African History 101

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The Nok culture appeared in Nigeria around 1000 B.C. and mysteriously vanished around 500 AD in the region of West Africa. This region lies in Central Nigeria. The culture’s social system is thought to have been highly advanced. The Nok culture was considered to be the earliest sub-Saharan producer of life-sized Terracotta. It is suggested that the society eventually evolved into the later Yoruba Kingdom of Ife.

The refinement of this culture is attested to by the image of a Nok dignitary at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The dignitary is portrayed wearing a “shepherds crook” affixed with an elastic material to the right arm. The dignitary is also portrayed sitting with flared nostrils, and an open mouth suggesting performance. According to some accounts, based on artistic similarities to both early Yoruba art forms and Nok forms, there may be connections between them and the contemporary Yoruba people. Later brass and terracotta sculptures of the Ife and Benin cultures show significant similarities with those found at Nok.

Iron use, in smelting and forging for tools, appears in Nok culture in Africa at least by 550 BC and more probably in the middle of the second millennium BC (between 1400 BC and 1600 BC depending on references).

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