State building, and the sacralization of iron in West Africa which involves the Benin Kingdom, Oyo Empire and Dahomey Kingdom Warfare.

The Guinea Coast of West Africa saw the initiation and emergence of powerful conquest states between the years, 1400 and 1700, dominating the forest belt for centuries. Notable among these were the Edo kingdom of Benin, the Fon kingdom of Dahomey, and the various Yoruba kingdoms such as Oyo.

Meanwhile, their domination was birthed from the back of well-organized armies with advanced iron technology, particularly in smelting. The earliest sub-Saharan ironworkers, discovered in central Nigeria’s Taruga site, dates back to the 0th century B.C. By the 13th to 14th centuries, iron smelting was established in the west African county, Benin.

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Further, Ironworking played a crucial role in state formation in tropical Africa. The ability to produce weapons through advanced iron technology was essential for expanding political province.

The control over iron sources meant total control over military force. Rich ore deposits, centered around places like Old Oyo, Ilorin, and the Egbado area, allowed large-scale smelting. These smelting sites, with signifssentials ulations, contributed to the formation of forest belt empires. The possession of iron smelting knowledge and control over ore sources were deemed critical for conquering groups expanding into West Africa’s kingdoms and empires. In effect, iron was essential for successful warfare, which, in turn, was the driving force behind expansion and state building.

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By the late 15th century, when Portuguese explorers arrived in Benin, it had already evolved into an expanding warrior kingdom. Duarte Pachecho Pereira, a Portuguese sailor, described Benin as a kingdom engaged in constant warfare with neighboring regions, capturing many captives.

Despite intensive trade between the Portuguese and Benin during this period, European imports, particularly guns and iron, were not provided due to restrictions. However, Benin had developed its militaristic power independently.

In the late 16th century, Dutch accounts noted Benin’s organized markets, such as “Dia de Ferro” for a major market day and “Ferro” for a smaller one. These markets featured a variety of iron goods, fishing instruments, weapons like Assagai, and knives, showcasing a thriving and well-organized trade in the kingdom.


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