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How do you use Taruga?
Taruga is the name of an archaeological site in central Nigeria significant for its evidence of some of the earliest production of iron in West Africa. In addition, the site has yielded compelling terracotta figures with elaborate hairstyles and elongated faces, some of the first artistic and scientific advancements from that region.
What the people who lived in Taruga called their city is lost to history, as is the name that they called themselves. Archaeologists have dubbed them the "Nok culture," after another iconic site. Archaeologists use the term "Nok culture," rather than "Nok people," or "Nok empire," as we do not know if they shared a political unity, nor if they were one particular people or a group sharing a common culture. They lived in a territory about the same size as present-day Portugal and comprising most of present-day Nigeria, including its capital, Abuja. The Nok culture was at its greatest extent around 500 BC, although they may have emerged nearly a thousand years prior, according to newer archaeological research. They had a system of social organization that extended beyond simple kin relations, including an elite ruling class. Nok sculptures show pumpkins, and traces of sorghum and millet grains are found in their sites. As Nok populations grew in size, the control, trade, and storage of these products became more and more important and complex, leading to large granaries and trade networks.
The Nok are most significant in world history for two things: their early discovery of ironworking, and their terracotta sculptures. Nok forges produced agricultural tools as well as tools of war – while war does not figure significantly into Nok art, Nok arrows and spears tell a different tale. Nok sculptures are a blend of the everyday and the fantastic. Many are of men carrying ritualized weapons, with small square beards and moustaches grown long just at the corners of their mouths. Others are of human-animal hybrids: an elephant with human eyes, men with birds’ beaks, etc.
The Nok declined around 200 AD for unknown reasons. But they clearly had an influence on later West African civilizations and are an example of innovation and scientific production at an early date.