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{Last Update June 11, 2023}

The Benin moat, also known traditionally as Iya, is the largest man-made earthwork in the world. It predates the use of modern earth-moving equipment or technology in these parts.

The moat encircles the old perimeter precincts of the City and was constructed as a defensive barrier in times of war.

The Guinness Book of World Records describes the walls of Benin City as the world's second largest man-made structure after China's Great Wall, in terms of length, and the series of earthen ramparts as the most extensive earthwork in the world.

Oba Oguola {about 1280-1295} dug the first and second moats to fortify the City from invaders, including the Imperial European invaders, who at the time were hunting for African slaves labourers. To stop the slave hunters from entering the kingdom, Oba Oguola further decreed that important towns and Villages should build similar moats as defense systems around their communities.This gave rise to twenty of such moats around Benin City and its environs.

An extension of the moat was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of Oba Ewuare.

During the second half of the 15th century, Oba Ewuare the Great (ruled 1440-1473 AD) ordered a moat to be dug in the heart of the city. The earthworks served as a bastion and also afforded control of access to the capital which had nine gates that were shut at night.

The Benin moat is over 3200 kilometers long.
The defensive fortification of Benin City, the capital,
consisted of ramparts and moats enclosing a 4000 square kilometer (2485.5 miles) of community lands.

In total, the Benin wall system encompasses over 10,000 kilometers (6213.7 miles) of earth boundaries.

Patrick Darling, an archaeologist, estimates that the complex was built between 800 and 1000 up to the late fifteenth century.

Advantageously situated, the moats were dug in such a manner that earthen banks provided outer walls that complemented deep ditches. The ditches formed an integral part of the intended barrier, but was also a quarry for the material to construct the wall.

The ramparts range in size from shallow traces to the immense 20-meter-high (66 feet) around Benin City.

Early European visitors never failed to be impressed with the Benin City's grandeur and level of organization. Benin as it appears in documents of the seventeenth century the natural reflection of centralized wealth was its magnificent capital city Benin.

The Portuguese compared it with Lisbon, the Dutch with Amsterdam or Antwerp, the Italians with Florence, and the Spaniards with Madrid.
This sophistication is why Benin City is still referred to as "THE CRADLE OF

Its size was matched by dense habitation; houses built close to each other along long, straight streets.

The royal palace, a city within the city, was also impressive, with countless squares and patios and innumerable doors and passageways, all richly decorated with the art that has made Benin famous.
The city was orderly, well laid out, and sparkling clean so that the
walls of the houses appeared polished.

The people dressed in white, others in yellow, blue or green.
Sadly today, the moat is being defaced by refuse and erosion.

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Benin kingdom copy right