African Culture: The Igbo Pyramids Of Nigeria And Its Mystery

by Duke Magazine

The mystery of when, how, and why the Igbo pyramids located in Nsude on the Udi highlands of Enugu State, South-Eastern Nigeria, were built has since not been unfolded. Some say the Igbo pyramids, also known as the Nsude pyramids, were constructed in the memory of Uto-Nsude, the community’s war hero that has since become a deity.

The pyramids were first discovered by Europeans carrying out explorations for solid minerals around the Udi hills, according to the Vanguard. British explorer Luke Walter is believed to be the first to have discovered the pyramids while leading exploration missions in 1891. But his accounts of the discovery were never found. Some historians believe he did not document what he found.

Then in 1935, an anthropologist and colonial administrator in the area, G.I. Jones, took photographs of the pyramids when he chanced upon them while building up an extraordinary photographic record of Southeastern Nigerian culture, according to Pulse Nigeria. He took photos of the 10 circular stepped pyramids and printed them. His notes about the discovery written behind the printed black and white photographs of the pyramids are vital today.

Since the 1930s when Jones took photos of the historical structures, not much work has been done on them and they are almost in ruins. Believed to have in the past been maintained annually with red mud mixed with cow dung, the Igbo pyramids have often been compared with the Step Pyramid of Saqqara in Egypt except for the conical shape of the former. The Step Pyramid is the first pyramid built in Egypt in 2700 B.C.

It is believed that the Igbo pyramids were built at the same time the first or second wave of Egyptian pyramids were built by the Nubians. There are no records to prove that.

Archaeologists recently said that they think Egyptian pyramids were built using a ramp which they believe was used to pull alabaster blocks of stone up the Pyramids using a two-way pulley system. The Igbo pyramids were however made of tons of hardened red mud and clay, as stated by the Vanguard. It is reported by Pulse Nigeria that the first base section of the pyramids was 60 ft. in circumference and 3 ft. in height. The next was 45 ft. in circumference. Circular stacks continued to the top.

The pyramids were reportedly traditional worship temples for the deity, Ala or Uto, who was said to reside at the top. A stick was placed at the top to represent the god’s residence while the structures were laid in groups of five parallel to each other, Pulse Nigeria said.

Pharaohs in Egypt, with the belief that they would become gods in the afterlife, prepared for the next world by erecting temples to the gods and huge pyramid tombs for themselves. To date, there are more than 100 surviving pyramids although the most famous is the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. The pyramids are among the various architectural wonders of Egypt that represent African history and civilization. They attract tourists to date.

In Nigeria, the Igbo pyramids show ancient Igbo connections with ancient Nubia but the West African country is yet to benefit culturally from the historical structures.

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