(Benin Pre-history) The Origin And settling Down Of The Edo People
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Written by Dmitri .M. Bondarenko and Peter .M. Roese (Late UpdateMarch 21, 2021)


Of all the West Africa societies, the kingdom of Benin is the one most mentioned in contemporary European literature. Since the end of the 15th century, a great deal of material about Benin has been supplied by sailors, traders, etc, returning to Europe. However, information on the Edo people before this date is very difficult to obtain, as there was no written record and the oral record is at best rather fragmentary. Thus, there is a shortage of information on the early days of the migration and setting down of the Edo in their present-day home. At the same time, a reinvestigation of sources dealing with the early history of Benin showed that some information has not been fully exploited yet, although there remain gaps in our knowledge which may never be filled.

First of all let us set up in chronological order a number of different statements from the mythology of the Edo. One of the earliest reports comes from the English trader Cyril Punch who stayed on the coast and visit Benin City from the end of the 1880s up to the 1890s  several times. He had good contacts with the royal court. He reported “.... tradition says the Bini came from a place north of the Niger originally and lived under a king Lamorodu” (Roth 1968:6).

The Benin chronicler J.U Egharevba collected material in the 1920s and 1930s. He writes: “Many many years ago, the Binis came all the way from Egypt to found a more secure shelter in this part of the world after a short stay in the Sudan and IIe-Ife, which the Benin people call Uhe. Before coming here, a band of hunters was sent from Ife to inspect this land and the report furnished was very favourable....they met some people who were in the land before their arrival “These people are said to have come originally from Nupe and the Sudan in waves (Egharevba 1960) 1: see also Egharevba 1956: 1). In another work Egharevba specifies that the first wave of migration took place from Sudan via the present-day Nupeland in the 7th century A.D and the second, from Egypt via Sahara and Ife in the beginning of the 8th century (Egharevba 1965: 8 f). But very soon he declares: “It is known that the Bini came to this Land in 3 waves. And not 2 as was previously supposed....” The first (without a concrete date) was from Nupe, the second- from Sudan via Nupe in about the 7th century A.D and the last one, without a date again was from Egypt via Sahara and IIe- Ife (Egharevba 1966: 7-9).

At another place Egharevba writes also about three migration waves. The first came from Nupeland the second from Sudan via Nupeland and the third from Egypt through the Sahara and IIe Ife (Ife). This was “...one of those migration common to many tribes seeking more fertile land and more secure retreat from an enemy during the Islamic crusade from 600 A.D. “(Egharevba 1969: preface; see also Egharevba 1964:6). The newcomers united after some time. But another, a later Bini chronicler prince Eweka, practically recognizing the Egyptian version, the popular among his compatriots, considers the question open because there are no real proofs of the exodus from Egypt. He admits that the Edo could be autochthonous in their area being genetically connected with the population of Nok (Eweka 1989: 9 f.).

Glottochronology suggests that the separation between the kwa peoples’ protolanguages, including the Edo and the Yoruba, happened about 2,000-3,000 years ago (Darling 1984/I: 63), or even earlier, between 3,200 and 4, 600 or about 5,000 years ago according to Armstrong (1962) and Smith (1988; 11). Bradbury’s date it later than 4,000 years ago (1964: 150). Never mind, some of the Yoruba Ododuwa myths (those not deriving the Yoruba and the whole mankind from Ife) have much in common with the Edo ones cited above. This fact makes them helpful for our analysis. Generally, such myths connect the Yoruba origin and migration to western Africa with basically the same geographical regions and historical events just as those of the Edo do. Studying Yoruba myths, Talbot has come to the conclusion that the Yoruba had arrived to Nigeria from Egypt possibly in the beginning of the 2nd millennium B.C being pushed out of their motherland by the Nubian wars of the 19th century B.C or the Hyksos’ conquest of the country (1926/I: 276, II: 2) Samuel Johnson, whose dealing with the myth is best-known, has also argued that the Yoruba had resettled from Upper Egypt or Nubia. Following sultan Bello of sokoto (see Hodgkin 1975: 78 f), he writes that Lamurudu, Whose subjects they were, was Phoenician numrod, the conqueror of Egypt. Those people accompanied him in military campaigns and reached Arabia with him from where they were expatriated for their devotedness to their religion, paganism, or more probably, a kind of Eastern Christianity (Johnson 1921; 7f)
Biobaku has developed the version more than anyone else. He sees the Yoruba home country in Upper Egypt and introduces the idea of two waves of migration from there to Western Africa in about A.D 600 and about A.D 1000. The latter, just reflected in the myth of the migration under the leadership of Oduduwa, was provoked by the spread of Islam according to Biobaku. Having crossed the Niger in the Nupe area, the Yoruba went south-westward founded IIe- Ife and settled there (Biobaku 1955: 1958: 24f.). It is worth mentioning that the data of the first wave of the Yoruba migrations, according to Biobaku, corresponds to the last wave of the Edo’s advent in the final, 1969, concept of Egharevba. i.e. about A.D. 600. But while the latter connects it just with the Muslim pressure, the Yoruba historian ascribes it to the second, the Oduduwa migration of his people about A.D. 1000.

There is even no necessity to stop for a long time on the obvious fact that, if someone of these two prominent Africans were right, it could not have been Egharevba in any case. Islam only appeared just in the beginning of the 7th century A.D. (622) in Arabia; though in Africa Egypt and especially Ethiopia played a major role in disseminating the ideas which laid the groundwork for the emergence of Islam. But Egypt assured a leading role in the development of the Islamic civilization not earlier than in the 9th — l0th centuries. Towards the brink of the millennia, Islam in the form of Kharijism Lind Sunnism made its way with
the caravans of merchants into the countries of West and Central Sudan. In the 10th and mid- 11th centuries, the new religion was formally accepted
by the rulers of a number of states of this or that way subordinate to large Christian xum,
Nubia) and pagan (Ghana, Zaghawa) kingdoms. The movement of the Aimoravids in the name of jihad, a major event of this period, resulted in the
integration of Sahara, West Sudan, Maghreb, and Spain into a political, religious, and ideological union. Concurrently, the entire regional system of states was reshaped, effecting the disintegration of the Christian (Axum, the united Nubia) and pagan (Zaghawa, Ghana) kingdoms that had been hindering the progress of Islam into the heart of Africa (Kobishchanov 1987: 14—40). It seems reasonable to come to the conclusion that  Islam could indirectly influencing the territories rather far south of the area of its immediate just at that time, not earlier.

Benin Prehistory in the Light of Archaeological and Linguistic Evidence
Thus, Biobaku’s and even Johnson’s vision of the problem has quite enough supporters. But the situation is not so simple at all. On the one hand, there are at least not fewer scholars who do not see just a grain of historical truth in the myths and criticize Biobaku and his followers severely enough. And furthermore, this variant of the Oduduwa myth seems to be of late origin, marginal in the Yoruba consciousness and culture, and even fabricated for political ends in the Oyo Empire. But what is of greatest importance for both Edo and Yoruba studies is that linguistic and archaeological data indicate these peoples’ presence in West Africa for a much longer period than ascribed by the myth and its positive interpreters. Pointing out that the Edo languages’ “relationship to a number of languages, including Igbo and Yoruba, is considered to have been derived from a common protolanguage located somewhere near the Niger-Benue confluence some  3—6,000 years ago,” Darling continues, “The split into Proto-Yoruba, Proto-Edo and Proto-Igbo was probably due to easterly and westerly migrations along the savanna zone, with the southern forest and forest swamplands being penetrated at least 2—3,000 years ago by the ancestors of today’s Southern Edo…..(1984/1: 63).

Linguistic data indicate approximately the same date of penetration into the forest zone for the Yoruba ancestors too (Agiri 1975: 162 f.). Jung- wirth (1968: 102), Obayerni (1976: 200f. 255), and Smith (1988: 156) express similar views. Jungwirth records: “Edo ist mit Yoruba entfernt verwandt, wie auch Itsekiri und Igala mit Yoruba verwandt sind. Interessanterweise soll Igala. m
it Idoma . . . verwandt sein. Diese sprachliche Verbindung würde, wenn Idoma mit Jukun nach— weislich in Beziehung zu setzen wiie, em rieues Licht auf die Wanderungsmythe cler Bini werfen. Auch sie scheinen aus dem Raum des Nigerenue Zusarnmenfiússes nach Süden gewandert zu ‘sein” (1968:102). The Jukun will be deal, with below.

The authors of “Nigerian History and Culture” are sure that the fact that the Kwa group comprises languages of the Yoruba, Edo, Igbo, Igala, Idoma, Nupe “indicates that the ancestors of the speakers of these languages separated from the same parent stock. . . Furthermore, it can be inferred from the linguistic evidence that the emergence of these closely related ethnic groups took place in or near the areas they now occupy” (Olaniyan 1985: 17). The same idea was also expressed, for example by Armstrong (1964: 127 f). “Bini, Ibo, and Yoruba culture, as we know them today, are certainly the product of a long process of development within what is today Nigeria,” Bradbury concludes
(1964: 150).

But Nigeria is vast. Alongside the opinion of the Edo and Yoruba migration from the northwestern part of the present-day country, there exist linguistic concepts of the northwestern, though still Nigerian origin of these peoples (Bascom 1969: 8f.; Alagoa et al. 1988: 91).

Meanwhile archaeological evidence inclines to agree with the northeastern, the Niger-Benue confluence area version. As far as just the Edo is concerned, Es’Andah argues firmly that “archaeological evidence available thus far, contradicts traditions which hold that the Edo carne from Egypt via Sudan and Ife. Rather it largely supports linguistic evidence which suggests that the Edo have occupied their present location for a period of almost four thousand years” (Es’Andah 1976: 12). In an attempt to explain the contradiction between the oral tradition and the evidence of linguistics, Ryder suggests the hypothesis according to which the problem can be solved by admitting of the fact of minor, secondary population movements between the savanna and the forest in both directions (1985: 372 f.). This idea does not seem unplausible; though the forest societies had basically no doubt been evolved from escaping any strong outside influence till  the Europeans’ arrival, the forest-savanna borderline was not the Chinese  wall, too (see Bondarenko 1995: 5—7). What is important for us now is that in any case the Kwa live in the forest belt much longer than it is related by the tradition.

Archaeology also affirms the long period of the Kwa peoples’ presence in the forest zone. For instance, Eluyemi, rejecting the myth of the Yoruba’s coming with Oduduwa from a distant eastern country closer to the end of the 1st millennium A.D., states that “the archaeological exploration of Oke-Ora (one of the seven hills of Ife) shows that Oke-Ora was probably the place of origin from where Oduduwa descended into the bowl-like ancient City of Ile-Ife. Oke-Ora, archaeologically was a late stone-age settlement occupied by folks who once lived around Ile-Ife before the knowledge of metal” (Eluyemi 1990: 80; see also Obayerni 1976: 213). But if Oduduwa even was an outsider, it is more probable, as Willett, Smith, and Law suppose, that he migrated from much less distant area at the Niger-Benue confluence than from the Middle East savanna, Nupe, or Borgu (Willett 1971: 357f.; Smith 1973: 226; Law 1977: 28f.).

Also it is not absolutely sufficiently proved, but if there really was the continuity of the most ancient Yoruba and related to Benin Ife culture fromthat of Nok, now broadly dated 925 .4.4. 70 B.C. — A.D. 200 +1- 50 (Oliver and Fagan 1918: 330f.), to what a part of authoritative scholars incline, it must mean that the Kwa peoples’ ancestors lived in the Niger-Benue confluence savanna (Nok) region for already a long time-span at least in the 1st millennium B.C.. And what is more important, at the::same time there were no recent inhabitants of the forest (Ife) zone by the half of the 1st millennium AD. For t& excavated artifacts belonging to the Iron Age Ife culture refers to the 6th ‘century A.D (Wiliett 1971: 363; 1973: 130, 137; .1977: 269). Thus, here we could possibly obtain an additional proof for the idea of the Kwa’s coming to the forest from the; Niger-Benue confluence region 3,000 years ago.
One more not firsthand proof for this date and direction of the Kwa migration is that Ijebu Yoruba “are said to have come via Benin” c. 1,000 B.C i.e., they moved westwards. . .

What is of great value is the evidence of the appearance of agriculture and metallurgy iii the region. The former is to precede the latter chronologically, for there is a general assumption among archaeologists and anthropologists that iron smelting is basically characteristic of societies with productive economy. And the time of general transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture is • likely in turn to come after some centuries of a society’s inhabiting a given territory because agriculturalists, due to the type of their economy and culture on the whole, are not inclined to distant migrations, especially to another ecological niche. As Armstrong put it just for the region we deal with, “West African agricultural societies tend to be intensely local in their cultural orientation. They move very little, and when they do migrate they do not go far” (Armtrong 1964: 128).

So the first Edo speakers in the forest were still foragers and no doubt it took them time for all-around adaptation under new ecological conditions to undergo not merely economic but also corresponding sococu1tural and political changes. The Yoruba way of settlements, including towns’ origin as that of hunters’ encampments (Mitchell 1961: 283) no doubt reflects the Edo model, too. It is likely that the memory of the fact of pre-agriculturalist Edo migrations inside their present-day area in a broader sense, transformed and corrupted by mythological orientated popular consciousness, is preserved in the above-quoted passage from the oral tradition’s relation concerning the band of hunters sent as if coming from Ife to inspect the land of the people’s further settling. By the way, the Yoruba have a myth of the same historical contents, much more extensive, developed, and closer to the core of the mythological Corpus of the ethnos. In particular, it relates that. Ore, the hunter, who was on Earth ad lived on an island in the primordial Ocean before the advent of Oduduwa, is in this myth the creator of the solid soil. He carne from heaven and is this way connected in the mythological consciousness with the introdution of agriculture (Beier 1955: 21f.; Murray and Willett 1958; Willett 1967: 123 f.).

As for the mentioning of the. City of Ife in this legend, it is very likely that we deal with an example. of either a mixture of temporal shifts inhuman memory or an invasion of mythological consciousness into the mode of recollecting and passing ethno historical events in the memory of generations. In the first case, Igbafe may be right in his discussion of the eastern origin of the Edo and the stop in Ife on their way supposing that “probably, . . . tradition of an eastern origin is a mere extension of that which links the present ruling dynasty in Benin from Ife” (Igbafe 1974: 2). In the second case, first of all, it is evident that in the times when the Kwa peoples migrated and still were foragers — what is reflected in the story about hunters who were the first to leave Ife for new lands, the city of Ife did not exist. Hardly it appeared earlier than in the. 6th century A.D. (Willett 1977: 269).

But it is easy to explain this contradiction if one recalls that for the Edo (and the Yoruba) Ife is the eternal sacred place of the creation of the world and of the appearance of human beings. It is absolutely natural that the mythoritual traditional consciousness of the Edo simply could not but find a room for Ife’s involvement into the story of their arrival in the Benin territory. If we do understand under the “migration from the east” that from the savanna region many centuries B .C. and not from Egypt in the 2nd half of the 1st millennium A.D., the second version seems much more preferable.

Darling draws the right conclusions insofar as he thinks that yarns (Dioscorea spp.) and the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) are better growing inside the transition zone between the forest and the savanna than in the high forest. This may be a hint that the Edo carried those plants along with them while travelling farther to the south (Darling 1984f1: 214). It is really proved that yams and oil palm were first domesticated in the savanna forest ecotone in the eastern part of West Africa and then spread southwards.

The Benin territory was partially agricultural in the1st  century B.C. (Shaw 1978: 68) — a few centuries later than Ife Yoruba (Ozanne 1969: 32) — precisely because they inhabit territories  much closer to the forest-savanna border and they became so primarily during the 1st half of the 1st millennium A.D. (Ryder 1985: 71; Connah 1987: 140 f.) though hunting and gathering were rather important means of subsistence for a thousand years more (Morgan 1959: 52; Roese arid Rees 1994).

At the same moment, Connah suggests that famous polished ‘stone axes (celts) could bear Witness to the first steps of forest agriculture in Benin (Connah 1975: 1 12) as well as in Ife and Ilesha areas where they were also found. Such a possibility must not be ruled out (Roese and Rees 1994: 541 f.). But besides difficulties of dating them, one must bear in mind their ritual character (none of those found bear traces of use just as axes). In this quality, they are well-known in many parts of the archaic world. Thus, even if later iron axes do demonstrate the succession from stone prototypes, the latter, quite possibly being produced for ritual ends also after the introduction of iron tools hardly can help to determine the date of transition to agriculture and, last but not least; it does not go without saying that those celts were produced by the Edo.

The time of the beginning of ironworking (no matter whether it appeared spontaneously or was brought from somewhere) marks that of the final transition to agriculture as the major means of subsistence and hence could serve as an additional proof for the dating of the end of the whole period of transition to agriculture (the starting point of it should be some centuries preceding the date of the introduction of metallurgy). And the time of hunter-gatherers’ migration to the place of future agriculturalists’ settling is to be still earlier.

The Nok culture covers entirely the Iron Age I (Willett 1982: 11). So, if the inhabitants of Nok re- ally were the ancestors of the Yoruba and hence the Edo, they could represent a pan of that ethnic stock which did lot migrate to the forest belt and due to that transcended to agriculture and then ironworking, and they, being earlier than Proto-Yoruba and Edo, were together with them inhabitants of those places for a considerable period of time preceding a the appearance of their Iron Age type culture. Iron is known in the forest zone from the 5th century AD. (Ryder 1985: 371). In the Benin territory concretely, it has probably also been used since the 1st half of the 1st millennium A.D. as Connah supposes (1972: 37). The first relics of an Iron Age culture, Ife, as it was mentioned, date back to a 6th century A.D. The first excavated Iron Age settlement in the Edo territory is of the 7th — 9th a centuries A.D. though iron appeared there .on the , brink of the eras (Darling 1984/II: 302) what seems a logical from the point of view of the a foresaid.

Thus, the earlier ancestors of the Edo came to their final place of inhabitance from the savanna belt, most probably the Niger-Benue confluence area in modern central Nigeria. After about 3,000 years of living in the savanna, they started penetrating into the forest in the 3rd—2nd millennia B.C. and finally migrated there in the 1st millennium B.C., still being foragers. It is ‘also reason able to admit that a part of the Edo and Yoruba ancestors did not follow those groups and rested inthe savanna.’ They could become the founders
of the Nok culture of the 1st millennium B .C. — the early centuries A.D. Already characterized by  agriculturalist economy. In the forest the transition to agriculture took place later, in the end of the 1st millennium B.C. to the 1st half of the 1st millennium A.D. In the social sphere this radical change was marked by the formation of the extended family community and its institutions of government. The middle of the1st millennium A.D., the conditions for further political centralization and concentration of power ripped on the background of developed hoe agriculture and iron smelting.

Pulling Different Kinds of Evidence Together
But still what to do with the legend about new- comers from Egypt? It is also worth analyzing, for some elements of the Edo culture, predominantly
elite, connected with rituals, symbolic, and art, seem to originate from northeastern Africa — 1st centuries AD. Egypt as well as Nubia and Meroe, related to the former. The ram which served as the common symbol for the Benin (and. Igbo-Ukwu and Yoruba) chiefs, subordinates of supreme rulers could represent a transformation of the Egyptian Amon. The ibis, a Benin royal symbol has parallels in its portraying in Egypt, too. The Bini harp resembles those from Meroe. The cross as a sign of dignity is known in Nubia and again in Meroe.

But all this should not a priori be considered as a result of migrations. From ancient times cultural ties have embraced the whole continent and even surpassed its boundaries though these relations are not sufficiently studied yet. Some separate northeastern African elements of culture were no doubt able to reach the forest belt in the west of the continent by a chain of northeastern, central, and western African peoples in the course of more or less considerable time. Furthermore, these few and separate elements of culture are not only traced in Egypt, Nubia, and Meroe on the one hand and among the Edo, Yoruba, and kindred peoples on the other hand. These elements (mentioned above and some others) were also present in cultures of peoples in between, in particular western Sudanese Anthropos 94.1999 (e.g. ,the Songhay, Jukun, Hausa) as well as those living further west like the Akan, Baule, and .other, and outside the African continent at all  Contrary to earlier scholars devoted to the Hamitic  theory, Africanists of a few recent decades elaborate more realistic theories of the penetration of the eastern African culture elements into the forest in the west of the continent. They postulate (heir gradual drift as a result of the dialogue of cultures but not as a rapid appearance in the area with any newcorners frorn Eg.ypt, Nubia, or Meroe (see, e.g., Schüz 1969; Berzina 1992: 144—154, 157f. 161f).

The same happened with the introduction of iron, if it really was of Meroe and not northern African origin (see, e.g., Berzina 1992: 135—142 vs. Many 1952; Oliver and Fagan 1978: 331— 333). Further it could well happen to the story of Lamurudu, too. This legend could spread (and did spread) among many peoples and reach Upper Guinea, since it had then been appropriate and prestigious to trace one’ s origin from him and his followers. It is possible to find an explanation for the fact that northeastern culture elements and traits, including the legend of the Egyptian origin, were considered as being prestigious and connected with the upper strata of the Benin society; an explanation which avoids the idea of subjugation of local inhabitants by invaders. According to Arutyunov’ s theory of penetration of innovations into the culture of the ethnos, other cultures’ values are regularly introduced into a culture just via the upper strata as prestigious and only then may go down to the popular level (Arutyunov 1973).

But the different armed conflicts in which Egypt was involved in classical times may have initiated migrations. Among those conflicts was the capture of Egypt by the Assyrians under Esarhaddon 676 BC. By the Persians under Cambyses 525 B.C., Alexander’s invasion 331 B.C., and the occupation of Egypt by the Romans 31 B.C... From about the 6th/7th centuries A.D., there emerged mysterious leaders in the southern regions of today’s Niger Republic and northern Nigeria near Lake Chad. Their names still linger on even today in the traditions of different ethnic groups. These state-founding foreigners (or their descendants) penetrated south from Borgu and Hausaland through Nupe, Jukun, Igala, and Yorubaland and eventually to Benin, Dahomey, and parts of Ghana. However, since especially the northern parts of today’s Nigeria and some regions below the line Niger-Benue have been subjected by Moslem conquerors at the beginning of the l9th century (“Jihad” of Othman Dan Fodia) who left their cultural mark on the conquered peoples, hardly any traditions survived and the few bits and pieces are difficult to verify.

The carriers of these pre-Islamic cultures could be, according to Solken, ideritical with the Zaghawa. They are “ohne Zweifel gleich den Tubu Athiopen und offenbar aus der Verlagerung der a1tithiopischeñ Garamantia. entstanden . . . Sie und ihre Ableger im Sudan — Kanembu und Kanuri — sind insgesamt vertreter des Barbarvolkerkreises  ., der von der alten Phazania bis in den Mit- telsudan reichte und tief nach Süden und weit nach Westen hin kulturbefruchtend ausgestrahlt hat, angeregt und geleitet durch, Hochkulturtrager vorn Typus cines Abd ui-Dar, cines ‘Kanaaniters’ Namudu . . ., dessen Narnensattribut sogar in der mauritanischen Tagant und in Futa Toro genannt wird . . ,, cines Bana Turumi und der anderen Turaleute Kisra, Amina, Bakwa Turunku, Aguza und Tazar, die irn letzten alle aus der ‘Stadt Kisras’ stammen, einst im Lande Badar oder Haiburra gelegen . . .d.h. in der Erythria oder in einem ihrer Mteren innerafrikanischen Pflanzstaaten’‘ (solken 1954: 892).

The above-mentioned Namudu . (Narnarudu, Lernerudu, Lamorodu, Lamurudu, etc. is of interest in view of Benin and in a broader sense, eventually Kisra. As the mentioning of the single person Lamorodu shows, one has to distinguish between leading persons and ethnic groups. Johnson, as already mentioned, saw in Lamurudu Nimrod, the Phoenician conqueror of Egypt who further went to Arabia but was expatriated from there with his followers. The Namudu migration from Arabia took place, according to old traditions, shortly after the birth of the prophet Mohammed (ca. A.D. 570), Le. Namudi eventually left the common home Haiburra (Haibirra) or Badar (Badr, Bedr) before Kisra. Narnudu is described as the leader of a caravan which set out from Birnin Kissera via Kugome (Zinder) and Chirkao (Kanche) and finally reached Daura. At this place, Namudu ordered a well to be dug and appointed the snake Ki as the guard (further details see Solken 1954: 835f.).

Daura is actually situated in northern Nigeria, however, as has been shown, the name Namudu/Lamerudu/Lamorodu can be traced right down to Benin as well as Yorubaland. The astonishing fact in view of this statement is that local informants never mentioned Lamorodu again. Since Kisra may eventually be identical with Namurudu or, he may have been his son or brother, some comments about him may be appropriate. Kisra is also mentioned, as the statement below of Krieger shows, in connection with the introduction of bronze casting. “Neben der Vermutung etc. daB vielleicht Perser, Juden oder Griechen die, GuBkunst im Niltal eingeführt haben und diese  dann westwirts verbreitet wurde, steht endlich.die von der nigerischen Lokaltradition unterstützte Annahme, daB die Kunst im 7. Jahrhundert durch eine aus dem Osten kommende Einwanderungs- welle unter dem Staatsgründer Kisra gebracht wor- den sei” (Krieger 1955: 33)

Whereas we only know little about Narnudu in the view of the regions which are of interest for us, the material about Kisra is much more substantial.  One of the most interesting researches, backed up rise by his own fieldwork to find traces of Kisra, was undertaken by Mathews in 1926. He states: “The Kisra legend . . . is common in the Northern Provinces of Nigeria from Wukari on the Benue River to Tilo and Bussa on the Niger. It tells of a magician king of that name who was driven out of Arabia by the Prophet and who founded a series of pagan states in the Western Sudan. It has been the stated that the Jukun of Wukari has no knowledge of the Kisra tradition. But this is not so. The Aku Oka (the Priest-King, or rather, Divine King, of the .Jukun) keeps a sword and a spear which are said to have been left at Wukari by Kisra. The sword is called butren, ‘the sword of olden time, ‘and the spear is called ishigh, which is not the usual word for a spear in Jukun and is applied to this spear alone. . . . The Jukun say that they came from the East (Egypt or Mecca) and in Bornu and Katsina both Kororafa and Wukari (its off-shoot) are said to have been founded by descendants of Kisra. The Kakau of Songhai asserts that about A.D. 600 there was a great migration from east to west across the Sudan called the Kisra Migration. The ‘Kisra’ are made out to be Persians who fought against Rum (the Byzantines) and were driven west, entering Nigeria by way of Lake Chad” (1950: 144)

Brentjes writes this context: “616 besetzten persische Truppen Agypten und zogen den Nil aufwirts bis nach Nubien. Im femen Nige ria fanden noch im 19. Jahrhundert deütsche .und englische Ethnographen Legenden über einen  Zug Chosraus zum Niger — wahrscheinlich waren . versprengte Einheiten nach der Niederlage vor Konstantinopel im Niltal abgeschnitten worden”
(1967: 172).

It is very much likely that Kisra can be seen in context with the Sasanian Chosrau (Chosroes, Khosrow) II Parviz (A.D. 590—628) since the latter is called in Arabic Kisra as well. There is a remarkable similarity of a type of sword from Benin with the Khopesh, a weapon very common among the Babylonians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, etc. (Roese 1992: 375). The statements above have been selected from a vast number of references. However, for the time being it is not possible to draw proper conclusions in the context. Egharevba’s statements could eventually contain a bit of truth as the Edo reached their present habitations from a north-easterly direction.

The importance of the east in the Edo picture of the universe is underlined by the fact that just there they situate the supreme deity, Osa (or Osanobua) (Talbot 1926/II: 37). It seems natural for them that the creator of the world should live where the Sun rises and the new day begins.

And Ben-Amos points in connection with Osanobua and the Ogiso, rulers of the 1st dynasty in Benin, to the east: “The east is the cardinal direction associated with the creator god, Osanobua, and with the creation of land, which first rose out, of the primordial waters in a place which today is the Igbo town of Agbor to the east of Benin. All the sites where once the Ogisos built their palaces and ancient quarters are on the eastern side of the present City” (Ben-Amos 1980: 1,3).

Jungwirth reports in view of the indicated direction: “Interessanterweise deuten alle Aussagen des Ohenso von Ugbekun, der Priester aher Mtire der Ogiso, darauf hin, daB der erste Ogiso aus dem Nord-Osten gekommen ist; Andererseits erinnern die ErzLihlungen über den ersten Ogiso an  Ursprungsmyth.der Yoruba. DaB es sich aber nicht um Yoruba-Kinige handelt, wird durch den Titel Ogiso angedeutet” (1968: 68).

The east plays a certain role in the Edo calendar which eventually corresponds to the above-said. Egharevba notes: There are four days in the week representing the four corners of the earth. Eken the east, Orie the west, Aho the south, Okuo the north. Eken is a day of rest.” “People do not as a rule go to the farm on that day, but they may do any work in the home. Councils are usually held on this day.. .“ (1949: 81; see also Egharevba 1960: 84) While the days associated with the south and the north were market ones, another native writer amplifies, “Eken and Orie, which also mean the rising and the setting sun, belonged to the gods. It. was dangerous to travel on these two days in case one met the gods” (Omoregie 1972: 9 f)

The subject should not be concluded without mentioning one of the oldest sites of discovery of bronze inside the West African forest. T. Shaw made some astonishing discoveries at Igbo-Ukwu (east of the Niger, Awka District). Prominent among the findings .is the burial chamber of: a dignitary which was dated to about A.D 900 (Shaw 1979). There is no evidence of connections between the Igbo-Ukwu culture, whose origin are not known up till now, and Benin. The Igbo-Ukwu bronzes show no stylistic similarity to those known from Ife and Benin. Nevertheless, two features are remarkable: the facial marks depicted on a bronze head are nearly as prominent as we know them from the Ife heads. Furthermore, there are some snake representations similar to those known from Benin. However, this is not unusual in West Africa.

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Benin kingdom copy right