The Nok Culture: Southern Kaduna’s Ancient Civilization
Discovered in 1928, the Nok Culture date back to between 2,000 and 2,500 years and is undoubtedly one of the greatest and renowned cultures in the world. In an alluvial tin mine in the vicinity of the community of Nok in Jaba Local Government Area in the Southern Kaduna area of Northern Nigeria, the oldest discoveries was accidentally unearthed at a depth of 24 feet.
In 1943, Bernard Fagg, a British archeologist, started the collection of the Nok Terracotta heads unearth by tin miners at the Nok site. Carbon and thermo-luminescence tests suggest that the sculptures were created around 500 BC, though many new findings point that some of the works can be dated even earlier than this.
Because of erosion and deposition, Nok Terracotta was scattered at various depths throughout the Sahel grasslands, causing difficulty in efforts made in the dating and classification of the mysterious artifacts. Most parts of the terracotta are preserved today in the form scattered fragments. That is why Nok art is well known today only for the heads, both male and female sculptures, whose hairstyles are particularly elaborated and refined. Rarely are works of great size conserved intact making them highly valued on the world art market. The terracotta figures are hollow, coil built, nearly life-sized human heads and bodies that are depicted with highly stylized features, abundant jewelry, and different postures.
Account of the Nok Culture is the chronicle of a people who left a village called Ham in Egypt many millennia ago. On reaching this virgin realm, according to fable, they discovered that the land is bordered by impenetrable mountains and forests troubled with deadly reptiles and loose sand dunes that would easily swallow the gullible and to keep invaders at bay. On finding this land, the people took shelter in the caves and the rudimentary rock shelters abound in the new settlement. This provided them shelter and protection from the warring tribes around the expanse until the European escapade and subsequent pacification that followed their coming, which brought inter-communal warfare to an end. Though secluded from others by the hills, the Nok people developed a system of administration over time that ensured the maintenance of law and order in their place of abode. They collectively built what became known as the city of Nok at the foot of the hills.
The basic understanding of the Nok Culture can be glanced through their system of justice. It is an established fact that the Nok judicial system pre-dates the western judicial system. The Nok people created classes of courts utilized in adjudicating on cases from minor to criminal cases. There were the conventional open courts, area courts, high courts and the appeal courts. Experts say that these courts were used to investigate and to expose both minor and major crimes. The people were strongly of the opinion that every transgression attracts a profanity which was capable of destroying whole folk and must be uncovered to avoid the consequences.
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