I know that by now, reading this, you are pretty much aware of how the black race has been marginalized throughout history. You have an idea of how the slave-trade and colonialism have mutilated our worth as a race. What I am about to expose to you today is far beyond your imagination. Not only made up of the glory of one individual as explained in my previous article on Mansa Musa but the superiority and advancement of a whole civilization. Recently the name ‘Benin’ has been mentioned almost everywhere on social media as an allusion to the Republic of Benin, known for a so-called ‘voodoo’. Well, today’s subject is the Great City of Benin and its lost great wall, currently known as Benin City in Edo State, Nigeria. A very vast kingdom whose history has been retraced back to the first millennium as early as 800 AD. The city is currently considered as the world’s largest earthwork before the mechanical age. In this article, we bring you the 5 mind-blowing facts about the Benin Kingdom and its walls.
I – The Great Walls of Benin is four (4) times longer than the Great Wall of China and consumed 100 times more materials than the pyramid of Cheops.
The Great Wall of China is considered by most people and even among historians and architects as the longest ever wall built by any civilization throughout history. The great wall of Benin comes to dismantle this belief. In essence, the Great Walls of Benin was a very impressive structure, with 16,000 kilometers as length, covering 6,500 square kilometers.
It was constructed to protect the city and provide great security to its locals. It surrounded 500 villages in the city. Besides that, the material used at that time was 100 times more than the ones used to construct the pyramid of Cheops, which is quite impressive when imagining the size of a pyramid.
II – The mathematical principles used to build the wall were unknown to Europeans at that time.
The first Europeans who came in expedition and discovered the walls of Benin were very unfamiliar with such type of structures and even described it as primitive. Ron Eglash, an ethnomathematics expert, discussing the layout of the city, affirmed that “When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture disorganized and thus primitive.
It never occurred to them that the Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn’t even discovered yet.” The design model used to build the wall is known today as ‘fractal design’. This design model involves careful rules of symmetry, proportionality, and repetition. Another proof that after the Egyptians’ pyramid, West-Africans are key historical pioneers in architectural works.
III – The Great Walls of Benin required 150 million hours of digging and took approximately 600 years to be constructed.
If you have ever done any robust construction work in your life or even seen someone do it, you know the pain that comes with one hour of straight labor. Now imagine 150 Million hours only to dig before putting down the structure. What is clear is that this Great Wall was built by hundreds of thousands or even millions of men throughout this century.
Historians traced the beginning of this construction work as far as 800 AD and took 600 yrs. Meaning the architecture was build by multiple generations and was finally completed in mid-1400. The Guinness Book of Records in 1974 described the walls of Benin City and its surrounding kingdom as “the world’s largest earthworks carried out before the mechanical era”.
IV – The Benin Kingdom Civilization has on the most advanced civilization in the world.
Underneath the beauty and majesty of the walls, lies the incredible advancement of a whole kingdom. According to the records from the first travelers to the Benin Kingdom, the people of Benin were very organized at all levels of hierarchy. They were city captains, acting as judges in lawsuits and regulating debates in what was known as galleries. There were an active bureaucracy and a centralized power.
Houses were built along the roadside, close to one another and without gates, because there was no thief and prosperity was shared at every level of the society. When the Portuguese first “discovered” the city in 1485, they were stunned to find this vast kingdom made of hundreds of interlocked cities and villages in the middle of the African jungle.
They called it the “Great City of Benin”, at a time when there were hardly any other places in Africa the Europeans acknowledged as a city. Indeed, they classified Benin City as one of the most beautiful and best-planned cities in the world. Besides that, the known Portuguese ship captain, in 1691 confirmed that: “Great Benin, where the king resides, is larger than Lisbon; all the streets run straight and as far as the eye can see. The houses are large, especially that of the king, which is richly decorated and has fine columns. The city is wealthy and industrious. It is so well governed that theft is unknown and the people live in such security that they have no doors to their houses.”
Compared to London who was known at the same time for prostitution, theft, murder, and all other vices as being described by Bruce Holsinger, an English professor at the University of Virginia. This brings us to the last fact still connected to Great Britain.
V – Benin Walls were destroyed by the British in 1897 during the Punitive expedition.
Unfortunately, the Great Walls of Benin did not stand the test of time like that which of China. The punitive expedition in the 1890s came as a deadly bullet to the City of Benin. In the 15th century, the Benin Kingdom has started its decline. This decline was characterized by internal conflicts and the increasing slave trade at its borders. In 1897 the kingdom was attacked, looted, bombarded, and brought to ruins by the British and their pursuit of dominance over the land.
Now you have a fair idea of not only what a great Kingdom Benin was but also the black race has offered a lot to the world already through science and bureaucracy. The belief that Europeans came to develop Africa and bring light in our ever ending darkness is wrong. But now looking into the future, Africans and the black race at large should always thrive to accomplish more and stand-out everywhere we pass.