing, Dr. Kingsley Daraojimba, disclosed that the materials recovered during the excavation carried out 60 years ago by the renowned professor of archeology, Thurston Shaw provided insight into high technological advancement of West Africa over the last one thousand years.

In his words ‘Nothing had been done after the excavation to advance the work that has been done by Thurston Shaw. So we felt that there is a need to revisit the site and a way of doing this is to celebrate the excavation that was conducted by Thurston Shaw 60 years ago, while reflecting on the merits that we can gain from the excavation in understanding West Africa History and civilization’.

‘The exhibition is organized by a joint collaboration between the Departments of Archaeology and Tourism, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and University of Cambridge, Uk.

Explaining the motive of the project, Dr. Daraojimba, said,  ‘after the work that was done by Thurston Shaw, there were so many questions that were left un answered about the environment where humans evolved, like the people who manufactured those materials what did they eat and what was the nature of their environment over a thousand years ago. By visiting those sites again, we are trying to answer those old questions using new techniques that were not available to Thurston shaw 60 years ago.

He disclosed that the first phase of the project commenced in 2019 with Rural History Documentation where people who experienced the excavation 60 years ago were interviewed, saying that the reason was to keep the memories of the excavation alive as it would be disastrous if all those that experienced the process died with the information.

The second phase, according to Dr. Daraojimba, was Archeology Education across some selected Secondary Schools within the three quarters of Igboukwu Community. He said that the education was necessitated in order for the young minds to imbibe the significance of the materials excavated by Shaw 60 years ago and help them understand their cultural history.

He said that the third aspect was field training of community members, saying that the team had received reports from farmers and other members of the community about the discovery of some archeological materials in their farmers and other places. He said that the training on field technique with the practical demonstration of Archeology was to enable some people in the community have effective understanding of Archeological discipline and acquire preliminary measures to record artifacts wherever it was seen.

Earlier in his welcome address, the President General, Sir. Christian Ike, reaffirmed the readiness of Igboukwu Community to support the promotion of Archeological findings.

The exhibition witnessed the presence of the representatives of the Anozie’s Family where the findings were made by Thurston Shaw as well as paper presentation on Archaeology of Igboukwu By. Anselm M. Ibeanu from the Department of Archaeology and Tourism, UNN.

The Head of Department, Archaeology and Tourism, UNN, Dr. Emeka Okonkwo and Her Royal Highness, Ocheze Bernice Ezeh among others that graced the occasion, emphasized the need for more effort to be in place in the preservation of archaeologically artifacts.

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