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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 475–499 | Cite as

Insights into Past Ritual Practice at Yikpabongo, Northern Region, Ghana

  • Benjamin Kankpeyeng
  • Natalie Swanepoel
  • Timothy Insoll
  • Samuel Nkumbaan
  • Samuel Amartey
  • Malik Saako
Original Article

Abstract

Varied interpretations have been provided for the figurine mound sites located in Koma Land and in the Mogduri District, Northern Region, Ghana, including that they represent burial mounds or shrines. In particular, the producers or affiliates of the mounds are unknown, as the traditions of the present inhabitants of the archaeological region dissociate themselves from the mounds. Current excavations of the mounds have provided considerable contextual information, leading the excavation team to hypothesise that the mounds are best understood within a shrine context and that the figurines, possibly representing ancestors or other beings, were used in ceremonies aimed at communicating with the supernatural world for healing or other purposes. This article presents the current understanding of these mound sites with particular reference to the 2010 and 2011 excavation seasons and the ethnography of existing groups in the area. Possible future avenues of enquiry are also discussed.

Keywords

Figurines Koma Land Northern Ghana Religion Ritual 

Résumé

Des interprétations diverses ont été fournies concernant le site d’un ensemble de monticules situé dans le territoire Koma, district de Mogduri, dans la Région Nord, au Ghana. On estime, entre autres, qu’il s’agit de monticules funéraires ou de sanctuaires. Les producteurs de ces monticules ou leurs associés sont surtout inconnus, puisque les traditions des habitants actuels de la région archéologique se désassocient des monticules. Les fouilles actuelles des monticules ont fourni des informations contextuelles considérables, permettant à l’équipe chargé des fouilles de proposer l’hypothèse selon laquelle les monticules sont mieux appréhendées dans le contexte d’un sanctuaire, alors que les figurines, représentant éventuellement les ancêtres ou d’autres créatures, étaient utilisées dans des cérémonies visant à communiquer avec le monde surnaturel afin d’obtenir une guérison ou parvenir à d’autres objectifs. Cet article fait état des connaissances actuelles relatives à ce site de monticules, surtout par rapport aux campagnes de fouille de 2010 et 2011, et compte tenu de l’ethnographie des groupes d’habitants dans la zone. Les futures pistes d’enquête éventuelle font également l’objet du débat suscité.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Funding for the 2010 and 2011 seasons of fieldwork was principally provided by University of Ghana. These funds supported the participation of students of the University of Ghana in the projects. In particular, the Faculty of Social Sciences provided a bus each year for the transportation of students to and from the site of Yikpabongo. A grant from the Office of Research and Development (ORID) for Samuel Nkumbaan’s research in 2010 assisted with the reseach at Fagusa. We are most grateful to the University of Ghana for the continued support for the Koma Land Archaeological Research Project. Also, the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board issued a research permit allowing the archeological survey and excavation within Koma Land. Thanks a million to the management of the GMMB for their continued support and involvement in Koma Land research. Benjamin Kankpeyeng is most grateful for the participation of Timothy Insoll and his students from the University of Manchester, and Natalie Swanepoel from the University of South Africa, as they committed personal funds for their travel to Ghana for the project. The support and participation in the project of Samuel Amartey, Malik Mahmoud Saako and Zakari Jobila is also acknowledged with deep gratitude. The participation of the 2010 and 2011 graduating classes of students in archaeology is acknowledged and highly appreciated. Also, we acknowledge the continuous support of the people of Yikpabongo in the research, especially the Chiefs and elders as well as Messrs. Ben Baluri Saibu and Hamidu Sibiri. The support of the district authorities at Walewale and the presence of the Minister of Chieftaincy and Culture at the closing durbar of the 2011 field school as a representative of His Excellency, John Dramani Mahama, then Vice-President (now President) of the Republic of Ghana, are acknowledged. His words of encouragement to the students and local community regarding their support for the protection and preservation of the sites within the Koma area have served to motivate students’ continued interest in participating in the research. We are most grateful. Two reviewers gave very useful comments which greatly improved the presentation and discussion of the data; all mistakes remain our own responsibility.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Kankpeyeng
    • 1
  • Natalie Swanepoel
    • 2
  • Timothy Insoll
    • 3
  • Samuel Nkumbaan
    • 1
  • Samuel Amartey
    • 4
  • Malik Saako
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and Heritage StudiesUniversity of GhanaAccraGhana
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology & ArchaeologyUniversity of South AfricaUnisaSouth Africa
  3. 3.School of Arts, Histories and CulturesThe University of ManchesterOxfordUK
  4. 4.Department of Anthropology, Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public AffairsSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  5. 5.Ghana Museums and Monuments BoardBolgatangaGhana

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