The Nok Culture

Welcome to the Home Page of the Nok Cultural heritage. The cultural heritage of Nok and the Ham People. This is Africa’s number one and most magnificent Art history of ancient Civilization 500BC -200AD. On this home page, we’ll be exploring deep and far into the heart of Nok to meet The Ham/Jaba people and experience the tradition and culture of the Nok Civilization.
Where is this place called Nok?
The little settlement called Nok village is located in Jaba Local government down in the southern part of Kaduna State, up in the middle belt of Nigeria, which frequently attracts visitors. There is no doubt as to Nok’s universal fame, across the academia and all over the world.
Antiquities from Nok adorn great museums and galleries across the globe. But despite the coveted place of Nok history in world culture as first African civilization, the little village in whose honour the famed artifacts are named remains a rustic hamlet to this day.
How to Get to Nok;
Nok can be reached by road from the southern parts through the Nasarawa State town of Keffi or via Kafanchan, which lies roughly 40km away in Kaduna State.
From the Plateau State capital, Jos, it is a journey to Kafanchan and boarding a Kwoi-bound bus from Kafanchan. Shortly before hitting Kwoi, a right turn takes one into the Kwoi-Nok-Chori Road. From that junction, the traveler could get a ride on a motorbike taxi to Nok a journey which will last 15 minutes because of the poor state of the road actually cut in two and made impassable for motorists. Many foreign tourists and researchers frequently ply this road.
As far as telephone service is concerned, Nok is linked to most of the gsm facilities. With regard to the road, that disconnection takes on a more touching meaning as one cannot ply that road without stopping at the next available mechanic’s shade.
The Kwoi-Nok-Chori Road leads through all of Ham land and links these communities to Kachia, Kafanchan, Zonkwa, Fadan Kagoma, and other towns. Apart from the major road linking Nok to Kwoi and Kafanchan, the inner parts of this archaeologists’ haven have nothing of a modern road network.
The first academic institution in Nok is the Local Education Authority (LEA) Primary School. This elementary School was founded in 1954. The government later took over the school, which was founded by the community. To date, that school stands on its original site within Ngar-Chichar in eastern Nok. Mr. Nok also has a Customary Court of Appeal, where judgment is delivered every Thursday, and newer schools, Universal Basic Education Primary School, LEA Sabon Gari, and Government Day Secondary School have also been established.
Fada near Tunga-Nok and Tunga-Zyeh, are all surroundings of the Nok village. Locals lament that “We are worried. Our culture is facing serious threats and our language is dying”.
The Origin of the Nok Terracotta/culture;
Welcome to Nok, the fountain of wealth and unique artifacts. The Nok Culture civilization was discovered in 1928. The first discoveries were accidentally unearthed at a level of 24 feet in an alluvial tin mine in the vicinity of the village of Nok in Jaba Local Government in the southern part of Kaduna state, near the Jos Plateau region which lies in the central part of Nigeria in West Africa. As a result of natural erosion and deposition, Nok terracottas were scattered at various depths throughout the Sahel region, causing difficulty in the dating and classification of the mysterious artifacts.
Luckily, two archaeological sites, Samun Dukiya, and Taruga were found containing Nok art that had remained unmoved. Radiocarbon and thermo-luminescence tests narrowed the sculptures’ age down to between 2000 and 2500 years ago, making them some of the oldest in West Africa.
Because of the similarities between the two sites, archaeologist Graham Connah believes that “Nok artwork represents a style that was adopted by a range of iron-using farming societies of varying cultures, disputing the claim of solely being the diagnostic feature of Nok people. It is, however, a statement of fact that, the Nok Terracotta figurines earned its name due to the Nok civilization that inhabited the area from around 500 BC in the village of Nok in Jaba Local Government in the southern part of Kaduna state, which lies in the central part of Nigeria in West Africa. The Nok culture was considered to be the earliest sub-Saharan producer of life-sized Terracotta. The refinement of this culture is attested to by the image of a Nok dignitary figurine. Most parts of the terracotta are preserved in the form of scattered fragments. That is why Nok art is well known today only for the heads, both male, and female, whose hairstyles are particularly detailed and refined. The statues are in fragments because the discoveries are usually made from alluvial mud, in terrain made by the erosion of water. The terracotta statues found there are hidden, rolled, polished, and broken. Rarely are works of great size conserved intact making them highly valued on the international art market. The terracotta figures are hollow, coil built, nearly life-sized human heads and bodies that are depicted with highly stylized features, abundant jewelry, and varied postures.
Lt-Colonel John Dent-Young, an Englishman, was leading mining operations in the Nigerian village of Nok. During these operations, one of the miners found a small terracotta of a monkey head. Other finds included a terracotta human head and a foot. The colonel, at a later date, had these artifacts placed in a museum in Jos.
In 1932, a group of 11 statues in perfect condition was discovered near the city of Sokoto. Since that time, statues coming from the city of Kastina were brought to light. Although there are similarities to the classical Nok style, the connection between them is not clear yet. Later still, in 1943, near the village of Nok, in the central part of Nigeria, a new series of clay figurines were discovered by accident during the tin mining activities. A worker had found ahead and had taken it back to his home for use as a scarecrow a role that it filled (successfully) for a year in a yam field. It then drew the attention of the director of the mine who bought it. He brought it to the city of Jos and showed it to the trainee civil administrator, Bernard Fagg, an Archaeologist who immediately understood its importance. He asked all of the miners to inform him of all of their discoveries and was able to amass more than 150 pieces. Afterward, Bernard and Angela Fagg ordered systematic excavations that revealed many more profitable lucky findings dispersed over a vast area, much larger than the original site. In 1977, the number of terracotta objects discovered in the course of the mining excavation amounted to 153 units, mostly from secondary deposits (the statuettes had been carted by floods near the valleys) situated in dried-up riverbeds in Savannah in Northern and Central Nigeria (the Southwestern portion of the Jos Plateau). Later, new discoveries had been found in an increasingly larger area, including the Middle Niger Valley and the Lower Benue Valley. Some Publications may try to lay false claim to the creation of the Nok civilization such as one by one Physiologist A. O Olubunmi in his controversial book ” The Rise and Fall of The Yoruba Race. 10,000BC-1960AD”, in which the accounts that the Yoruba’s were the creators of Nok civilization, and the mystery of the disappearance of the Nok civilization is attributed to the disappearance of Yoruba’s from northern Nigeria due to racial assimilation. This is not a vendetta against to discredit the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria but it is a fact that, even the regional location of the Yoruba tribe in the far Southwestern part of Nigeria debunks this correlation and there is no history that related the Ham people of Nok and the Yoruba tribe. While some school of thought may continue to argue that the cradle of the Nok Terracotta was not standing at one particular site but in a large region. Since most of the major series of excavations that revealed the major density of the figurines that was discovered near the village of Nok, in the central part of Nigeria were not properly documented and has since disappeared to museums around the world hence the argument. According to the view held by one of the prominent Archeologist who has worked in the archeological sites in Nok. Professor Peter Breunig holds the position that the village of Nok appears not to be the center. He submitted that there have been discoveries of a much higher density of archaeological sites and significance of remains in other regions like Kafanchan or Kagarko.
Nevertheless, Professor Peter Breunig acknowledges the precept of the basic fact of scientific nomenclature. The fact that the Nok Culture was named according to an internationally accepted scientific model of nomenclature in taxonomy, which is either a hierarchical classification of things or the principles underlying the classification. Almost anything, animate objects, inanimate objects, places, and events, may be classified according to some taxonomic scheme. And this followed the naming of the entities according to the site of their first discovery and since the first discoveries of the figurines were first discovered in the vicinity of the Nok site. Hence, the name “the Nok Culture”. Owing to the fact that these figurines were first discovered in the vicinity of the Nok site one can argue that even the internationally accepted model of nomenclature ascribes the originality to Nok. Even though there is a distribution of the figurines in plateau state, Benue, Kagarko and up to Kaduna. Professor Peter Breuning maintains that, where the Terracotta complex was born, is not known. However, the fact stands that it was first discovered and named after the village Nok.
Hugely historical, archeologists have found human skeletons, stone tools and rock paintings around this area, not to mention the main act. The inhabitants of what is now called Nok Village were known to make some of the oldest and culturally intriguing sculptures found in Africa.
This led to discoveries that the ancient culture of Nok has been around for some 2500 years. An excursion and tourism to the Nok village will intrigue your senses and you will be delighted to rediscover an amazing group of people culturally and socially.
Nok artifacts include ancient sculptures made from wood, metal and finely fired clay or terra cotta. Art historians say Nok terra cotta is the earliest known sizable sculpture ever produced in Africa.
Archaeologists agree “Nok culture made the transition to the Iron Age,” and that the traditional occupation of the ancient Nok was subsistence farming and animal husbandry. But it remains unclear, why the people of ancient Nok set great store by their coiffure and body embellishments.
Some theories from folk tales have suggested the purposes of these popular sculptures were used as charms to prevent crop failure, illness, and infertility.
Nok village

is a great place to take your family and be able to learn together about our world’s amazing past civilization.

The Mystery and Diffusion of the Nok Terracotta;
Apart from southern Kaduna state and south of the Jos Plateau, Nok-type figures were later discovered in a wide area as far away as the Tiv settlement of Katsina-Ala, south of River Benue. Experts say traces of Nok culture are evident even in the lives of the Bachama people of Numan, in far away Adamawa State and other peoples farther off.
The Nok culture flourished extensively in northern Nigeria from 500 BC into the early centuries AD. Archaeologists cite furnaces found at Taruga, which are older than 5, 000 years, as proof that the Nok was the first known workers of iron in this part of the world. Alongside working with iron, the ancient Nok artisans concurrently used stone implements.
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Distinctive features of Nok art include naturalism; stylized treatment of the mouth and eyes; relative proportions of the human head, body, and feet; distortions of the human facial features; and the treatment of animal forms
Nok is an iron age culture that has been dated between 900 B.C. and 200 A.D. Archaeological artifacts have been found in Nigeria, primarily to the north of the Niger-Benue River confluence and below the Jos escarpment.
Reliable sources suggest that later developments of Nigerian art produced in such places as Benin City, Esie, Igbo Ukwu, and Ile Ife even throw up certain features of Nok art.
The Nok People and the Ham/JabaTribe Districts;
Because all of the research done has only centered on the Magnificient Artwork of the Nok Terracotta, nothing has been discussed about the Nok people. This has led to a false conclusion about the Nok people. Contrary to some school of thoughts that have alluded to the false extinction of the Nok people. Some literature publications have distorted facts about the Nok people and suggested that the people of Nok village mysteriously vanished in about 200 AD. This tends to insinuate as though the Nok people were some kind of dinosaurs. Even though some research work has been done on Nok and Archaeologists have traveled to and met the Nok locals who have told the stories of their ancestors passed on to them on the origin of the Nok people and the Nok head from generation to generation. In the same vein, distorted works of literature have also laid false claimed not to know what the people of Nok called themselves or the language they speak. From all empirical evidence of the existence of the Nok people in the present day Nok village where the original and first Terracotta figurine was found and named after the village called Nok hence the name “NOK TERRACOTTA” synonymous with “NOK CULTURE”. This evidence, without doubt, reveals the fact that the Nok people still exist and have not been extinct as alluded. The people of Nok were known for their extremely advanced social system and were the earliest producers of life-sized Terracotta in the Sub-Sahara. The Nok Culture is the number one magnificent art and history of African civilization. The Nok civilization was discovered in 1928 due to tin mining activities at a site in the Nok area and earned its name due to the Nok civilization that inhabited the area from around 500 BC. Furthermore to dispute the assertion of a non-lingual tongue of the people of Nok. Suffice it to say that the Nok people spoke and still speak the language called Ham otherwise called Jaba which is a language spoken amongst the Ham ethnic groups/ Ham land or Jaba land spread across different settlement in southern Kaduna and believed to bear common ancestry lineage. The NokTerracotta has become the symbol of the Ham people also known as Jaba people. Nok is part of Jaba Local Government Area (LGA). The seat of Jaba local Government Council is Kwoi, which like Nok falls among the numerous settlements in some 21 Districts occupied by the Ham ethnic group. The Ham nation straddles four LGAs, Jaba, Jema’a, Kachia and Kagoro in the southern part of Kaduna states, Nigeria.

Kaduna State – Nigeria

The Nok Museum and priceless antiquities;
Although the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) maintains an outpost in Nok, locals rued that despite the potential of the place as a major tourist attraction, little else is there in terms of government presence. For years, various Kaduna State governments had bandied the idea of a proposed Nok Museum Complex to beef up services at the tiny NCMM station. A Main Museum building, Craft Shop, Snack Bar, Lawn Tennis Courts, and chalets are among facilities the proposed complex would provide.
The project is far from off the ground, though a Kaduna State Tourism Board source had revealed that the site had been procured, compensation paid, preliminary drawings ready and part of the site fenced with sprawling complex under construction but no date of completion in sight Nok Museum boasts 10 archaeological sites. Apart from these 10 official research fields, Nok Village hosts numerous natural caves. These have been classed as welfare caves, security caves as well as barns, where the ancient inhabitants stored their grains. Unfortunately, the hazardous state of the access roads made a visit to this unique silo impossible. Twin-barns litter the interior of this cave, which was built by ancient Nok dwellers. Going by local folklore, “no matter how little their grains stocks were, it served the community throughout the year.
With its exquisite and precious antiquities as well as tales such as this, it is easy to understand why foreign tourists and scholars flood Nok. Several Archeologist including German researchers, Professor Peter Bronnick and Dr. Nikol Robb have worked at Nok for a month. The Nok Museum has great potentials endowed with 10 archaeological sites under Nok, and can easily boast of the greatest collections of artifacts.” with the host of a mini-gallery, where priceless antiquities are kept. Contributions & Abstracts from MAURICE ARCHIBONG’s -Daily Sun Publication-
CULTURAL SENSITIZATION AND EXHIBITION ON NOK CULTURE
http://www.nigerianmuseums.org/culturalsensitize.htm

THE KPOP HAM AND THE HAM CHIEFDOM
The “Kpop Ham” Monarch is the paramount ruler of the Ham nation with other traditional chiefs of the Ham aborigines of Nok, Kwoi, Zshiek( Kurmin Musa) Dung( Jaban Kogo) Chori, Fai , Ketere, Sambang Gida, Sambang Daji and other settlements across the Ham land in the southern part of Kaduna State under his chiefdom.

HH Dr. Danladi Gyet Maude

The current monarch, HRH Dr. Danladi Gyet Maude, is the 9th Kpop Ham. The reigning Kpop Ham, HRH (Dr.) Danladi Gyet Maude OON was enthroned Kpop Ham in 1974, 44 years ago and his 40th anniversary, as the King will coincide with the centenary of ECWA in Kwoi. His longest reigning predecessor was King Dogo Saghnom, who ruled for 45 years. The throne of Kpop Ham is hereditary but it rotates among three ruling houses, namely Audu Tiroa, Maude and Saghnom. This trio belongs to the Handuk Clan. According to Dr. Maude, the premiere Kpop Ham was King Dum Faroa.
Successive Ham monarchs operated from Kwoi and the incumbent king, HRH (Dr) Danladi Gyet Maude OON, also resides in the Kwoi town. Kwoi is a town in the Ham country. The Kpop Ham is said to have revealed the meaning of Kwoi to be a sobriquet which is a corrupt form of “Kwain.” Even this, is a short form of “Har-Kwain,” which roughly translates as “Community of the United.” This is how the people of ancient Kwoi called themselves when they were settled at Bitaro, about 5km from their present home. Kwoi is only one of the numerous settlements in the 21 districts that make up Ham country. The Ham land straddles across four local government areas; Jaba, Jema’a, Kachia, and Kagoro. The town Kwoi is acclaimed with the status as the spiritual capital of the Ham nation because the first Christian white missionary set foot on Kwoi on July 7th, 1910. Kwoi is also the political capital of Jaba LGA and stands 40km from the Southern Kaduna railway town of Kafanchan and located barely 200 km from the Kaduna State capital. –Contributions & Abstracts from MAURICE ARCHIBONG’s -Daily Sun Publication-
THE HAM TRIBE AND TRADITION
The Hams are aborigines of Nok, Kwoi, Zshiek( Kurmin Musa) Dung( Jaban Kogo) Chori, Fai, Ketere, Sambang Gida, Sambang Daji and other Ham settlements in the southern part of Kaduna State. Like many peoples of northern Nigeria, the Hams, who are neither Hausa nor Fulani, have also adopted the Hausa language as part of their lingua franca. The Hausa Language is the Language commonly spoken in the Northern region of Nigeria. The Hausa Language to a greater extent has diluted and adulterated the lingual tongue of the Ham language often mutually entwined or used interchangeably amongst younger generation that did not grow up with the native lingua Franca hence the fading away of the Ham Language. The extent to which Hausa has permeated Ham culture could be gleaned from the titles of six district heads of Jaba: “Wakili,” “Wambai,” “Tafidan,” “Dalhatu” and “Kuyambana.” These are all Hausa-Fulani epithets, threatening the extinction of the indigenous tongue, given the popularity of Hausa among the Ham? The Kpop Ham noted the concern that “We are trying our best to preserve our language.” Part of that effort was the setting up of a Hyam Literacy Organization (HLO), to help propagate and produce literature in that indigenous tongue, the monarch explained.
Although the Ham, also called Jaba, do not have a popular textile such as the Igbo “Akwette,” “Ukara” (Efik), “Adire” (Yoruba), “Anger” (Tiv) “Illi ota chi” (Idoma), they have a unique headgear called “Nkara,” which only the premier Juju priest is allowed to wear. The moment he is pronounced the chief priest, he dons this cap at all times, except when he is in bed. Along with “Nkara,” the chief priest of Jaba also bears the skin of a particular animal. The type of animal is determined by the community’s last offering to the gods. The hide of that sacrificial animal was subsequently dressed and preserved for the traditional bishop or “Kpop Ku.”Contributions & Abstracts from MAURICE ARCHIBONG’s -Daily Sun Publication-
A wordlist of the Hyam language of Nok in Central Nigeria and its affinities
http://www.rogerblench.info/Language%20data/Niger-Congo/Benue-Congo/Plateau/Hyamic/Hyam/Hyam%20wordlist.pdf

The Tuk- Ham Cultural Festival( Ham Day)
Tuk-Ham Cultural festival is an annual event that celebrates the Jaba cultural and traditional heritage through music, dance, and cultural expositions. The festival which was relaunched in 1979 has been celebrated among the Ham/Jaba people since the 900 AD.
It brings together the best of dance, music, cultural displays, competitions, symposium, and cultural beauty pageants.
The Tuk -Ham Cultural festival itself was celebrated by the Ham community under theocratic ancestral religion and government dating back to 900 BC to mark the beginning of the farming season and ushering the HAM new year.
The Festival is in its thirtieth year and has attracted over one million visitors to the Ham community during that period.
EVENTS:
Cultural troupe competitions –wherein 50 traditional dance troupes, groups shall compete for a cash prize. They are usually judged based on their choreography, costumes, and creativity.
• Musical performances- usually feature the best and brightest musical talents from the Ham/Jaba region to showcase as well as entertain the crowd of visitors from ann nooks and crannies within the country and Tourist from a foreign land.
• Annual Ham Awards Ceremony – a forum where Ham sons and daughters are recognized and rewarded for their contributions to their people and Nigeria as a whole.
• Miss Tir Ham Competition (beauty Pageant)- this local beauty pageant is open to all daughters of Ham whether resident within or outside Nigeria who demonstrate the desirable characteristics of a typical Jaba maiden. The finalists are usually judged by a distinguished panel of Judges.
• Tuk Ham Symposium- This event usually serves as a mini-conference which will draw distinguished speakers from within and outside Nigeria
who shall deliver papers on various socio-economic aspects and values of the region and seeking ways to better the lives of its people
• Nok Artifacts and Arts display- a chance to showcase and for tourists to see first hand the spectacular display of ancient artifacts dating back to 500 BC of African civilization
• Guided tours to ancient historic sites- usually feature the sights and sounds of Ham/ Jaba traditional music.

Jaba Local Government
Ginger Farmers
The Gurara Dam
Link to SOKAD
Our Web Archives listing of Researchers on Nok Culture and Collection of resources about Nok culture

Maali will showcase our clothing at the annual Tuk Ham Festival in Kwoi, Kaduna State Nigeria. The Tuk Ham festival is a cultural event which takes place in Kwoi every year around Easter and has been going on for decades. It showcases the rich history of the Ham people of

Kaduna State Nigeria.

The Tuk-Ham annual festival is a fusion of both “Ku” and “Fain” festivals which were known to be celebrated by the forebears of the Ham (Jaba) people. It features a lot of traditional and cultural displays, traditional dances, and many other processions in Kwoi which is just about 187 kilometers from Kaduna. The two-day ceremony is normally preceded by a symposium and Tir-Ham (Miss Jaba) which will be on April 2, 2010, and is rounded up with cultural displays and a Gala night on April 3, 2010.

Nok Terracotta Head: Female Statue Age: 900 to 1500 years

The Nok culture appeared in Nigeria around 1000 B.C. This region lies in Central Nigeria. The culture’s social system is thought to have been highly advanced. The Nok culture was considered to be the earliest sub-Saharan producer of life-sized Terracotta. Nok culture terracottas are heralded as the prime evidence of the refinement of African civilizations. The population was about 2000-4000 people.
Nok Culture: Evidence shows the Nok people had knowledge of iron smelting and adorned themselves with tin and stone beads, earrings, nose rings, and bracelets. The Nok Culture is dated between 500 B.C. and 200 A.D.

Although every Nok head is unique, certain stylistic traits are found throughout. Triangular eyes and perforated pupils, noses, mouths, and ears combine to depict men and women with bold, abstracted features. Perhaps the most striking aspects of Nok sculptures are the elaborately detailed hairstyles and jewelry that adorn many of the figures. The variety, inventiveness, and beauty of their design is a beguiling record of cultivated devotion to body ornamentation.

Citation
Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. "Nok Terracottas (500 B.C.–200 A.D.)".

The Nok Culture

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  2. Proud to be a ham
    but how did ham come to settle in Nigeria?

    • Hamda says:

      Hello Fred,
      The history of Ham is expansive and cannot be exhausted in a few words. There are, however, different versions of the history. One of the popular beliefs is that the Ham man migrated from Eqypt. It is said that we descended from the siblings of Noah.

      You can still goodle more infos on the Ham.

      Your interest is of interest to us.

      Proudly Ham

      Joe Nok

  3. Ayman Mansour says:

    Hello,
    I need more information about NOK culture ( pottery and iron )
    thank you and best regards,

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