SCIENTISTS OF ANCIENT ILE-IFE:FASCINATING CRAFTMANSHIP

This is an extract from a preliminary archaeological investigations carried out at Ile-Ife, southwest Nigeria by Abidemi Babatunde Babalola, Department of Anthropology, Rice University, Houston Texas. The survey focused on the campus of the Obafemi Awolowo University. The sites that were surveyed includes Igbo Olokun, Igbo Rudi and Iyekere. But Igbo Olokun and Igbo Rudi were excavated. Igbo Olokun is known for its plentiful evidence of ancient glass manufacturing, and Igbo Rudi is a newly discovered, or at least previously unreported, settlement site with refuse mounds.​

There has not been any research focused intensively on the sites of industrial glass bead production until now.
Igbo Olokun, although being encroached by urbanization produced crucible fragments, pottery, other non-vessel ceramics, glass beads, glass debris, animal bones, charcoal, iron objects, slag, and baked clay.
While, Igbo Rudi (TP2). The second test pit was located about 6.6km south west of Igbo Olokun in a sacred forest belonging to the Iwara people and used for the ritual coronation of the Iwara king. However, farming has encroached upon much of the forest. Igbo Rudi yielded abundant and diverse materials including pottery, ceramics disks, baked clay, animal bones, snail, tortoise, and oyster shells, charcoal, iron objects, glass beads, and cowries. The accumulation of the materials speaks that of a refuse mound.
The decorations on the potsherds includes maize cob, incisions, twisted twine, dragged comb, Cross hatched, punctate, circular stylus, carved wooden roulettes – toothed, ladder, other Carved pattern. And the various sherds talk more about the artistic prowess of the people, functions and production methods.​

A total of 121 glass beads and glass bead fragments were recovered from Igbo Olokun. About 90% of the glass beads are blue (pale or cobalt blue). Other colors present are blue-green, Green, gray, yellow, and brown. There are a few clear and colourless glass beads, some of which are coated red or brown on the outside. It was reported that the beads are mostly tubular but some are oblate. The method of production is drawn method.​​

There is a possibility that bead making could have continued at the site until the 18th or 19th century. Further research is currently going on to further shed light on the complex of ancient Ile Ife and results will be reported here.

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