Ghana's Vanishing past: Development, antiquities, and the destruction of the archaeological record

Benjamin W. Kankpeyeng, Christopher R. DeCorse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Ghana's past is being destroyed at a rapid rate. Although the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board has in some instances successfully intervened to stop the illicit trading of antiquities, the destruction of archaeological sites as a consequence of development over the past two decades has been staggering and the pace is accelerating. The potential of the legislation that established the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board and empowered it to manage and preserve the country's archaeological past has not been realized. The lack of political action, limited relevant public education, insufficient funding, and the poverty of the majority of the Ghanaian populace have allowed for the widespread destruction of both sites and historic buildings. Conspicuously, both the absence of integrated development planning by the Ghanaian government and the inability of development partners (both foreign and domestic) to recognize the potential value of cultural resources have contributed significantly to the continued loss of the archaeological record. While the antiquities trade is a continuing threat to Ghana's cultural resources, it is, in fact, tourism and economic development that pose the major menace to the country's archaeological past. This article reviews the history of cultural resource management in Ghana, including both traditional attitudes toward preservation and current legislation. Case studies are used to illustrate the problems faced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-128
Number of pages40
JournalAfrican Archaeological Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004


  • Antiquities trade
  • Cultural, resource management
  • Development
  • Forts and castles
  • Ghana
  • Koma terracottas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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