African Archaeological Review

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 1–24 | Cite as

The Making of an Internal Frontier Settlement: Archaeology and Historical Process in Osun Grove (Nigeria), Seventeenth to Eighteenth Centuries

  • Akinwumi OgundiranEmail author
Original Article


The historical, material, and spatial processes that defined the formative settlement practices in Early Osogbo (southwest Nigeria), a seventeenth- to early eighteenth-century frontier community, is the subject of this article. I use different datasets, including the spatial layout of the site, the archaeological depositional sequence, diverse artifact categories, and oral historical sources to engage Igor Kopytoff’s Internal African Frontier thesis. In this article, I argue against Kopytoff’s conceptualization of the frontier as a conservative space that relied on innovations from the metropolis. Instead, I demonstrate that Early Osogbo was a dynamic formative settlement in an internal Yoruba regional frontier whose material life was not a mere copy of a metropolis’s. Instead, this emerging community was characterized by diversity, complexity, experimentation, and newness that resulted from local forces of migration, frontier social networks, and regional exchange systems involving several spheres of interstitial frontiers and multiple metropolises. Contrary to the metropolis-frontier pattern of migration that informed Kopytoff’s Internal African Frontier thesis, Early Osogbo was originally created by frontier-frontier migrations before it became a site for intermetropolis contestation. The article underscores the need to bring conceptual clarity to the study of frontier processes, arguing that different historical contexts, migration patterns, and regional political frameworks produced different kinds of frontiers such as crossroads, boundary, colony, and cultural frontiers. The archaeological profile of Early Osogbo demonstrates that the settlement was a crossroads frontier community.


Internal frontier Settlement history Osogbo Osun Grove Nigeria 


L' historique, les matériaux et processus spatiaux qui définit les pratiques de règlement de formation en Early Osogbo (sud-ouest du Nigeria), septième au milieu de la frontière au début du XVIIIe siècle, est l'objet de cet article. J'utilise différents ensembles de données, y compris la disposition spatiale du site, la séquence sédimentaire archéologique, diverses catégories d'artefacts et les sources historiques orales à s'engager thèse de Frontière Africaine Interne de Igor Kopytoff. Dans cet article, je soutiens contre la conceptualisation de Kopytoff de la frontière comme un espace conservatrice qui s'appuie sur les innovations de la métropole. Au lieu de cela, je démontre que Early Osogbo était un règlement de formatrice dynamique dans une frontière régionale Yoruba interne dont la vie matérielle n'était pas une simple copie d'une métropole. Au lieu de cela, cette nouvelle communauté a été caractérisée par la diversité, la complexité, l'expérimentation et la nouveauté qui ont résulté de forces locales de migration, les réseaux sociaux frontières, et les systèmes d'échange régionaux qui comprenait plusieurs sphères de frontières interstitiels et plusieurs métropoles. Contrairement à la tendance métropole frontière de la migration qui a informé thèse de Frontière aAfricaine Interne de Kopytoff, Early Osogbo a été créé à l'origine par les migrations frontière franco frontière avant qu'il ne devienne un lieu de contestation inter-métropole. L' article souligne la nécessité d' apporter de la clarté conceptuelle à l'étude des processus de la frontière , en faisant valoir que les différents contextes historiques, les schémas de migration et des cadres politiques régionales produites différents types de frontières comme carrefour, limites, colonie, et les frontières culturelles. Le profil archéologique de Early Osogbo démontre que le règlement était une communauté frontalière croisée des chemins.



I am grateful to the Dumbarton Oaks’ Garden and Landscape Studies, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (7099), and the National Endowment for the Humanities faculty research grant (HR-50114-04) for research grants in support of The Upper Osun Archaeological and Historical Research Project. I have also received the financial support of the Office of the Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte since 2008. The cooperation of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) and of two successive kings of Osogbo—the Late Oba Iyiola Oyewale Matanmi III and the current Oba Jimoh Oyetunji Laroye II—have made my research in Osun Grove possible. Many field and laboratory assistants, colleagues, and informants have helped me over the years on this project. In particular, I gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr. Akinbukola “Bukky” Ogundiran, for his tireless logistical assistance during my seasons of fieldwork in Nigeria. I also thank the following colleagues who have made significant intellectual contributions to this article by generously sharing their expertise with me: Dr. O. Akinlolu Ige (LA-ICP-MS analysis and geochemistry of glass), Dr. John Deimer (XRD analysis of clay), Dr. Babatunde Agbaje-Williams (ceramics and regional history), and Mr. Clayton Tinsley (faunal analysis). My words of gratitude also go to the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and to Dr. Adria LaViolette for her encouragement. However, I alone bear responsibility for the contents and focus of this article. I dedicate this essay to the memory of Igor Kopytoff who passed on 9 August 2013 at the age of 83. I hope this essay advances his contributions to frontier studies.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Africana Studies DepartmentUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteUSA

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