Over the years, archaeologists have uncovered a wealth of clues to Ghana’s past which had previously been hidden in her soil. Each archaeological site discloses information about a different cultural group and time period. Sites such as those at Asokrochona, Bosumpra Rockshelter and a number of sites classed as Kintampo Culture Sites were all inhabited during Ghana’s Stone Age, while a site at Krobo Mountain was occupied during the 18th and 19th centuries AD. Other sites were inhabited during timeframes spanning many thousands of years. Settlements which have left their traces in Begho, New Buipe and Daboya were originated in the Stone Age and lasted through the Iron Age until the 17th and 18th centuries. The areas around a number of Ghana’s old colonial castles and forts, such as Elmina Castle; Cape Coast Castle; Eliza Carthago Fort; and Ussher Fort have also been excavated, exposing details about life during the days of the slave trade in Ghana.
There is a Museum of Archaeology at The University of Ghana’s Department of Archaeology, at the University’s Legon Campus. This museum is open on weekdays, from 8:00am to 4:00pm. It has information and exhibits about archaeological finds, including:
- Stone Axes from Kwahu
- Kintampo Culture (the first farmers in West Africa)
- Komaland Excavation
- German Stone Ware
- Fort Crevecoeur/Usher
- Fort Amsterdam
- Krobo Mountain Archaeological Project
Below are details of some of the archaeological sites in Ghana:
Daboya is situated in Gonjaland in Northern Ghana. Settlement in the area dates back to 1000 BC when Daboya appears to have been a Kintampo Culture Site. In later years, prior to 1500 AD, the township began to grow in stature as a result of its successful rock salt industry which extended to supply the whole region. The demise of the settlement came about in 1890 when it was destroyed by slave raiders. Excavations in Daboya were carried out in the 1970s by archaeologist Peter Shinnie. Finds at the site include traditional burial mounds and comb-decorated pottery, as well as an extant mosque from the 16th or 17th century.
Kintampo Culture Sites
‘Kintampo culture’ has been named as a subdivision within the social structure of stone-age Ghana. There are more than 30 known Kintampo culture sites, 16 of which have been excavated; all of these are to be found in forest, tree savannah and grassland savannah country. The people belonging to this culture lived in wood, mud and occasionally stone dwellings. They were pioneers in a number of areas, initiating farming and settled village community life in the country; they are also among the earliest known artists in Ghana, specialising in pottery and producing utensils such as wide mouth bowls, jars and water pots - often ornamented with comb marks, and made in a characteristically simple style. This type of trade specialization was also a new beginning in Ghana and in turn resulted in the initiation within Kintampo culture of the first organized pottery trading in the country.
Some significant Kintampo Culture sites are: the village of Kintampo itself, from which the term ‘Kintampo Culture’ was taken; Ntereso; Boyase Hill; and Birimi.
Birimi is situated in Ghana’s Northern Region, between the towns of Gambaga and Nalerigu. The site was discovered by Francois Kense in 1987 during the first archaeological excavations ever attempted in the locality. Birimi appears to have been occupied in intensive iron working; suggested by the presence on site of a number of slag mounds and their corresponding iron furnaces. Evidence has also been produced of pearl millet cultivation. Besides this, there have been discoveries of pottery and of structures, supposedly lived in by ancient locals, built of densely spaced poles under coverings of fine clay.
Boyase Hill is to be found in Kumasi on an area of savannah vegetation surrounded by thick forest. Leonard Newton, who was botany lecturer of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, first discovered the site in the 1970s. The village on Boyase Hill, which existed around 2500BC, was about 500m in diameter and was involved in early stone industries, as demonstrated by finds of collections of polished stone axes and arrowheads, microliths, stone arm rings and beads. The site also presents the ancient ruins of stone structures and archaeologists have come across the clay sculpture of a dog.
The Village of Kintampo is in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana. It contains several archaeological sites, which were inhabited by Kintampo people between 2000 and 500 BC. Kintampo locals are said to have begun to develop the microlith industry - a microlith being a type of flint tool - and also to have set up intensive hunting, fishing and food gathering economies. Archaeologists have recovered the bones and teeth of cattle, sheep and dwarf goats in the area – evidence of livestock farming. Rock shelters and caves have been excavated, and these are believed to have served as homes for some of the Kintampo people. One of these is the Kintampo Rockshelter. When excavating this site in 1966 and 67, archaeologist Colin Flight found evidence that locals had used food plants such as hackberry, oil palm and cow peas as a food source. The rock shelter also contained the remains of elephants, hippopotamuses, carnivores, antelopes, duikers and catfish, presumably the spoils of Kintampo hunting efforts.
Krobo Mountain is located in the Eastern Region of Ghana. It was once the site of a large settlement of Krobo people, who arrived in the mid 1700s and retained the land until July 1892 when they were ejected by the then British colonial governor, William Bradford Griffith. The Krobo settlers worked with iron and crafted pottery. Major excavations on the site were initiated in 2004 by the Archaeology and Heritage Studies Department of the University of Ghana in collaboration with the Eastern Region’s Yilo Krobo Traditional Council in the form of the Krobo Mountain Archaeological Research Project. Finds include local and imported smoking pipes; old U.S. dollars; fragments of imported ceramic objects such as mugs, plates, bowls and bottles; local ceramic vessels for serving palm wine or ritual drinks; ceramic discs believed to have been used in the steam cooking of foods such as plantain and water yam; schnapps bottles which, when full, had been a medium of exchange and had also played a part in local funeral rites; cowrie shells - another exchange medium, later employed as jewellery; glass beads; iron bells that once adorned shrines and royal stools; terracotta figurines; iron hoes; wild and domesticated animal bones; and a structure believed to have been the Kono, or King’s, old palace.
Ntereso is located to the West of Tamale in savannah woodland on a ridge above the White Volta. The site was first discovered in 1952 by archaeologist Oliver Davies. When the area was excavated in 1961 and 62, finds included bone harpoons; stone arrowheads; fish hooks; and the remains of local animals such as antelopes, all evidencing a hunting community. It seems, in keeping with other Kintampo culture sites, that locals also farmed; the site contains evidence of early pastoralism dated to around 2000BC, including the bones and teeth of dwarf goats. Archaeologists also discovered terracotta figurines of animals such as lizards and cows.