The curious case of the 2,500-yr-old bizarre Nok people of Nigeria

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Washington, August 23 (ANI): A team of German archaeologists is looking for clues to explain the mysterious culture of the 2,500 years old Nok people in Nigeria.

The Nok people left behind bizarre terracotta statues, broken pots, storage vessels, a clay lizard and fragments of clay faces with immense nostrils.

The chipped head of a statue depicts an African man with a moustache, a fixed glare and hair piled high up on his head. He looks gloomy, almost sinister.

Peter Breunig from the University of Frankfurt am Main runs an excavation near the Nigerian highlands of Jos, where the mysterious Nok culture once blossomed.

Spanning more than 80,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles), the tropical region they lived in was larger than Ireland. Its inhabitants lived in wooden huts and ate porridge made from pearl millet.

Some women subjected themselves to bloody "scar ornaments" scratched into their breasts with knives.

As archaeologists imagine it, smoke hung in the air as people fired masterly terracotta creations in kilns heated to 700 degrees Celsius (1,300 degrees Fahrenheit).

The most astonishing fact about what Breunig calls "a society without writing" is its age. It dates from around 2,500 years ago, a time when a wave of change in belief systems washed over other continents.

Nok sculptors were contemporaries of Solon, Buddha and the early Mayans.

For years, people have believed that Africa was left behind at that time - but Breunig knows better.

"Around 500 B.C., the population exploded," he said. People that had been living a Stone Age-like nomadic existence suddenly settled.

Breunig speaks of a "cultural Big Bang."

In their excavations, the team discovers shards of clay statues everywhere - on rock slopes, in ancient refuse pits and in open spaces.

The largest of these impressive figures can stand up to one meter (3.3 feet) tall and resemble what might be kings or members of a social elite.

Others wear horned helmets or carved-out gourds on their heads. A third of these figures are women.

The clay figures are strangely uniform, almost as if they had been mass produced.

The eyes are always triangular, the pupils are pierced, and the eyebrows are high and arched.

They look sedate and immersed in their thoughts. Lightning-shaped tattoos adorn their cheeks.cientists are puzzled about who could have created this collection of curiosities.

The German researchers have now used state-of-the-art analytical devices to examine this area.

The project could finally shed some light on a phenomenon that is one of the biggest mysteries of early history. (ANI)

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