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Igbo Ukwu (Nigeria) - West African Burial and Shrine

Igbo Ukwu is an African Iron Age archaeological site located near the modern town of Onitsha, in the forest zone of southeastern Nigeria. Although it is unclear what kind of a site it is—settlement, residence, or burial—we know that the the Igbo Ukwu was used during the late 10th century A.D.

Igbo-Ukwu was discovered in 1938 by workmen who were digging a cistern and professionally excavated by Thurston Shaw in 1959/60 and 1974.

Eventually, three localities were identified: Igbo-Isaiah, an underground storage chamber; Igbo-Richard, a burial chamber once lined with wooden planks and floor matting and containing the remains of six individuals; and Igbo-Jonah, an underground cache of ritual and ceremonial objects thought to have been collected during the dismantling of a shrine.

The Igbo-Richard locality was clearly a burial place for an elite (wealthy) person, buried with a large array of grave goods, but it is unknown whether this person was a ruler or had some other religious or secular role in his or her community. The principal interment is an adult seated on a wooden stool, dressed in fine clothing and with rich grave effects including over 150,000 glass beads. The remains of five attendants were found alongside.

The burial included a number of elaborate cast bronze vases, bowls, and ornaments, made with the lost wax (or lost latex) technique.

Elephant tusks and bronze and silver objects illustrated with elephants were found. The bronze pommel of a sword hilt in the form of a horse and rider was also found in this burial, as were wooden objects and vegetable textiles preserved by their proximity to bronze artifacts.

Over 165,000 glass and carnelian beads were found at Igbo-Ukwu, as were objects of copper, bronze, and iron, broken and complete pottery and burned animal bone.

The vast majority of the beads were made of monochrome glass, of yellow, grayish blue, dark blue, dark green, peacock blue, and reddish brown colors. There were also striped beads and multicolored eye beads, as well as stone beads and a

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