Sungbo's Eredo: Africa’s Biggest Monument Nobody Has Heard Of
- 4 months ago
Deep in the Nigerian rainforest, there was once an immense kingdom surrounded by a huge earthen wall and moat. Built during the Middle Ages, this great African kingdom was larger than many contemporary kingdoms of its time such as Baghdad or Cairo or Rome. Yet, nothing of this vast kingdom survive today save for its fortification wall—a structure so enormous that its construction was a feat that was bigger in scale than that of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The BBC calls it “Africa's largest single monument”.
Sungbo's Eredo, the fortification, is essentially a moat and an earth wall alongside it, that together run in a circle for a length of about 160 kilometers encompassing an area of more than 4,000 square kilometers. The Eredo's earthen bank rises 70 feet in the air from the bottom of the moat. Its walls are unusually smooth, but now covered with moss and creepers. Overhead, trees arch across from either side turning the moat into a dark green tunnel through the forest.
“So enveloped is it by vegetation, you could almost fall into it before you knew it was there,” wrote Barnaby Phillips of the BBC. When he visited the Eredo in 1999, his guide had to hack their way through the jungle vegetation.
Archeologists believe the Eredo was built about a thousand years ago to serve as a boundary wall for the ancient Ijebu Kingdom. The kingdom itself is very little known, other than the connection to Bilikisu Sungbo, its powerful ruler and a childless widow, whom the locals believe was none other than the legendary Queen of Sheba. That final part is obviously a myth, since Bilikisu Sungbo and the fabled Queen of Sheba is separated by at least 2,000 years.
Sungbo's Eredo lies only an hour’s ride away from the metropolitan city of Lagos, yet few Nigerians, let alone outsiders, have heard of it, and fewer still have visited it. Frank Bures laments that even Nigerian archaeologists are “less than enthusiastic about field work.”
Interest in the Eredo flared up briefly about two decades ago, when a team of Nigerian and British archeologists headed by Dr. Patrick Darling successfully mapped the structure. Since then the Eredo has sunk back into the forest and faded into scientific and media oblivion.
Photo credit: Jeremy Weate/Flickr