They are the latest – and most impressive – batch of the beautifully sculpted human and animal figures, between 1400 and 800 years old, unearthed from a series of mysterious mounds in a remote region of Northern Ghana.
The mounds, which also contain human skulls, are thought by Ghana’s Dr Benjamin Kankpeyeng and Manchester’s Professor Tim Insoll to be the sites of ancient shrines.
Using state of the art analysis of the number, context and arrangement of the figurines, Dr Kankpeyeng and Professor Insoll hope to gain insight into the past ritual practices and beliefs of this sophisticated society – filling in a gap in our knowledge of that period in Africa.
Hundreds of mounds are densely packed in an area only 30km square: it took just two weeks to excavate the 80 figures in January.
But illegal excavation of the treasures means the archaeologists are in a race against time to ensure they are safely removed.