African Archaeological Review

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 211–235 | Cite as

Material Culture and Indigenous Spiritism: the Katamansu Archaeological “Otutu” (Shrine)

Original Article
  • 175 Downloads

Abstract

Through the integration of oral history and ethnographic and historical data with archaeological evidence, attempts have been made to understand and reconstruct the settlement history of Katamansu, a late eighteenth-century historic town located on the Accra Plains of Ghana. Two seasons of archaeological excavations at the Koowule site of the town yielded some evidence of the 1826 Battle of Katamansu, a battle that was fought on the site between the Asante and the Ga and their coastal allies of the Gold Coast. The excavations also yielded two spectacular features, whose configuration and content appear to be the remains of a shrine of the Ga people. The features correlate well with ethnographic parallels described by Margaret Field, an anthropologist, in her research on the religion and medicine of the Ga in the 1930s. This paper presents the historical and material evidence of the 1826 battle as well as the analysis of the shrine contents. The shrine features provide insights into an archaeological shrine's mundane materiality. They also expose how local (Neolithic and historic) and European artifacts were recrafted and imbued with medicinal, magical, and spiritual properties to possibly cure and impress patients and supplicants in shrine ritual practices.

Keywords

Ghana 1826 Battle of Katamansu Archaeological shrine Material culture Shrine rituals 

Résumé

A travers l’établissement de liens entre l’histoire orale, les données ethnographiques et historiques et les témoignages archéologiques, plusieurs tentatives ont été menées pour comprendre et rétablir l’histoire du peuplement de Katamansu, ville historique du 18e siècle dernier située dans les plaines d’Accra au Ghana. A deux reprises, des fouilles archéologiques ont été entreprises sur le site Koowule de la ville. Ces fouilles présentent des traces de la bataille de Katamansu, bataille qui a eu lieu entre les Asante et les Ga, alliés de la côtière de Gold Coast. Les fouilles ont également révélé des aspects spectaculaires dont la configuration et les implications montrent qu’il s’agit des vestiges d’un lieu de culte du peuple Ga. Les caractéristiques sont en parfaite corrélation avec les parallèles ethnographiques décrits par l’anthropologiste Margaret Field dans sa recherche sur la religion et la médecine des Ga dans les années 1930. Notre travail présente les preuves matérielles et historiques de la Bataille de 1826 ainsi que les analyses du contenu du lieu de culte (culte). Les caractéristiques de ce dernier, nous donne une compréhension très profonde du sens premier ou superficiel de cet autel archéologique. Cette recherche explique aussi comment des objets locaux et européens (Néolithique et historique) étaient retravaillés et imprimés de propriétés médicinales pour éventuellement guérir et impressionner patients et suppliants au cours des pratiques rituelles des cultes à l’autel.

References

  1. Anquandah, J. (1978). The Accra Plains archaeological and historical report on 1976/77 field work. Nyame Akuma, 12, 24–27.Google Scholar
  2. Anquandah, J. (1982). Rediscovering Ghana’s past. UK: Longman.Google Scholar
  3. Apaak, A. (1999). Change in the Western Accra Plains during the Late Iron Age (1500–1700): An archaeological analysis of Okai Koi-Ayawaso Pottery. Unpublished M. Phil. Thesis, University of Bergen, Norway.Google Scholar
  4. Apoh, W. (1997). Cement sculpturing and religious activities at Kpando Marian Grottoes of the Volta Region of Ghana. Unpublished B.A. Long Essay, University Of Ghana.Google Scholar
  5. Apoh, W. (2001). An archaeology of Katamansu. Unpublished M. Phil. Thesis, University of Ghana.Google Scholar
  6. Azu, D. G. (1974). The Ga family and social change. Leiden: Afrika-Studiecentrum.Google Scholar
  7. Baum, R. (1999). Shrines of the slave trade. Diola religion and society in precolonial Senegambia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Beaudry, M. C. (1988). Documentary archaeology in the New World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Beaudry, M. C., Cook, L., & Mrozowski, S. (1991). Artifact and active voices: Material culture as social discourse. In R. McGuire & R. Paynter (Eds.), The archaeology of inequality (pp. 150–191). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  10. Boachie-Ansah, J. (1998). Preliminary Report on Excavations at Wodoku, East Legon, Accra, Ghana. West African Journal of Archaeology, 61, 130–155.Google Scholar
  11. Bower, J. (1986). In Search of the Past: An introduction to Archaeology. Chicago, USA.Google Scholar
  12. Brammar H. (1967). Soils of the Accra plains. Memoir, no. 3.Google Scholar
  13. Bredwa-Mensah, Y. (1990). An archaeological investigation conducted at Okai Koi Hill (Ayawaso) and its significance for Iron Age archaeology in Ghana. Unpublished M. Phil. Thesis, University of Ghana.Google Scholar
  14. Bruce-Myers, J. M. (1928). The origin of the gas. Journal of the African Society, 27, 69.Google Scholar
  15. Claridge, W. W. (1915). A history of the Gold Coast and Ashant (Vol. 1). London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  16. Crellin, J. K., & Scott, J. R. (1970). Pharmaceutical History and its sources in the Wellcome Collections III. Fluid medicines, Prescription reform and Posology 1700–1900. Medical History, 14(2), 132–153.Google Scholar
  17. Crellin, J. K., & Scott, J. R. (1972). Glass and British Pharmacy 1600-1900. Museum Catalogue II, The Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine. London.Google Scholar
  18. Crossland, L. B. (1989). Recent archaeological research in the Western Accra Plains: Ghana. Nyame Akuma, 32, 9–12.Google Scholar
  19. Crossland L. B. (2000). A genealogical record of John William Hansen and his descendants. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Archaeology, University of Ghana.Google Scholar
  20. Dawson, A. (2009). Introduction. In A. Dawson (Ed.), Shrines in Africa. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.Google Scholar
  21. DeCorse, C. R. (1993). The Danes on the Gold Coast: Culture change and the European presence. African Archaeological Review, 11, 149–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Deetz, J. (1977). In small things forgotten: The archaeology of everyday life in early America. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  23. Dietler, M. (1990). Driven by drink: The role of drinking in the political economy and the case of early Iron Age France. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 9, 352–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dubin, L. S. (1987). The history of beads. New York: Abrams.Google Scholar
  25. Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1937). Witchcraft, oracles and magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  26. Field, M. J. (1937). Religion and medicine of the Ga people. London: The Crown Agents for the Colonies.Google Scholar
  27. Field, M. J. (1940). Social organization of the Ga people. London: Crown Agents for the Colonies.Google Scholar
  28. Francis, P. J. (1993). Where beads are loved: Ghana, West Africa (Beads and people series, Vol. 2). Lake Placid: Lapis Route.Google Scholar
  29. Gavua, K. (2000). Archaeology of the Katamansu battle field, Ghana: A preliminary report. A paper presented at the Cambridge Conference of the Society of Africanist ArchaeologistsGoogle Scholar
  30. Goody, J. (1957). Anomie in Ashanti? Africa, 27(3), 356–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Goody, J. (1962). Death property and the ancestors. A study of mortuary customs of the Lodagaa of West Africa. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Goody, J. (1964). The Mande and the Akan hinterland. In J. Vansina, R. Mauny, & L. V. Thomas (Eds.), The historian in tropical Africa (pp. 192–218). London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Goody, J. (1972). The myth of the Bagre. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  34. Grider, S. (2001) Spontaneous shrines: A modern response to tragedy and disaster, New Directions in Folklore, Issue 5.Google Scholar
  35. Grier, B. (1981). Underdevelopment, modes of production and the state in colonial Ghana. African Studies Review, 24(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Henderson-Quartey, D. (2002). The Ga of Ghana: History & culture of a West African people. London: Book-in-Hand.Google Scholar
  37. Insoll, T. (2004). Archaeology, ritual, religion. USA: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Kendrick, G. (1966). The antique bottle collector. Sparks: Western.Google Scholar
  39. Kilson, M. (1971). Kpele Lala, Ga Religious Songs and Symbols. Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Krampen, M. (1979). Survey of the current work on the semiology of objects. In S. Seymour Chatman, U. Eco, & J. Klinkenburg (Eds.), A semiotic landscape: Proceedings of the First Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies (pp. 158–168). The Hague: Mouton. June 1974.Google Scholar
  41. Kropp-Dakubu, M. E. (1976). Linguistic prehistoric and historical Reconstruction of the Ga-Dangbe Migrations. Transactions of Historical Society of Ghana, 13.Google Scholar
  42. Kropp-Dakubu, M. E. (1987). The Dangme language. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  43. Lentz, C. (2000). Of hunters, goats and earth-shrines; settlement histories and the politics of oral tradition in Northern Ghana. History in Africa, 27, 193–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lyman, R. L., & O'Brien, M. (2001). The direct historical approach, analogical reasoning and theory in Americanist archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 8, 303–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Maier, D. (1983). Priests and power. The case of the Dente Shrine in nineteenth-century Ghana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Mather, C. (2003). Shrines and the domestication of landscape. Journal of Anthropological Research, 59, 23–45.Google Scholar
  47. Mather, C. (2009). Shrines and compound abandonment: Ethnoarchaeological observations in Northern Ghana. In A. Dawson (Ed.), Shrines in Africa. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.Google Scholar
  48. Mckearin, H., & Wilson, K. (1978). American bottles and flasks and their ancestry. New York: Crown.Google Scholar
  49. Mendosa, E. (1982). The politics of divination. A processual view of reactions to illness and deviance among the Sisala of Northern Ghana. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  50. Metcalf, G. E. (1962). Maclean of the Gold Coast—The life and time of George Maclean 1801–1847. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Miller, D. (1987). Material culture and mass consumption. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  52. Mintz, S. W. (1985). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  53. Noël Hume, I. (1969). A guide to artifacts of colonial America. New York: Alfred A. Knorf.Google Scholar
  54. Nutor, B. (2010). An archaeology of indigenous religion at Dzake-Peki, Volta Region. Unpublished M. Phil. Thesis, University of Ghana.Google Scholar
  55. Orser, C. (1994). Towards a global historical archaeology: An example from Brazil. Historical Archaeology, 28(1), 522.Google Scholar
  56. Orser, C. (2004). Historical archaeology (2nd ed.). Pearson: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  57. Ozanne, P. C. (1962). Notes on the early historic archaeology of Accra. Transactions of the Historic Society of Ghana, 6, 51–70.Google Scholar
  58. Ozanne, P. C. (1964). Notes on the later prehistory of Accra. Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 3, 3–23.Google Scholar
  59. Parish, J. (1999). The dynamics of witchcraft and indigenous shrines among the Akan. Africa, 69(3), 426–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Parish, J. (2000). From the body to the wallet: Conceptualizing Akan witchcraft at home and abroad. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 6(3), 487–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Paynter, R. (1988). Steps to an archaeology of capitalism: Material change and class analysis. In M. Leone & P. Porter (Eds.), The Recovery of Meaning: Historical Archaeology in the Eastern United States (pp. 407–433). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  62. Peek, P. (1991). African divination systems: Ways of knowing. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Rattray, R. (1923). Ashanti. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  64. Reade, W. (1874). The story of the Ashanti campaign. London: Smith, Elder, & Co.Google Scholar
  65. Reindorf, C. C. (1895). The history of the Gold Coast and Asante. Basel: Basel Book Mission Depot.Google Scholar
  66. Reynolds, E. (1974). Trade and economic change on the Gold Coast 1807–1874. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  67. Schiffer, M. (1987). Formation processes of the archaeological record. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
  68. Schmidt, P., & Mrozowski, S. (1983). History, smugglers, change, and shipwrecks. In R. Gould (Ed.), Shipwreck anthropology (pp. 143–171). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
  69. Schuyler, R. (1988). Archaeological remains, documents, and anthropology: A call for a new culture history. Historical Archaeology, 22(1), 36–42.Google Scholar
  70. Senie, H. (1999). Morning in protest: Spontaneous memorials and sacralization of public space. Harvard Design Magazine, Fall, 23–27.Google Scholar
  71. Shackel, P. (1993). A historical archaeology of personal discipline and material culture in the Chesapeake. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.Google Scholar
  72. Shaw, T. (1944). Reports on excavations carried out in the cave known as ‘Bosumpra’ at Abetifi, Kwahu, Gold Coast Colony. In Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, vol. XGoogle Scholar
  73. Shaw, T. (1961). Excavation at Dawu. Bungay: Thomas Nelson.Google Scholar
  74. Shaw, R. (1997). The production of witchcraft/witchcraft as production: Memory, modernity, and the slave trade in Sierra Leone. American Ethnologist, 24(4), 856–876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. South, S. (1977). Method and theory in historical archaeology. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  76. Stahl, A. (1994). Change and continuity in the Banda Area, Ghana: The direct historical approach. Journal of Field Archaeology, 21, 181–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Stahl, A. (2005). The dynamics of ritual in Banda, Ghana. An exploratory essay. Paper Presented at SAR Short Seminar on “The Archaeology of Ritual, Memory, and Materiality,” February 16–18Google Scholar
  78. Tait, D. (1961). The Konkomba of Northern Ghana. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Thomas, N. (1991). Entangled objects; exchange, material culture, and colonialism in the Pacific. Harvard: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Turner, V. (1975). Dramas, fields, and symbolic action in human society. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  81. Tylor, E. (1871/1958). Primitive Culture. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  82. van Beek, W. (1994). The innocent sorcerer: Coping with evil in two African societies (Kapsiki & Dogon). In T. Blakely, W. van Beek, & D. Thomson (Eds.), Religion in Africa: Experience and expression (pp. 196–228). London: James Currey.Google Scholar
  83. Walker, W. (1998). Where are the witches of prehistory? Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 5(3), 245–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Walker, W., & Lucero, L. (2000). The depositional history of ritual and power. In M. Dobres & J. Robb (Eds.), Agency in archaeology (pp. 130–147). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  85. Ward, F. (1948). A history of the Gold Coast. London: Bradford & Dickens.Google Scholar
  86. Wild, R. P. (1927). Stone artifacts of the Gold Coast and Ashanti. Gold Coast Review, 3(2), 24–39.Google Scholar
  87. Wilks, I. (1975). Asante in the nineteenth century. The structure and evolution of a political order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  88. York, R. N. (1972). Cowries as type-fossils in Ghanaian archaeology. West African Journal of Archaeology, 3, 1–189.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and Heritage StudiesUniversity of GhanaLegonGhana

Personalised recommendations