3 May 2006

Nigeria: Another Gigantic Pot Discovered in Kano City

On Sunday April 16, a gigantic pot was found in Kano city. It is about 129cm in height, 99cm in diameter, with a depth of 139cm, and the size of the flip is 50cm. It is estimated to have been buried over one thousand years ago. It was discovered in Gwammaja quarters of the Dala local government in Kano state. Charcoal, bones, suspected to belong to that of the cat family, clay and pot sherds were found in the pot, when it was excavated, and about 20 people gathered to remove it from the hole in the ground.

The archeologists who handled the excavation of the pot said it was buried at about 210 centimeters below the ground level. Daily Trust investigations revealed that the Gwammaja incident was not the first of such in the history of the ancient city of Kano. For example in 2002, another historic pot was discovered in Agadasawa quarters of the metropolis, another in Goron-Dutse in Dala local government, in addition to other discoveries made either in the course of road constructions, construction of a septic tank (soak-way) or culverts. The discovery of the huge pot attracted great attention from the general public which temporarily converted the area into a site for a pilgrimage of sorts. The team of ethnographers, conservationists and historians, had to spend over three hours before they succeeded in excavating the pot. The pot was first discovered by three masons who were building a septic tank (soak-away) for one Alhaji Garba Muhammad in his house. Daily Trust gathered that the excavation work was done through an inch by inch scraping method, while information was taken at a 10 cm speed level, so as to document the contents of the artefact, with a view to providing information concerning the dating of the pot, and its possible use in the pre-Islamic period, when it was believed to have been buried. In normal operational mode, a research is undertaken, before an excavation commences, but in the case of accidental discovery, such as in the case of the Gwammaja giant pot, a rescue operation is undertaken to save the object, and prevent it from being destroyed. The excavation is normally expected to have been undertaken not later than three weeks from the discovery of an object so as to ensure that it is done carefully, and allow it to dry from the ground moisture, so that it would not be broken during the excavation work.

But for fear that the pot might be broken by the large crowd who trooped to see it; the excavation work was completed within 24 hours. The landlord and the ward head of Gwammaja were compelled to maintain vigilance over the pot, before the excavators started digging, because a crowd kept converging upon the scene, and even wanted to touch the artifact. Malam Garba Muhammad, aged 50 years, is the leader of the masons, who discovered the pot while digging the soak-way. He told Daily Trust that initially they thought the artifact was a small one, and even attempted to excavate it with their hands, but such effort proved unsuccessful, as it was deep below the soil surface. Malam Muhammad said they subsequently informed the landlord on the discovery of the pot, who also reported the incident to the ward head. Asked whether he had ever witnessed such pot in the course of his business, the mason replied that "You see I have spent over 30 years in the business of digging local latr ines, soak-aways, culverts, drainages, wells and even graves, but never have I in anyway come across such a big pot. I am sure it was buried before the arrival of Islam to Hausaland, because even my grandfathers could not precisely say when the pot was buried."

The owner of the house where the pot was discovered, Alhaji Garba Muhammad, aged 60, said he has been in the house for over forty years, and that he did not in anyway think a pot was buried there. The present pot-making facilities, according to Alhaji Muhammad, would not produce even a half size of the historic Gwammaja pot, saying the tool to be used for making such an artefact could not be found in the entire Hausaland, especially considering that it was only used in the pre-Islamic era. He emphasized that the discovery of the pot is a great pride to him, hoping that the state zonal office of the National Commission for Museums and monuments, would preserve and keep the artefact, which would also symbolize the socio-cultural heritage of Kano. He explained that proper preservation of the huge pot, would motivate any resident who discovered it, to report the incident to the appropriate authority, adding that the historic pot would also provide an avenue for tourism which woul d boost revenue generation. Alhaji Muhammad also advocated for a gift for any individual who either discovered any historic object, or if an object was found in his house or land, so that people would be encouraged to make prompt report to the concerned agency.

The ward head of Gwammaja where the pot was discovered, Malam Ahmed Usman, said when the landlord reported the incident to him, he promptly alerted the appropriate authorities. He said people were stationed at the scene for a 24 hour vigilance, to guard the pot, especially since the large crowd who stormed the area wanted to touch it. Asked whether similar discoveries were also made in the area, the ward head pointed out that in the past years during the construction of Kofar Ruwa road, another pot, which was smaller than the present one was excavated. He however commended the people of the area for protecting the pot from any harm or damage, even as he enjoined them to always report such recurrence to the authority, for prompt action.

Malam Ahmed however advised government to execute developmental projects in any area where a historic object is found or discovered, so that the people of the area would shun destroying or vandalizing the objects.

Daily Trust also contacted 95-year-old, Malam Muhammadu Inuwa, who said the discovery of a huge pot buried under the ground had never happened in Kano when he was young. According to him, the pots were then being buried with charms as a ritual to protect Kano from the attack of enemies, since during the pre-Islamic period there were intra and inter-ethnic wars, besides the wars being fought between neighbouring towns and villages. He said at times such pots were even buried by individuals at their houses, as security against both human and animal attack, saying sometimes skin, bones and parts of domestic or wild animals were buried in the pot, which was believed to be a protective device. Malam Inuwa said at times one pot, would be buried at the centre of the house, while one would be buried at each corridor, with the belief that calamity, attack or disease would not befall the house. He said the ritual would only fail if the pot is exhumed, adding that with the advent of Isl am into Hausaland, such practice had drastically reduced, since it is seen as being against the rules and ethics of the religion.

Malam Inuwa stressed that although few individuals still practice this system, especially in an attempt to make money easily, protect the self from attacks by enemies, get contracts, and receive more customers in case of business ventures. He said some people who failed to win the support of the lady they intend to marry, also used to bury a small pot with charms to get total acceptance from their lovers. According to him, with the continued spread of Islam, coupled with the increased preaching by clerics at discouraging such practice, people now resorted to other methods which did not violate Islamic regulations. These he added, include the recitation of the Holy Qur'an, and other supplications prescribed by Islam for self protection.

Commenting on the discovery of the artefact, the curator of Gidan Makama museum, where the pot is being kept, Jafaru Dauda, said based on the items found in it, there is a tendency that the pot was buried for protection, rather than being used for dyeing purposes.

According to the curator, normal clay was found in the pot, as against the ash colored-clay used for dyeing.

Jafaru Dauda said in the pre-Islamic period such kinds of pots were being used for storing food or water, in addition to rituals for territorial protection against attacks by enemies. He said so far there is no equipment in the museum that would provide the precise date of the pot, but confirmed that based on the relative dating, it could have been buried above 1000 years ago. The curator explained that the Gwammaja pot and others discovered in the past years, are being preserved, saying they are being protected against the effects of the sun, rainfall, and physical damage.

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