The archaeology of Kpaliworgu: A case study of culture continuity and change in northern Ghana before 1900

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Christopher R. DeCorse


Archaeology, Kpaliworgu, Culture, Ghana

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Archaeological Anthropology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Large-scale population movements have occurred in northern Ghana within the last millennium. Agricultural activity, trade, wars and disease played crucial roles. The resultant, largely heterogeneous communities in the region consist of ethnolinguistic groups of diverse origins, both indigenes and migrants from the north. This research focuses on Kpaliworgu, a settlement associated with the Kantosi, an Islamized Manding speaking group largely dispersed among many of the ethnolinguistic groups in the region today. The identification, location and study of Kpaliworgu's archaeology allows the examination of the cultural transformations in northern Ghana between the 17 th century and 1900 AD when the settlement was abandoned. Following current epistemological models that focus on unraveling the unconscious details of material culture by relying on a wide range of sources (archaeological, ethnographic, oral traditions, documentary records, and existing scholarly works), the study evaluates the interpretations previous scholars provided for the cultural practices associated with culture contact in northern Ghana.

This study examines the introduction of Islam as the most distinct aspect of the culture change in northern Ghana, arising out of the interaction of the region's ethnolinguistic groups with Islamic migrant groups from the north. The syncretic religious practices associated with acculturation of the Islamized immigrant groups, arising out of their practice of hyper gamy are discussed. The role of migrants from the north for introducing or increasing technological innovations, and crops has also been elaborated on. The abandoned settlement of Kpaliworgu testifies to northern Ghana's incorporation into the world economy from the 17 th to the 19 th century as a result of the presence and trading activities of Europeans along the coastal areas of West Africa and the subsequent decline of trade routes of the sahel. Despite these transformations, the study identified continuity in several aspects of the lifeways of northern Ghana, including subsistence strategies and architecture. It underscores the relevance of archaeological studies for understanding the dynamics involved in culture contact and identity formation in northern Ghana.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.