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Sungbo’s Eredo: Africa’s Largest Single Ancient Monument

 

The Sungbo’s Eredo is a 160 km rampart equipped with guard houses and moats. Sungbo’s Eredo is a system of defensive walls and ditches that is located southwest of the Yoruba town of Ijebu Ode in Ogun State, southwest Nigeria.


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It was built in 800-1000 AD in honour of the Ijebu noblewoman Oloye Bilikisu Sungbo. The location is on Nigeria’s tentative list of potential UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is reputed to be the largest single pre-colonial monument in Africa.

The technology required more earth to be moved during construction than that used for building the Great Pyramid of Giza (one of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World). The most astonishing thing is that Sungbo’s Eredo was the biggest city in the world (bigger than Rome and Cairo) during the Middle Ages when it was built. It was constructed as a shield during the war.

The forest where the wall is located is purported to be the final resting of the Queen of Sheba whom some have connected and ascribed as Bilikisu Sungbo. The Queen of Sheba is a figure who is mentioned in both the Bible and Quran. In the Hebrew Bible, she is described as having sent a caravan of gold, ivory, and other goods from her kingdom to Solomon. In the Quran she is an Ethiopian sun-worshipper involved in the incense trade who converts to Islam; commentators added that her name was “Bilqis”.

Though the ascription is categorised as a myth, the British archaeologist Patrick Darling, who in 1999 surveyed the site and began publicizing his bid to preserve the Eredo and bring the site some prominence was quoted as saying,

“I don’t want to overplay the Sheba theory, but it cannot be discounted … The local people believe it and that’s what is important … The most cogent argument against it at the moment is the dating.”

However, legends of the contemporary Ijebu clan link the Eredo to a fabled wealthy and childless widow named Bilikisu Sungbo. According to them, the monument was built as her personal memorial. In addition to this, her grave is believed to be located in Oke-Eiri, a town in a Muslim area just north of the Eredo. Pilgrims of Christian, Muslim and traditional African religions annually trek to this holy site in tribute to her.


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Description

The impressive size and complex construction of the Eredo drew worldwide media attention. The total length of the fortifications is more than 160 kilometres (99 mi). The fortifications consist of a ditch with unusually smooth walls and a bank on the inner side of the ditch. The height difference between the bottom of the ditch and the upper rim of the bank on the inner side can reach 20 metres (66 ft).

Works have been performed in laterite, a typical African soil consisting of clay and iron oxides. The ditch forms an uneven ring around the area of the ancient Ijebu Kingdom, an area approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) wide in north-south, with the walls flanked by trees and other vegetation, turning the ditch into a green tunnel.

History

The archaeology of Sungbo’s Eredo points to the presence of a large polity in the area before the opening of the Trans-Atlantic trade. The Eredo served a defensive purpose when it was built in 800–1000 AD, a period of political confrontation and consolidation in the southern Nigerian rainforest.

It was likely to have been inspired by the same process that led to the construction of similar walls and ditches throughout western Nigeria, including earthworks around Ifẹ̀, Ilesa, and the Benin Iya, a 6,500-kilometre (4,000 mi) series of connected but separate earthworks in the neighbouring Edo-speaking region. It is believed that the Eredo was a means of unifying an area of diverse communities into a single kingdom.

It seems that the builders of these fortifications deliberately tried to reach groundwater or clay to create a swampy bottom for the ditch. If this could be achieved in a shallow depth, builders stopped, even if only at the depth of 1 meter. In some places, small, conical idol statues had been placed on the bottom of the ditch.

Sources: 

Wikipedia

Olatorera

Featured Image Source: Black History Studies


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Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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