Material heritage offers a rich means to rediscover West Africa’s
histories and understand today’s trajectories by studying the remains of our historic human settlements, landscapes and way of life.
MOWAA is taking decisive steps to reignite homegrown scholarship and sustainably expand capacities and opportunities in archaeology, material science and applied conservation management. In collaboration with the British Museum, the Deutsche Archeologische Institut (DAI), and Oxford University, our growing team of Nigerian specialists are leading the way in the study and interpretation of the past, deploying the latest equipment and techniques, and demonstrating that higher standards in heritage management can be achieved on the continent.
To date our activities have included excavations, digital mapping, drone surveys and high-resolution 3D modelling. Our ongoing field work is the first significant field archaeology to take place within Benin City in more than 50 years and is already providing exciting new insights into Benin’s history and culture, as well as the challenges of preserving this and making it accessible to local, national and international audiences.
THE ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT
Unearthing hidden and endangered cultural codes
MOWAA is working with a range of Nigerian researchers and academic institutions, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, MOE+ Art Architects, and international partners to carry out the most comprehensive archaeological programme ever undertaken in Benin City.
The project, which began in 2022, involves surveys of the Museum site and the wider surroundings to understand the buried archaeological features of Benin City and target further excavations.
In tandem with the archaeological project is an initiative to restore earthworks and historic monuments and develop a linear park that will enable visitors to experience aspects of the ancient city. Providing employment and training opportunities for young people in Nigeria, the archaeological project will inform curatorial narratives and future displays at MOWAA.
Despite the catastrophic destruction of the 1897 invasion, fire and looting, the traditional culture of Benin City survives and persists to a remarkable degree. From the famous Igun Street – home of the famous brass casters – to the many shrines scattered across the centre of the city and the folk songs, stories and dances that live on into the present.
Through documenting these traditions, and talking to the contemporary communities where they survive, MOWAA seeks to provide context and meaning to the material culture the project recovers from its excavations and studies over the coming years.