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Ancient African Cultures

             Nok was a West African civilization that flourished from about 500 B. The Nok civilization was centered in the valley where the Niger and Benue rivers meet. The people of ancient Nok produced the oldest sculptures found so far in Africa. Of the sculptures discovered most were of animal and human figures. .
             The Nok sculptures are made of terra cotta, a kind of earthenware. They vary in size from one inch high to life size. All the human heads have pierced ears, and the eyes are hollowed out. Scholars do not know what function these sculptures had in the Nok society. Some believe that the sculpture of other West African peoples shows Nok influence. Today, Nok is the name of a village in Nigeria, about 100 miles northeast of Baro.
             The people of Nok probably farmed the land, but they also hunted and gathered food. They made tools and weapons of stone and at least started to learn to smelt and use iron. They probably wore beaded jewelry, including anklets, bracelets and heavy collars. The Nok people apparently lived in clay huts in the lowlands and hills. Like some Nigerians today, they worshiped their ancestors and had many gods. Little is known about the end of the Nok Culture. It remains a mystery.
             The most significant traces of an early standing civilization are found in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. The Aksumite Kingdom was established there in the first century AD. During the fourth century, it embraced Christianity as its official religion and, at the height of its power, was one of four great kingdoms of the world. The empire held sway over a vast area. Its merchants maintained trade relations with the Greco-Roman world and the Arabian Peninsula as well as with India. The most important remains are the pre-Christian monolithic stelae, some palace ruins and the Tomb of King Kaleb. Stelae were originally erected as funeral monuments and 200 have now been discovered. They all are of different sizes and six.

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