Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 15 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Figurines are widely found in archaeological contexts in West Africa. Mostly of clay, more rarely in stone or wood, they served varied purposes. This chapter explores archaeological figurines from across West Africa, focusing upon the main regional concentrations in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, before considering broader interpretive themes. These figurines were ascribed different meanings and had diverse functions. Ancestor figurines recur. Others were perhaps linked with healing and medicine. The internal cavities found in some suggest they might have been perceived as power objects; considered as invested with personhood of some form. Many are found in ritual contexts—shrines, burials—and were likely linked with religions. Others were probably toys. What they seem not to have been is ‘art’, and when labelled as such they become commoditized, and the target of looters and dealers in illegally obtained figurines from West Africa.

Keywords: West Africa, ancestors, medicine, figurine, power, ritual

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.