The Niger-Benue Confluence: New Linguistic Perspectives and Their Implications for Archaeology.
Recent historical work applying the evidence of linguistics, comparative ethnography, and oral tradition to the study of the Niger-Benue confluence region raises a range of political, religious, and economic questions for archaeology. The initial findings of this study reveal long-term interchanges in ritual and political ideas and ideology across the region, the beginnings of which date back to the first millennium AD. A variety of ritual objects and ritual-art motifs can be reconstructed to the early stages in the rise of chiefdoms and states across these areas, and so earlier forms of these objects and their symbolisms, indicative of these historical developments, are likely to be turned up by future archaeological work. The history of these statebuilding processes bridges a good part of the gap in time since the Nok culture, located in a neighboring region just to the northeast, making it very much worth investigating archaeologically whether or not some kind of historical connection might have existed between the Nok polity and the later states and their political ritual. A second emerging theme of the linguistic side of this work is the apparent ancientness of cultivation, in particular of sorghum, in the regions around and north of the confluence. The provisional indications of the linguistic reconstructions are that the cultivation of grains goes back 5,000 or more years in the region. This evidence brings into question the assumption that yams were the earlier crop.
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