Expanding space and time at Igbo-Ukwu: insights from recent fieldwork
Daraojimba, Kingsley Chinedu
Babalola, Abidemi Babatunde
Shaw, Pamela Jane Smith
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We present the results of fieldwork conducted at Igbo-Ukwu in 2019 and 2021 aimed at expanding the temporal and spatial record of the ancient settlement. Local participation and public engagement are central to the project, which has yielded a new dataset that enhances our understanding of the archaeological and landscape contexts of Thurstan Shaw’s pioneering investigations. Extending southward by 2 km from the sites of Igbo Richard, Igbo Isaiah, and Igbo Jonah, a large ceramic assemblage of Igbo-Ukwu ware was recovered in four of our five areas of investigation. For the two areas discussed in this article, substantial quantities of cultural materials came from stratified contexts. From these, three radiocarbon dates fall between the end of the ninth and the second half of the thirteenth centuries CE. This article introduces various pilot studies conducted on samples collected from recent excavations. Soil analyses (pH and particle size distribution) indicate the presence of mostly acidic soils and differential preservation potential. Multi-method analysis of pottery from excavated trenches, including multivariate analysis and elemental (pXRF) measurements, recorded similar fabrics but with varying color and chemical compositions. Archaeobotanical analysis on samples from the new excavations reveals the presence of wood charcoal and, for the first time, remains of Vitex sp. and the palm oil tree associated with Igbo-Ukwu cultural deposits. This project has garnered new data on material culture, spatial distribution, subsistence, and environment. Thus, the research has demonstrated that a multi-scaler approach that combines various recovery and analytic methods may provide valuable insights into aspects of Igbo-Ukwu’s past.