Plundering of Archaeological Sites in Nigeria: Implications and Remedies

Musa Oluwaseyi Hambolu

National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Abuja, Nigeria

The plundering of Nigeria’s archaeological sites started with Frobenius’ ravaging of Ife’s archaeological sites in 1910. The British colonial administration reacted positively by seizing much of his loot at Ife, banning such plundering and setting in motion the processes that led to the establishment of museums and sponsoring of official scientific excavations in Nigeria. However, the last decade of the twentieth century witnessed an unprecedented plundering at many sites. The prominent one’s being Nok, Katsina/Sokoto, Ife and Ikom.

While the loss is enormous in terms of invaluable artefacts ferried out of the country, we are yet to come to terms with the total implications of the loss in terms of cultural and anthropological knowledge compromised in the process.

Archaeological researches by Willet, Eyo, Eluyemi and others at Ife, Breunig and Rupp ongoing work at Nok sites and National Commission for Museums and Monuments’ archaeologists in Katsina/Sokoto, reveal gaps in our knowledge occasioned by these plundering. However, it is clear that painstaking archaeological work can still ameliorate the lacuna in knowledge.

It is in this light, that multi-national effort should be concerted towards sponsoring long term archaeological researches in Nigeria alongside multi-faceted strategies targeted at repatriating illegally acquired artefacts.

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