Nok Civilization: The Era of Terracotta

Nok Sculpture from the Louvre museum
Nok Sculpture from the Louvre museum
Map of Nok area
Map of Nok area

Ever since I saw an image of a Nok figurine on the cover of my history textbook in 6eme (grade 5), I have been fascinated by this civilization. These neighbors of ours, had a civilization which flourished in the Jos plateau in the northern part of modern-day Nigeria between 800 BC and 600AD. The Nok civilization is considered the oldest African terracotta civilization. They were very advanced, and many people have mentioned similarities to the Egyptians. Their work shows great mastery of the firing process as emphasized in their sumptuous sculptures and artistry.

Nok soldier, dating 800 BC
Nok soldier, dating 800 BC

Nok art work is unique and detailed. Most sculptures found so far represent kings, queens, dignitaries, wizards, animals, etc. One thing that stands out the most when looking at the Nok sculpture of a woman is the hairstyle. It makes me feel so proud to see that 800 years BC, Nok women wore elaborate braids, cornrows, etc… the same way we African, no Black women wear our hair today. Imagine going back 2800 years ago and meeting beautiful Nok women with hazelnut eyes looking at you with the same hair-do as yourself!

Nok sculpture of a woman
Nok sculpture of a woman

Nok sculptures vary in size and can reach up to 1,20m. How were the Nok able to make such life-size terracotta statues without having them explode or shatter into pieces during the firing process?  Well… they used branches from trees and trunks as the central core of the sculptures.The website Memoire d’Afrique has a detailed account on the Nok Civilization ingenuity. Check it out: and wikipedia:

4 thoughts on “Nok Civilization: The Era of Terracotta

  1. Pingback: France returns smuggled Nok artefacts to Nigeria « African Heritage

  2. Banana as Currency

    This should be everywhere, but it seems few people, and few of the right people, are talking about it… This should inspire books, art, movies, comics…. Come on everybody!


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