Salvaging Earthworks in Ijebu-Ode: A Fruitful Archaeological Survey

For three weeks now, my team and I have been carrying out a pedestrian survey across the town of Ijebu-Ode, in Nigeria. The town is growing at a frantic pace, and its archaeological relics was fastly disappearing. This archaeological enterprise becomes pertinent at such a time as this. Up till now, what we know about Ijebu-Ode’s past in the light of archaeological record was its centeredness within the longest single monument in Africa, known as Sungbo Eredo. The Ijebu Kingdom is surrounded by Sungbo-Eredo which is about 180km in circumference and stretches along two states (Ogun and Lagos). The monument was first documented by the Portuguese Chronicler, Pacheco Pereira in the early 16th century as a large ditch that surrounds a kingdom. While Peter Lloyd and Patrick Darling were the first archaeologists/Historians to document this earthwork in 1959 and 1996 respectively, David Aremu, and the Chouin-led team of archaeologists from William and Mary, and the University of Ibadan respectively have consistently studied Sungbo Eredo within the last 10 years. It was thus concluded, although still under analysis, that the ditch is up to 600 years. That is, probably built around the second half of the fourteenth century or the beginning of the fifteenth century.

The monument was first documented by the Portuguese Chronicler, Pacheco Pereira in the early 16th century as a large ditch that surrounds a kingdom. While Peter Lloyd and Patrick Darling were the first archaeologists/Historians to document this earthwork in 1959 and 1996 respectively, David Aremu (Since 2002), and the Chouin-led team of archaeologists from William and Mary (2015-2018), and the University of Ibadan respectively have consistently studied Sungbo Eredo within the last 15 years. It was thus concluded that the ditch is up to 600 years, that is, probably built around the second half of the fourteenth century or the beginning of the fifteenth century.

The earliest map provided by Llyod and Darling showed that Ijebu-Ode itself does have relics of earthworks. This became the central question in my 2017 survey-to retrieve these relics within Ijebu-Ode itself. It is now thought that the remains of earthworks within Ijebu Ode is an internal enclosure and is different from the aforementioned external enclosure.

Using Google Satelite maps and following instructions from Gerard Chouin, I was able to document three separate system of Banks and Ditches within Ijebu-Ode. The First was found inside a secondary school-Anglican Girls Grammar School, Ijebu-Ode. Meeting with the Principal  Officers of this school, I was told that they thought the feature was a drainage system that would pose an erosional threat to the school hence the need to fill it up sooner or later. Little do they know that they were about to close up the only surviving earthwork at the innermost part of Ijebu-Ode. Upon enlightening them, they thus deem it fit to preserve such monument in their compound. It is, therefore, my intention to go back to this school to carry out an intense archaeological excavation and drawing of stratigraphy. Perhaps this would play a pivotal role in my doctoral dissertation.

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Towards the Fringe of the Town is a valley crossed by ditches. We were able to map this ditch and banks and also recovered some potsherds and cowries. Upon reaching the coda of our work, we were able to find the remnants of walls within Ijebu-Ode. The question now is; which is older? The inner enclosures just found or the external one already known? The answer lies in the results from the dates we will get from the artifacts recovered. Until then, I remain Olanrewaju Lasisi.

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