African Archaeological Review

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

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

  • Wazi ApohEmail author
  • Kodzo Gavua
Original Article


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.


Ghana 1826 Battle of Katamansu Archaeological shrine Material culture Shrine rituals 


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.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

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

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