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Fagg, a man of boundless curiosity and energy, traveled across central Nigeria looking for similar artifacts.
As he recounted later, Fagg discovered local people had been finding terracottas in odd places for yearsburied under a hockey field, perched on a rocky hilltop, protruding from piles of gravel released by power-hoses in tin mining. He later dated the scarecrow headnow called the Jemaa Head after the village where it was foundto about 500 B. using a process called thermoluminescence which gauges the time since baked clay was fired.
C., giving Nok the earliest dates for iron smelting in sub-Saharan Africa up to that time.
The high number of smelters and quantity of terracottas suggested he had found evidence of a dense, settled population.
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But when Fagg subjected plant matter found embedded in the terracotta to the then-new technique of radiocarbon dating, the dates ranged from 440 B. He found 13 such furnaces, and terracotta figurines were in such close associationinside the furnaces and around themthat he postulated the terracottas were objects of worship to aid blacksmithing and smelting.
Carbon dating of charcoal inside the furnaces revealed dates as far back as 280 B.
He set up shop in a whitewashed cottage that still stands outside the village of Nok and soon gathered nearly 200 terracottas through purchase, persuasion, and his own excavations. Through a combination of luck, legwork, and new dating techniques, Fagg and his collaborators had apparently discovered a hitherto unknown civilization, which he named Nok.
Soil analysis from the spots where the artifacts were found dated them to around 500 B. This seemed impossible since the type of complex societies that would have produced such works were not supposed to have existed in West Africa that early. One excavation site, near the village of Taruga, revealed something else Fagg had not expected: iron furnaces.
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