Warning Cookies are used on this site to provide the best user experience. If you continue, we assume that you agree to receive cookies from this site. OK

The So Pots of Central Africa

Memories of the past

Graham Connah
Publication Year:
97 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 2 tables, 94 figures (15 in colour).
Sub-series name:
African Archaeology, 91
BAR number:


This book is an original study of very large pots in parts of Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. Found in excavations and surface fieldwork, they have been attributed to the So, a group of pre-Islamic inhabitants of the area before the sixteenth century AD, who have become mythologised as giants. Originally for burial, in some cases the pots have been dug up by villagers and reused: for brewing beer or as dye pits for indigo cloth. The book focuses on a group of these pots that survived until the late twentieth century in villages in a small part of Borno, north-eastern Nigeria. With the passage of time and terrorist activities in the region, their fate is now unknown and the photographs from 1963 to 1993 reproduced in this book have become a major archive of an unusual pottery group.

Graham Connah has written widely on African archaeology, his best-known book being African Civilizations, now in its third edition (2015). He was also one of the pioneers of Australian historical archaeology, publishing The Archaeology of Australia’s History in 1988. In 2000 he was awarded the Order of Australia for his contributions to archaeology.

‘This is the latest of several highly influential volumes written by Graham Connah since 1975 (…) The book reports on a remarkable but still poorly researched category of artifact typical of the later cultural sequence in the Lake Chad region’ Carlos Magnavita, African Archaeological Review, Volume 38, 2021

‘No research so far has focused specifically on these large, enigmatic, "So pots" which may be as much as 400 years old and are curated by local communities who have vague memories of their disappeared forbears. This is original and remarkable work.’ Prof. Anne Haour, University of East Anglia

‘Connah has written the first book on what the famous So pot can tell us about the cultural history of pre-Islamic So people of northeastern Nigeria, and the practices of memory and identity by their postcolonial descendants. It is an excellent entry into the lives and times of a people who experienced drastic changes in the late sixteenth century as a result of the Borno Empire's expansion and the process of Islamization.' Prof. Akin Ogundiran, University of North Carolina

‘Graham Connah is an expert writer. … The book is a classic compendium and written in a way which makes it a piece of art in itself.’ Prof. Detlef Gronenborn, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum.

Table of Contents (S2938_9781407316888_ToC.pdf, 106 Kb) [Download]

Preface and Introduction (S2938_9781407316888_Preface_Intro.pdf, 157 Kb) [Download]