The Watch

Benin City Earthworks

Edo, Nigeria

2002, 2004 and 2006 World Monuments Watch

The Benin City Walls consist of a set of inner and outer interlocking rings originally built to delineate the royal precinct of the Oba, or king, from the surrounding area. Built to an original height of more than 18 meters and a length of 1,200 kilometers, the earthworks attest the development of urbanization and the rise of state societies in Sub-Saharan Africa, a process that began in the seventh century A.D. and culminated with the founding of the Benin Kingdom in the fourteenth century. Damaged by the British in 1897, portions of the walls have gradually vanished in the process of modernization; large segments have been cannibalized for the construction of new buildings. Significant stretches remain, however, enclosing red-earth shrines and other architecture. Though the walls and moats have been protected by national legislation since 1961, a management plan and public awareness campaign were developed for the site only after it was included on the 2002 Watch list. Emergency conservation work is still desperately needed. Last update: December 2010

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