The Eguafo Kingdom: Investigating complexity in southern Ghana

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Christopher R. DeCorse


Political economy, Slave trade, Heterarchy, Eguafo Kingdom, Complexity, Ghana

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This research examines transformations in the political economy of coastal Ghana during the last millennium, with specific reference to the Kingdom of Eguafo. In particular, I focus on the impact of a growing world economy on local political and economic development since the fifteenth century. The results of the work presented here have involved both archival research and archaeological survey and excavation in order to establish a regional chronology and settlement history for the Kingdom of Eguafo and its capital, today located in the Central Region of Ghana. This research has enhanced our current understanding of political transformations in West Africa, a region unduly ignored in studies of social complexity. Eguafo was one of several Akan polities which began trading with the Portuguese in the early 1470s on the former Gold Coast, initially in gold, and then increasingly during the seventeenth century, in enslaved persons. Changes in the settlement pattern and artefact inventory observed in Eguafo after European contact suggest that in trying to capture revenues from the increasing volume of trade, the Kingdom may have provided the means for the development of alternative networks of power within its poorly centralized political structure. I argue that along the coastal hinterland, polities like Eguafo from the eighteenth century onwards are generally organized around a complex relationship between ritual power and its ideological foundation in clan oriented forms of kingship. Yet within this ideal, there is a counterpoised network of secular and ritual power, rather than an explicitly hierarchical control.


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