Internal meanings: Computed tomography scanning of Koma figurines from Ghana
Insoll, T; Kankpeyeng, B; Fraser, S
Date: 1 December 2016
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press (MIT Press) for James S. Coleman African Studies Center, UCLA
Since the 1980s art historians and archaeologists have been aware of the terracotta figurines from Koma Land in northern Ghana (Kröger 1988; Anquandah 1987, 1998). The pioneering excavation and publications by James Anquandah (Anquandah and van Ham 1985; Anquandah 1987, 1998) established their provenance, and unprovenanced figurines ...
Since the 1980s art historians and archaeologists have been aware of the terracotta figurines from Koma Land in northern Ghana (Kröger 1988; Anquandah 1987, 1998). The pioneering excavation and publications by James Anquandah (Anquandah and van Ham 1985; Anquandah 1987, 1998) established their provenance, and unprovenanced figurines from illegal excavations have subsequently increased known numbers. The dominant focus in publication of the Koma Land corpus has been upon what the figurines depict externally (e.g., Anquandah 1987, 1998; Kankpeyeng and Nkumbaan 2008, 2009; Insoll and Kankpeyeng 2014; Insoll in press a). Following the successful trial use of lower resolution Computed Tomography black scanning which produced black-and-white images of five figurines in May 2010 (Insoll, Kankpeyeng, and Nkumbaan 2012:31–32), a further sample of eight terracotta figurines was CT scanned and color images produced in 2013. These are the focus here. All the figurines were from archaeological excavations at Yikpabongo in Koma Land, and the CT scanning indicated that all eight had deliberately made cavities running from their surface into the body of the figurine. This suggests that the importance of some of the figurines was potentially greater than their external appearance and that part of their significance might have been derived from their internal meanings as well. This paper reports on the renewed research in Koma Land that led to the retrieval of the figurines, and on the scanned figu rines themselves. Why the cavities were made is unknown, but various possibilities are explored. This is considered with reference to the Koma figurines and through wider comparison with other archaeological terracotta figurines from West Africa that have evidence for cavities.
Arab and Islamic Studies
College of Social Sciences and International Studies
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