Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

The Greatest Wall of All Times

The greatest wall of all time was the Walls of Benin in Nigeria. This ancient construction encircles Benin City in Nigeria's Edo State with an estimated length of up to 16,000 kilometers or around 9,941 miles. Note that an estimated length of 10,000 miles is similar to the approximate circumference of the Earth around the equator. 

Walls of Benin

The Walls of Benin, this remarkable engineering feat commenced around 800 AD and continued to evolve over centuries, reaching its zenith in the 14th century. They were built to protect the kingdom from invaders and displayed the power and wealth of The Kingdom of Benin. 

The Kingdom of Benin had its share of conflicts and territorial disputes with neighboring kingdoms. These neighboring kingdoms, such as the Igala and the Idah, posed significant threats and were among the primary adversaries. The walls were constructed to protect against incursions and invasions from neighboring states. These remarkable structures are massive defensive walls that played a significant role in safeguarding the city.  

The Nigerian Walls of Benin, built to protect the city of Benin, were not simply a continuous wall but a complex network of defensive walls surrounding the city. These walls were not all the same length, with some sections being longer and more elaborate than others. The walls were constructed using various techniques, including earthworks, moats, and ditches, and were reinforced with wooden and mud ramparts. 

Earthworks refer to using soil and earth to build mounds, embankments, or walls. In the context of the Walls of Benin, this involved shaping and piling up earth to form massive walls. These earthworks were the foundation of the defensive structure and provided a substantial physical barrier that would be difficult for attackers to breach. They also served as vantage points for the defenders.

Moats are deep, broad ditches filled with water that often surround fortifications. In the case of the Walls of Benin, moats were excavated around the city, creating a water-filled trench that further fortified the defenses. These moats were not only obstacles for potential invaders but also served to control access to the city. Crossing a moat would be a challenging and hazardous endeavor for attackers.

Wooden palisades are vertical fences or walls made of sharpened wooden stakes. These were constructed in certain sections of the Walls of Benin. Wooden palisades acted as supplementary defenses and were particularly effective at deterring or impeding attackers. The pointed ends of the stakes were designed to discourage climbing or breaching the walls. These wooden structures added an extra layer of security to the overall defensive system.

Built by skilled engineers, it served as a protective barrier, keeping Benin City secure from potential threats in the past. The moat is a testament to Benin's engineering prowess and commitment to fortifying their city against external forces, making it a fascinating historical marvel in Africa.

The walls, moats, and wooden palisades provided controlled access to the city. This allowed the rulers of Benin to regulate trade and visitors while protecting against those who might have ill intentions. These walls were not a single, unbroken wall like the Great Wall of China but a combination of earthworks, moats, and wooden palisades that encircled Benin City and its surroundings. 

The Walls of Benin boast a mix of well-preserved and dilapidated sections, with some parts lost to the ravages of time. These surviving portions hold immense cultural and historical significance and are revered as invaluable heritage sites. Estimates suggest these walls may have spanned anywhere from approximately 10,000 to 16,000 kilometers, around 6,213 to 9,941 miles. This extensive length makes the Walls of Benin one of history's longest and most significant defensive structures.

Three other notable African walls are the Great Zimbabwe Walls, Kano City Walls, and Gede Ruins Wall.

Great Zimbabwe Walls in Zimbabwe. The Great Zimbabwe Walls in Zimbabwe are an awe-inspiring testament to the ancient kingdom's architectural prowess. Comprising massive dry stone walls that encircled the city, these structures were the heart of a flourishing civilization from the 11th to the 15th century. The walls, constructed without mortar, showcase remarkable craftsmanship, as stones were meticulously stacked to create a secure and imposing enclosure.

Kano City Walls in Nigeria. The Kano City Walls in Nigeria stand as a symbol of enduring heritage and defensive ingenuity. These impressive walls, dating back to the 14th century, encircle the ancient city of Kano in northern Nigeria. Comprising massive mud-brick ramparts and gates, they were constructed to protect the city from external threats. 

Gede Ruins Wall of Kenya. Gede is an ancient Swahili town on the Kenyan coast known for its ruins and city walls. These walls protected the town during its heyday in the 13th century. The Gede Ruins Wall in Kenya whispers the secrets of a once-thriving Swahili town on the Kenyan coast. The ruins, enveloped by the lush coastal forest, reveal intricate stone structures and city walls. 

Walls of Benin are not an official World Heritage site.

The Walls of Benin is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the key criteria for UNESCO World Heritage status is a comprehensive understanding of the site's historical and cultural significance. The Walls of Benin have faced challenges regarding limited historical documentation and extensive research, which are essential for a successful nomination.

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