Auction Finds - Nok Heads (?)
These Nok (?) heads were arguably the most fascinating auction find I have ever had. I have so many unanswered questions regarding these heads, although I sold them years ago.
These heads were part of a deceased estate that was auctioned off. There was a LOT of junk at that particular sale. We found them in a tall box, wrapped in old, yellowed newspaper under ragged old clothing only after we had got home. The newspaper dated to World War Two. After much googling, I concluded they really looked like Nok heads.
The Nok culture was an early iron age population situated in Nigeria, from about 1000BC to 500AD. This makes the Nok terracotta sculptures about 2000 to 2500 years old! The Nok sculptures were only discovered in 1928 by Col Dent Young, the co-owner of a mining partnership, and were unearthed during the digging of the mine. (According to Wikipedia.) We live in South Africa, so it is not a stretch to imagine these heads from making their way to our country.
I decided these heads were too specialised for me to sell, so I contacted an auction house who dealt in African artifacts. I have to say the were underwhelmed and snooty to boot! I contacted a few other places and eventually someone told me that first they would have to be carbon-dated to establish their age, which is an expensive process on its own. More importantly, it was illegal to trade in African artifacts without the proper documentation.
I checked a few previous sales of these heads and determined they would fetch between R15000-R30000 ($1150-$2300) each at a specialist auction. But in the end there was no one who would take them. I listed them on the online auction site I use, as possible Nok heads, and they stayed listed for ages. Eventually I received about R1000 ($77) for both of them as I had no proof or authentication, as well as legal papers. Below are a few images (labeled for re-use) of documented examples of Nok sculptures: