Abstract: A Chronology of Medieval Ife

Hello. My name is James Renton; I am a rising sophomore on the Joint Programme with St. Andrews. I am majoring in History and have enjoyed engaging with the differences between the two Universities. One such difference was the opportunity for me to take Professor Gerard Chouin’s class on Mediaeval Africa in the fall. I had not known what to expect from such a class, it turned out to be one of the most fascinating classes that I have taken to date. I found it fascinating to be able to study cultures that are so unique and untouched by colonial powers. The possibility to travel to Nigeria with Professor Gerard Chouin as part of a joint venture led by him and Dr. Adisa Ogunfolakan, director of the A. G. Leventis Natural History Museum of the Obafemi Awolowo University of Ile-Ife, could not be refuse.

Ife is a medieval town that has functioned as the religious centre for Yoruba culture. Due to the tumultuous history of the region very little is known about this medieval centre even though it has seen a significant amount of archaeological investigation. The site has suffered from the discovery of beautiful Bronzes and Terracotta figures; this has detracted from investigations into the true nature of the site.

The intent of my summer’s research is to create a chronology of urban development for Medieval Ife. We hope to further understand the process of urbanisation that occurred there through digging test pits into a bank and ditch system with the hope of finding a suitable stratigraphy. After five weeks in the field I will spend time at the University of Glasgow’s archive as they hold the collection of Frank Willet, a prominent archaeologist of Nigeria. I hope to find information relating to our own site that might help create a chronology.

I look forward to being able to share my experience of this coming summer both in Nigeria and in Scotland with you. Hopefully through this I will be able to impart some knowledge of this fascinating history that has been long overlooked.