Posted by: orijemie5 | November 14, 2017

Chioma Ngonadi, a PhD Student at Cambridge talks about her project in Lejja, South-East Nigeria, and shares her recent video

Emergence of Agriculture in Lejja, Southeastern, Nigeria: An Archaeobotanical Investigation


Chioma Vivian Ngonadi

Food production and metalworking are believed to be one of the most important progressions in African prehistory. The clearance of the forest, the working of the wood, the quarrying and carving of stones, the cultivation of the ground and the slaughtering of enemies were all accompanied more efficiently and with less effort by people who were more equipped with iron tools and weapons. In Lejja-Igboland, southeastern Nigeria, iron smelting is an indigenous craft specialisation that flourished on an industrial scale, from around 2000 BC and lasted until the later part of the twentieth century A.D. Evidence in the form of relic furnaces, and extensive slag and tuyere remains are widely visible in the landscape today. The vast number of slag blocks on the surface reveals that iron working in this region was a highly sophisticated, long-lived and well-developed tradition with its techniques that involved relatively large scale metal production.

For decades, archaeological investigations in Lejja has focused mainly on the technology of iron working production, pottery cultural sequence and symbolic and political stratification. However, the bulk of past research has largely overlooked the farming communities themselves who utilised and may have fashioned such iron technologies. No systematic survey has been undertaken to locate and explore associated settlement sites, and consequently, we know very little about the people and economy of the area across this period of iron working.  My PhD research at the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge aims to identify the earliest evidence for agricultural production in Lejja. The study also intends to analyse the relationship between the iron working sites and agriculture in the deeper past by establishing a baseline chronological sequence and essential economic characteristics from archaeobotanical data via flotation and soil sampling methods. These archaeobotanical data will then be used in identifying whether these early ironworkers (or the people at the metalworking sites) were the direct food producers or acquired foodstuff from their neighbours through exchange mechanism.

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