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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Masterpieces of African Art : Nok Sculpture of Siamese Twins
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Nok Sculpture of Siamese Twins - PF.5806
Origin: Northern Nigeria
Circa: 300 BC to 500 AD
Dimensions: 12.25" (31.1cm) high x 6.125" (15.6cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Terracotta

Location: UAE
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Some of the earliest examples of sophisticated sculpture in sub-Saharan Africa come from the Nok culture, an Iron Age civilization that has been dated between 900 B.C. and 200 A.D. The terracotta sculptures range in size from small pendants to life-size figures. We do not know what the people called themselves, so the civilization was named after the small tin- mining village of Nok where the first objects were discovered in 1928. Archaeological artifacts have been found in throughout Nigeria, primarily to the north of the Niger-Benue River confluence and below the Jos escarpment detailing the extent of their cultural influence. According to some accounts, based on artistic similarities between early Yoruba art forms and Nok forms, there may be connections between Nok culture and contemporary Yoruba peoples. What is clear is that certain stylistic tendencies prevalent in black African art today may have originated in the sculptures of the Nok. The phenomenon of twinning is considered a sacred blessing in various contemporary African cultures, specifically the Yoruba. Perhaps this belief dates back to the period of the Nok, as this sculpture suggests. Memorialized in clay, this couple represents a pair of conjoined, or Siamese, twins. Conjoined twins are one of the most rare forms of twinning and would certainly be interpreted as a most ominous event. This sculpture lovingly captures the beauty and spectacle of this natural wonder. While the sculpture first appears to be a seated couple, one soon realizes these figures share a leg and are connected at the torso. Their banded jewelry not only decorates their limbs but also unites them. Although they wear two necklaces in the front, the necklace appears as one in the back, symbolizing the bond they share. This gorgeous sculpture must have honored a most spectacular pair of beings, either during their lifetime or in death. The closeness between the two is eternally evident, masterfully conveyed by the sculptor. RESEARCH LETTER Conjoined Twins Presenting With Different Sex: Description of a Second Case That Truly Represents the Earliest Historical Evidence in Humans Marı ´a Luisa Martı ´nez-Frı ´as1,2,3* 1Centro de Investigacion sobre Anomalıas Congenitas (CIAC), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain 2Facultad de Medicina, Madrid, Spain 3CIBER de Enfermedades Raras (CIBERER), Madrid, Spain Received 24 April 2009; Accepted 27 April 2009 TO THE EDITOR: It iswell known that conjoined twins are monozygotic (MZT), their most accepted mechanism being an interruption of the splitting of the inner cell mass before the total separation, giving rise to the different types of conjoined twins. There is another, but less accepted theory, postulating that conjoined twins occur as a result of the fusion of monoamniotic twins. However, in any mechanism and type of conjoined twins, they are always of the same sex. In 2007, Kim and co-workers published what appears to be the first, and the only, reported case of conjoined twins (cephalothoracopagous), presenting external and internal genitalia of morphologically different sexes. In spite of their distinct sexual appearances, microscopic examination showed that internal genitalia had oocytes in both twins, and chromosomal studies documented that both were females (XX). Regarding the mechanisms behind their formation, Kim et al. [2007] considered that because of the observed genital differences, this case supports the fusion mechanism of monoamniotic twins rather than the incomplete fission of an embryo; but they did not explain why. Indeed, as those authors commented, the case they present is exceptional, and the first documented in the literature. However, I would like to describe what I consider to represent the very first known case in Human History. This is represented in a beautiful figurine from Nigeria that was dated to be from a period ranging from 300 years BC to 500 of the Christian era (Fig. 1). The figurine shows pair of conjoined twins in which we can recognize the type of dicefalustri- brachius-tripus monozygotic twins, since two of their legs were fused. Interestingly, the artist represented one twin as female since she has breasts, and a male who also appears to be taller than the female co-twin. Therefore, I consider that the author of this figurine artistically represented a real case of conjoined twins that might have been born with, in some way, different FIG. 1. The series of photos of the figure is courtesy of Barakat, Inc. and can be viewed at [Color figure can be viewed in the online issue, which is available at] Grant sponsor: Fundacion 1000 sobre Defectos Congenitos. *Correspondence to: Marı´a Luisa Martı´nez-Frı´as, Facultad de Medicina, Departamento de Farmacologıa, Universidad Complutense, c/Sinesio Delgado 6, Pabellon 6, Madrid 28029, Spain. E-mail: Published online 16 June 2009 in Wiley InterScience ( DOI 10.1002/ajmg.a.32951 How to Cite this Article: Martınez-Frıas ML. 2009. Conjoined twins presenting with different sex: Description of a second case that truly represents the earliest historical evidence in humans. Am J Med Genet Part A 149A:1595–1596.  2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc. 1595 external genitalia, as occurred in the case described by Kim et al. [2007]. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This work was supported by the ‘‘Fundacion 1000 sobre Defectos Congenitos’’. CIBERER is an initiative of the Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain. REFERENCE Kim SC, Jo DS, Jang KY, Cho SC. 2007. Extremely rare case of cephalothoracopagus characterized by differences of external genitalia. Prenat FIG. 1. (Continued) Diagn 27:1151–1153. 1596 AMERICAN JOURNAL OF MEDICAL GENETICS PART A - (PF.5806)


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