The Story of West African Lost Kingdoms3 min read

West African Lost Kingdoms


Africa where the human race began. Nearly a billion people lived here and it’s a continent with an incredible diversity of communities and cultures. Yet we know less of its history than almost anywhere else on earth. But that’s beginning to change, in the last few decades researchers and archeologists have begun to uncover a range of histories as impressive and extraordinary as anywhere else on earth. It’s a history which has been neglected for years and it’s largely without written records. But it is preserved for us in the gold and statues in the culture art and legends of the people. In this post we will discover the history and find out what really happened for the lost kingdoms of Africa.
Many of the stories of Africa are told in the British Museum in London. This is where thousands of artifacts collected bought and taken from the continent ended up. When they were first discovered, objects from the ancient kingdoms of West Africa storm the wall. None more so, did these extraordinary plugs they came from what was once the kingdom of Benin and around 500 years old. When the British came upon these objects in 1897 they thought there’s no way they could have been created by Africans. They were amazed that the detail in the intricacy, they were seen as being something completely revolutionary to the British and you can to stand why.

These aren’t carvings they’re 16th century casts in copper-rich alloys of brass and bronze. Over 900 plugs are thought to have been made. To produce each one the artist would need to know how to make and fire a clay mold and how to melt the metals to pour into was seen as an incredibly difficult skill to master. The combination of relatively sophisticated science and artistic accomplishment, baffled most durably in 19th century observers. They couldn’t believe that so-called primitives have been capable of producing work of the same standard as their European contemporaries. These amazing objects just didn’t match the Europeans view of West Africa the questions were where did they get the technology to develop this amazing Bronze work and where did they find the materials.
But the clues to how such artifacts were manufactured and therefore the finding reveal much about the West African kingdoms that created them. Research to know why they were made, what they mean and what that tells us about the time and place they were produced. Some symbols that seem to reoccur the leopard, the snake, the crocodile were very important hence the need to find out what they mean and why they were so important to these people.

These recurring images reminded us of the symbolic motifs in Renaissance art. They carry hidden layers of meaning beyond the understanding of the imperialistic Brits. So what do the bronzes tell us about the kingdom of Benin and its power and its culture and what does the technology required to make them tell us about pre-colonial West Africa?
A travel to modern-day Nigeria where the kingdom of Benin reached its height in the sixteenth century to explore a canopy of ancient cities and kingdoms in West Africa founded many centuries before Benin.
The center of power of the kingdom of Benin is Benin City, today it’s one of Nigeria’s thriving cities home to over a million Africans. The main circle in the center is dotted with statues, public art depicting Benin’s history. For 600 years until the late 19th century they dominated this part of West Africa but the kingdom’s form a scale and power are not immediately obvious unless you know where.

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