The Walls of Benin were a combination of ramparts and moats, called Iya in the local language, used as a defense of the historical Benin City, formerly of the now defunct Kingdom of Benin and now the capital of the present-day Edo Stateof Nigeria. It was considered the largest man-made structure lengthwise, second only to the Great Wall of China, and was hailed as the largest earthwork in the world. With more recent work by Patrick Darling, it has been established as the largest man-made structure in the world, larger than Sungbo’s Eredo. It enclosed 6,500 km² of community lands. Its length was over 16,000 km of earth boundaries. It was estimated that earliest construction began in 800 AD and continued into the mid 1400’s.
The walls are built of a ditch and dike structure; the ditch dug to form an inner moat with the excavated earth used to form the exterior rampart.
The Benin Walls were ravaged by the British in 1897 during what has come to be called the Punitive expedition. Scattered pieces of the structure remain in Edo, with the vast majority of them being used by the locals for building purposes. Sadly, what remains of the wall itself continues to be torn down for real estate developments.
The Walls of Benin City was the world’s largest man-made structure. Fred Pearce wrote in New Scientist:
- “They extend for some 16,000 kilometres in all, in a mosaic of more than 500 interconnected settlement boundaries. They cover 6,500 square kilometres and were all dug by the Edo people. In all, they are four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops. They took an estimated 150 million hours of digging to construct, and are perhaps the largest single archaeological phenomenon on the planet.