Kunle Timothy Oyeyele
In 2016, two Archaeological sites were discovered in Kano. These sites are in Rumawa ward, Rangaza district of Ungogo Local Government Area and Zangon Bare- bari in Kano municipal area of Kano State. These sites were accidentally discovered during the course of digging the foundation of a building and an underground store, respectively.
These sites, where giant pots were discovered, were reported and the National Commission for Museum and Monuments took up the challenge by sending a team of archaeologists and a team of ethnographers to carry out immediate rescue excavation. But it was discovered that the giant pots had been vandalised before the arrival of the team at the site. This is as a result of the news going around that the pots possessed the ability to cure any type of ailments. It was also rumoured that the pots contained gold. This attracted large crowd to the site, which led to the vandalisation of the pots.
Rumawa is a village located in Ungogo Local Government Area of Kano State. It was an ancient settlement established during the Habe period, probably during the reign of King Abdullahi Barja in the 15th century. But the generation has been wiped out due to the internecine wars between Kano and other neighbouring states.
The site at Rumawa where these giant pots were discovered was believed to have been abandoned over 400 years ago. The main traditional occupation of the people was farming, cloth-dyeing and cattle rearing. During the reign of Emir Mohammed Abbas (1903 – 1919) Kwalrangan Kano awarded a piece of land to the great grandfather of the present chief Imam of Rumawa, Mallam Ali Ahmadu (Mal Damagaran) to settle with his family. They named the place Rumawa.
The settlement started as a nuclear family; from there it grew to the present settlement with more than 1000 people. The descendant of the original settler (Mallam Ali) inherited the piece of land where the giant pots were discovered, from his great grandfather, Mallam Mai Damagaran. After his death, it fell under the control of Mohamadu Tukur down to Isan Kwari while the son sold the land in question to different people to build houses.
It was in the process of digging the foundation of one of these houses that these giant pots were accidentally discovered. The rescue excavation started at the first site Rumawa. Here, four giant pots were uncovered but had been vandalised before our arrival and parts of the pots carted away for ritual purposes. Nevertheless the remaining parts had to be rescued. Associated finds at this site include potsherds, and ash.
On the third day of the excavation we had to abandon the work to rush down to the site at Zangon Barebari because from the news reaching us. The site was being vandalised for the same reason. This was discovered during the course of digging for the construction of an underground store. The pots here numbering three were in complete state initially, the site was cordoned of by a fence to prevent people from entering the site. But unfortunately people came in the night, scaled the fence, broke the pots, and made away with parts of the pots making it incomplete.
Associated finds at the site include grinding stones, bones and potsherds. The pots excavated at Rumawa site is similar in terms of waves, characteristics, surface finish, decoration, and vessel form to that excavation at Zango Barebari. And going by the associated finds and the size of the of the pots, it was concluded that the site must have been an industrial site. This was probably used for dyeing. But when and how long the site was occupied is not known. These questions can be answered by direct dating of finds from the site. This is due to the scanty information we got because even the oldest man in the area could not tell us anything about the site.
Also due to the size and weight of the pots we also concluded that the pots must have been moulded right there on the site. There is no way the pots could have been moved to the site without breaking them.
During the course of the excavation we encountered series of challenges, most especially in controlling the crowd at the site who came to verify the claim that the pots possess the power to cure any type of ailment and also that the pots are full of gold. These rumours led to the vandalisation of the site. So in view of this,
• Adequate security should be provided immediately any accidental discovery is made to forestall any act that could lead to damage to any of these finds.
• The federal government should be encouraged to organise outreach programmes in order to enlighten the masses on the need to preserve our cultural heritage and to report any accidental discovery to the appropriate authority. Such programmes should be conducted at the rural and urban areas.
• Urgent steps should be taken to rescue such archaeological materials. • Conservators should be made to visit the site for professional advice and conservation on the site before the removal of such objects to save these materials from serious damage.
The rescue excavation at Rumawa and Zangon Barebari has been done, but a lot still need to be done to ascertain in greater details, the history, and the people of the area. Hence, there is the need for further research work in the metropolis to prevent or reduce further destruction of these cultural materials.
––Oyeleye is the chief archaeologist, National Museum of Unity, Ibadan