Mysteries of Ancient Figurines Found in Ghana to be Revealed
Sixty ancient clay figurines, which were discovered in Ghana, are to be publicly displayed for the first time outside the country in a new exhibition at the Manchester Museum . The remarkable relics, some of which date back 1,400 years, are thought to have been used to invoke the help of ancestors to cure illnesses.
The figurines were originally found in two mounds located in a village called Yikpabongo in Koma Land in the north of Ghana. It is thought that the mounds were used as a shrine by the same people that made the objects.
The figurines, which are up to 31cm in height and date to between the 6 th and 14 th centuries, include two-headed humans, a chameleon, a crocodile and a man on horseback. But what is particularly unique about the figurines is that many of them show people with congenital conditions including anencephaly – which still affects children in Africa today. It is believed that some of these figurines were used as ‘scapegoats’, intended as the recipient of disease and misfortune rather than their human keepers.
“These figurines are unique to the region and offer an insight into aspects of past human beliefs, ways of understanding and creativity,” said Professor Benjamin Kankpeyeng from the University of Ghana.
When the figurines were analysed using computed tomography scanning at the University of Manchester, researchers were surprised to discover hidden channels within the objects which they think had a medicinal function, used for liquid ritual offerings. The scientists are currently conducting further tests to try to determine what liquids were used.
“We now know the figurines may have had ritual and medicinal functions and the mounds they were found in were perhaps medicine shrines, or places for disposal of material considered dangerous,” said Professor Timothy Insoll from the University of Manchester. However, little else is known about the people who made the figurines and there are no known connections with the current inhabitants of the region.