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History : Department of Archaeology & Anthropology



The processes which led to the establishment of what is today the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology date back to 1946, when, as a post­graduate student, Kenneth Onwuka Dike (later Professor of History and the first Nigerian Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan), discovered the potentials of archaeology in providing the missing time-depth to Nigerian history. This discovery came as he read an article by none other than Thurstan Shaw, who was to become the founding Head of the Department of Archaeology (as it first was). We are greatly indebted to Professor Thurstan Shaw for this vital and other important but intriguing insights into the founding of the department, contained in the goodwill message he sent in connection with the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Department.


Motivated by his patriotic and scholastic determination .to have archaeology established at Ibadan, and with commendable ingenuity, Professor Dike, who had then become Vice-Chancellor, ensured that a research professorship in Archaeology was one of the three to be created in the Institute of African Studies. This was the first step towards the establishment of a Department of Archaeology. Thus, in 1963, Professor Thurstan Shaw, was appointed to that research professorship as well as headship of the Archaeology Unit at the Institute of African Studies.


Through the personal conviction and dogged efforts of Professor Shaw, Senate and Council approved the establishment of the Department of Archaeology, in the Faculty of Science, for the 1970/71 session. The department owes its appropriate location in the Faculty of Science to the incisiveness, vision and insight of Professor Shaw. This is remarkable departure from tradition. At its inception, the department had 15 members of staff, made up of six academic, six technical, two administrative / secretarial and one field personnel. These had all been staff members of the Archaeology Unit.

The approval for the establishment of the department came too late for the admission of students for the 1970/71 session. However some of the staff members gave lectures on the Prehistory and Archaeology of Nigeria, and the Archaeology of Africa from the seventh to the sixteenth centuries, to second and third year students in the Department of History during that session.

The first set of Archaeology students was admitted in October 1971. This foundation set comprised sixteen 100 level and two postgraduate students. Single Honours and Combined Honours (with Classics, History, and Religious Studies) Courses in Archaeology were offered, as well as Subsidiary Courses in Archaeology for students of the Faculties of Science, Arts and the Social Sciences. M.Sc. Courses were also offered, and there was one Ph.D. student. At the initiative of the late Professor BasseyAndah, the first Nigerian Head of the department, Courses in Cultural Anthropology were introduced. In 1982/83 the first set of students who graduated with Honors in Cultural Anthropology was produced. In the 1986/87 session the name of the department was changed to the present one, to reflect the introduction of degree Courses in Anthropology. Subsequently, Combined Honours Courses with Botany Geography.Geology, and Zoology were introduced.

The Department, initially housed in a wing at the Institute of African Studies, began to move into its permanent buildings on Appleton Road in the 1986/87 session. The department has a small museum, both for teaching and viewing by the general public.


The Department has produced over 800 first degree graduates, 90 M. A. / M.Sc, 5 M.Phil., and 30 Ph.D, as at the beginning of the 2015/2016 academic session, who work in varisous industries and institutions such as the Civil Service, Museums, Universities, banks, foreign embassies, law enforcement agencies, oil companies and N.G.Os (non­governmental organizations). The staff have generated well over 500 publications in reputable journals refreed conference proceedings and books, published locally and abroad. They are well travelled and experienced, and have served as consultants to many governments, private and informational bodies.


The Archaeology Courses taught at the undergraduate level may be broadly grouped into six as follows:

  1. Archaeological theory and methods
  2. Artefact classification
  3. Ethnoarchaeology
  4. Environmental Archaeology
  5. Regional Studies (mainly Sub-Saharan Africa)
  6. Field Methods

Postgraduate Courses are in the following main areas

  1. Palaeoecological principles and methods
  2. Quaternary studies
  3. Research Design and Execution
  4. Advanced regional studies
  5. Field Methods
  6. Ethnoarchaeology

Undergraduate Courses in Anthropology are in nine main areas:

  1. Anthropological theory and methods
  2. Hominid and Cultural evolution and development
  3. Peoples and Cultures of Africa
  4. Applied Anthropology
  5.  Field Methods
  6. Cultural Resource Management
  7. Media Anthropology
  8. Social Anthropology
  9. Development Studies


Postgraduate Courses in Forensic Science:

  1. Introduction to Forensic Archaeology
  2. Introduction to Forensic Anthropology
  3. Forensic Taphonomy
  4. Crime Scene Search and Handling of Buried Remains
  5. Forensic Pathology and the Law
  6. Forensic Genetics
  7. The Cadaver and Forensic Toxicology


The main foci of research work, through which the department has made significant contributions, have been:

  1. The Nigerian peoples: their origins, settlement patterns, Culture, inter-relationships and the interaction with the rest of the environment, including ethnobotany and the beginning of agriculture.
  2. The vegetation history of Nigeria and environmental changes in the Late Quaternary period.
  3. Metallurgy and indigenous technologies
  4. Cultural and Medical Anthropology

Current Departmental Research Work

The current research work is a multidisciplinary one, especially between the archaeologist and the anthropologists in the department. The work is titled; Archaeological and Anthropological Cooperation on a search: Owu and Thoughts on the Diaspora.

International collaboration and notable contributions

The department has an understanding with the University of Birmingham, England and University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA.

The Editorial and Business Offices of the West African Journal of Archaeology are located in the department.