The Nok civilization
The Nok civilization was discovered recently, in 1943 a fragment of a terracotta statue was unearthed in a tin mine near Nok on the Jos Plateau in central Nigeria. Following the discovery of other pieces of statues of high artistic quality were found near the city of Sokoto and creates lots of reactions when they appeared on the market of Western art. Since that date the statues from the city of Katsina still in northern Nigeria have been discovered, but like most of these magnificent statues excavated from unregulated very little information has reached us about their functions.
Several styles of terracotta statues were identified all dated between 400 BC and 200 AD there is currently very difficult to know if these styles correspond to different traditions or they are just regional variations.
More statues of styles, differences were found in the same regions, such as a number of terracotta-called classical style have been discovered in the region of Katsina to three hundred kilometers from their cultural center: the town of Nok.
It is likely that future research will give us more information on what is currently one of the great mysteries of African art.
The classical style known as Nok terracotta, includes statues of real size, with large elongated heads , hair forms developed and we identified them especially thanks to the eyes of an eyebrow and upper linear lower curve of an eyebrow, Their body is usually decorated with many jewels in terracotta, reminiscent of beads stones otherwise similar to those that were found during excavations.
The terracotta of the Sokoto area, are usually less elaborate and stylistically does not have the richness of terracotta style called classical. They are identified by their heavy upper eyelids which tends to fall on the eye. Most statues of Sokoto is fragmentary but reconstructions revealed a conical body which could refer to a phallus, these statues have been dated to most around 400 BC
The terracotta statues of katsina have bulging eyes half closed, giving them an expression internalized by thermoluminescence dating, gave results between the 1st and 4th century AD a little later, that two previous styles. A group of terracotta also from the Nok area, this extremely elongated heads adorned with a headdress and jewelry extremely elaborate. This group is probably closer to a style known as classical statues, because the shape of eyes and hair is often similar. More statues of the two groups appear to date from the same period.
Unfortunately we can only speculate on the role played by these statues. Intact when they take on an open area at the base. It is interesting to note that this basic type, are also statues in terracotta, placed on the roofs of the city of Bwari in the region of Nok. The extreme diversity of size and shapes of terracotta, nok indicate they were probably used for various purposes, such as funerary statues placed on graves or as revered statues in libations.
A first typology of Nok statues can be developed. The first type of highly individualized portraits with faces, the second of the statues of women represented in dynamic poses. For example dancing. The third type includes statues adorned with statues of animals, which could represent hunters. The fourth category includes statues of men posing chin on a knee or forearm. Finally the last type includes statues hybrid, half human half zoomorphic, or statues with features distorted.
Official archaeological excavations in the region of Igbo Ukwu, south eastern Nigeria have uncovered a group of objects made from a mixture of bronze and tin associated with a grave. These objects obtained by the method of lost wax, have been dated around AD X, although found during official excavations, they do not function very obvious and are stylistically very isolated can not be linked with other findings.
Small heads and statues in terracotta as well as bronze bells, representing dignitaries and kings were discovered during excavations around the town of Ife, they all date from between the XII and XV, and exhibit facial scarification naturalistic characteristics or traits. Formerly the site of Ife was revered by the kings of Benin, as their hometown, and severed heads of dead kings were traditionally buried. It is possible to find a correlation between this art and that of Benin, which emerged during the sixteenth.
Again the role of these heads and these bells is unknown, some have bronze heads around their neck perforations, suggesting an attachment has a base now extinct. However most head sizes are small and may have more ritual significance.