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Sungbo Eredo: Africa’s Largest Single Ancient Monument

Sungbo’s Eredo is a system of defensive walls and ditches that is located to the southwest of the Yoruba town of Ijebu Ode in Ogun State, southwest Nigeria (6.78700°N 3.87488°E). It was built in honour of the Ijebu noblewoman Oloye Bilikisu Sungbo.

It is situated off the main road in rain forest, south-western Nigeria, has been claimed to be Africa’s largest single ancient monument. Sungbo Eredo is one of the biggest monuments in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s a 100-mile-long wall and moat whose construction is believed to have began a millennium ago.

The Eredo, which encloses an area about 25 miles from south to north and 22 miles from west to east, is only about an hour northeast of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

The monument was erected around a kingdom of the Yoruba – one of the three main ethnic groups in present-day Nigeria – and surrounds several towns and villages.

The Sungbo’s Eredo earthen bank rises 70 feet in the air from the bottom of a wide ditch, its reddish, vertical wall glistening with patches of moss and it encloses an area of about 25 miles from south to north.

Sungbo Eredo’s association with the Islamic Queen of Sheba legends may date to the same period and it is the first definite proof that state formation occurred in the rainforest zone at the same time as in Africa’s savannah zone.

Traditional folklore links the construction of this impressive boundary to the legendary Sungbo, a wealthy childless widow, giantess, priestess/goddess, devil woman or even erstwhile Queen of Sheba, to whose grove and magically bare grave flock many long-distance pilgrims. This and the links with the present Awujale dynasty and its Odo settlements require more study.

According to local legends, the Eredo was built by Sungbo, a wealthy, childless widow who wanted to be remembered by ordering a great monument. The Eredo, which was probably constructed over three centuries, served less as a physical barrier than as a spiritual one, Mr. Darling said.

Sungbo Eredo vertical sided ditches of hardened laterite (natural soil mixture of clay and iron-oxides) show how the ditch profiles were originally dug.

Together with the bank of spoil heaped up on the inner side, the combined height can be as much as 20 metres. Trees above this gigantic ditch help protect its sides from the forces of nature.

Where these trees have fallen or been cut down, partial collapse has been the result.

Sungbo Eredo over the last decades has been repeatedly popularised by a team of Nigerian and British archaeologists and preservationists who have succeeded in mapping the structure after the work of an earlier archaeologist piqued the curiosity of Patrick Darling, an archaeologist at Bournemouth University in Britain.
Still, this outstanding monument, a witness of ancient West African rain forest states, is waiting to take its well-earned role in history books just like numerous other lesser known monuments on this planet.

The monument was submitted into UNESCO World Heritage sites tentative list in 1995 by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments under Cultural category in criteria: (ii),(iii), (iv) and (v) of UNESCO World Heritage submission guidelines.

Criteria of submission

(ii): To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
(iii): To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
(iv): To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
(V): To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations. Since 1992 significant interactions between people and the natural environment have been recognized as cultural landscapes.

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