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Efik, Ibibio, and Annang, Okigwe, South-Eastern Nigeria

Pre-historic Iwo-Eleru Skull

Before Nok: People lived in what is now Nigeria thousands of years ago. In parts of Nigeria, archaeologists have found stone tools that are 40,000 years old. Human skeletons, rock paintings, and other remains of prehistoric settlements have also been found.


Archaeologists of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in their excavations carried out in the early 1970s discovered huge stacks of various kinds of stone tools – hand axes, knives, picks, cleavers - in the Igbo town of Ugwu-Ele (‘Hill of Ele’), Isuikwuato, Abia State, Nigeria.


The archaeologists concluded that the tools spanned the period from Early, Middle to Late Stone Age (at least 500,000 – 80,000 B.C.  The British member of UNN Archaeology department at the time, Professor D. David concluded that, “the site was the largest stone axe factory in the world! Early Nigerian history relates to the period of history in Nigeria prior to the Common Era. Recent archaeological research has shown that people were already living in Nigeria (specifically the Iwo-Eleru) as early as 9000 B.C.E., and perhaps earlier at Ugwuelle-Uturu (Okigwe) in south-eastern Nigeria. Top left and below original and copies of the human skull found in Iwo-Eleru 9000 B.C.E.




Pre-historic Iwo-Eleru Skull

Scientists have collected more evidence to suggest that ancient and modern humans interbred in Africa.
Reanalysis of the 13,000-year-old skull from a cave in West Africa reveals a skull more primitive-looking than its age suggests.

The result suggests that the ancestors of early humans did not die out quickly in Africa, but instead lived alongside their descendents and bred with them until comparatively recently. The skull, found in the Iwo Eleru cave in Nigeria in 1965, does not look like a modern human. It is longer and flatter with a strong brow ridge; features closer to a much older skull from Tanzania, thought to be around 140,000 years old.
Prof Katerina Harvati from the University of Tuebingen in Germany used new digitising techniques to capture the surface of the skull in detail. The new technique improved upon the original measurements done with callipers by letting researchers see subtler details about the skull's surface.


Dufuna Canoe

The cast of the Iwo Eleru skull shows marks of a more ancient ancestor
"[The skull] has got a much more primitive appearance, even though it is only 13,000 years old," said Chris Stringer, from London's Natural History Museum, who was part of the team of researchers.

"This suggests that human evolution in Africa was more complex... the transition to modern humans was not a straight transition and then a cut off." Prof Stringer thinks that ancient humans did not die away once they had given rise to modern humans. They may have continued to live alongside their descendants in Africa, perhaps exchanging genes with them, until more recently than had been thought. The researchers say their findings also underscore a real lack of knowledge of human evolution in the region.


Dufuna Canoe
Dufuna Canoe

But palaeontologists are not all agreed on precisely what the new analysis is telling us - or, indeed, whether it is telling us anything definitive at all. "I do not think that these findings add anything new to our view," said Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, who was not connected to the study. "We have a few fossils, and no idea of natural variation within populations.


That the situation is not simple and is deep and complex is what we would expect. "In my view, it is the field of genetics that will help us most in clarifying matters," he told BBC News. Separate research published earlier this month suggests that genetic mixing between hominin species happened in Africa up to 35,000 years ago.


Since the Dufuna canoe was discovered by a local Fulani herdsman in 1987 archaeologists have been in a frenzy about the discovery. The boat was dug out from a depth of five meters beneath the earth's surface and measured 8.4 meters in length, 0.5 meters wide and about 5 cm thick varying at certain parts of the surface.


The age of the boat has been put at about 8000 years old (6000 B.C.E.), thus, becoming the oldest boat in Africa and third oldest on earth. It predates the Egyptian Solar Boat by over 2000 years. Eurocentrics for years had led the whole world to beleive that "Iron Age" started in Southwest Asia in 1500 B.C.E.


Iwo-Eleru, Ondo State, Nsukka


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However, iron smelting in Lejja is 495 older than that done in Asia, 1,045 years older than China's Iron Age, and 695 years younger than the Egyptian Pyramids.


The Ebo Landing Project. The project was designed by Professor Catherine Acholonu and Sidney Louis Davis of Catherine Acholonu Research Center, Abuja in partnership with NAGAS International Consortium Inc., USA and Ebo Landing Incorporated, USA.


The team visited various tourist sites in Enugu State including the Institute for African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), which led an excursion trip to the Prehistoric Iron smelting site in Lejja in Nsukka.


The Lejja visit proved to be a most auspicious event, for it exposed the visitors to the world’s oldest iron smelting technology.


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