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Archaeology, Cultural Identity and the Politics of Interpretation among the Igbo of Nigeria: The Facts and Myths in Igbo-Ukwu Archaeological Excavations

Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe

Article Number - 608DC2DEE5FFB  | Vol. 1(2), pp. 11-25., April 2021  | 
 Received: 17 December 2020 |  Accepted: 17 February 2021  |   Published: 30 April 2021

Copyright © 2024 Author(s) retain the copyright of this article.
This article is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0.


The present paper represents a historical approach to the re-interpretation of Thurstan Shaw’s excavations at Igbo-Ukwu against the background Onwuejeogwu’s thesis of Nri hegemony. It should be recalled that Onwuejeogwu, an anthropologist was originally detailed to carry out the ethnographic follow-up research on Thurstan Shaw’s excavations at Igbo-Ukwu. This theory has posited that the culture-bearers of the three archaeological sites excavated by Prof. Thurstan Shaw at Igbo-Ukwu were the Nri sub-culture group of the Igbo. By this theory, which is based on M.D.W. Jeffreys’ earlier theory of Umunri cultural hegemonic hypothesis, Onwuejeogwu subsequently hazards the theory that whatever culture is defined today as Igbo owe its origin to the Umunri, who by their own account of origin, migration and settlement were not originally Igbo in extraction but Igala, an ethnic group northwest of Igboland. This hegemonic theory thus in broader sense tends to question the authenticity of the Igbo identity of the artefacts excavated at Igbo-ukwu. This position in consequence generated a heated historical controversy not only among Igbo scholars but also among the various communities associated with the interpretation of excavation sites. It is indeed part of this controversy this paper intends to resolve using historical approach.


Keywords: Igboland, Igbo-Ukwu, Archaeology, Nri, History.




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Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe

Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. E-mail: [email protected]



How to Cite this Article

Nwaezeigwe, N. T. (2021). Archaeology, Cultural Identity and the Politics of Interpretation among the Igbo of Nigeria: The Facts and Myths in Igbo-Ukwu Archaeological Excavations. Journal of Culture, History and Archaeology, 1(2): 11-25.



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Abbreviation: J. Cult. Hist. Archaeol.
ISSN: 2971-7752 (Online)
Start Year: 2021
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Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe