African Legacy - School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth University


Project funding: Owu section
  • To disseminate rapid rainforest survey techniques and encourage field survey work at the University of Ibadan
  • To survey and date a kingdom boundary ditch adjacent to Sungbo's Eredo (dug by Bilikisu, Islamic Queen of Sheba)
  • To train African Legacy workers in the role of survey facilitators to academic colleagues

  • Abeokuta palace in 1946, showing royal ridged thatch patterns.  Old Owu people settled here and founded Abeokuta around Olomu rock after their conquest in about 1827.
    Orile Owu
    Old Owu was the earliest forest kingdom to be founded from Ife over a thousand years ago. It grew to be a powerful forest kingdom able even to humble Old Oyo. Old Owu's 15km long inner ditch was dug two to four metres deep, here cutting for 500 metres through hard laterite to create a deep rainy season moat.

    A cross section of this ditch

    Olomu rock in 1946: note the thatch on ordinary houses compared to the palace.
    silk cotton trees (Ceiba pentandra)
    Along the inner and outer ditch sides of the walls of Old Owu (Owu Orile) silk-cotton trees (Ceiba pentandra) were planted at regular intervals of about 150 metres, though they were also planted in groups. These trees were used as boundary markers in other areas of West Africa; and their fluffy kapok was used for cushions and as tinder.
    Tree Roots
    Tree roots helped stablize the ditch banks at Orile Owu. The ditches owe their steep sides to the anomalouosly high clay content in the Coastal Plains Sands, resulting from windblown silt and clay deposition from the Sahara.
    Saw Cuts
    Saw cuts into a felled palm tree and timber off-cuts betray the activities of those destroying these ancient ditches natural defences. Old Owu's ditches and those of Sungbo's Eredo are some of Africa's largest ancient monuments but they have not yet been made into National Monuments; and there are problems with the predatory activities of Indian, Chinese, Italian and British timber merchants carrying out illegal exports. It remains to be seen whether Nigeria's local communities and paramount chiefs will take action instead.

    A provisional map of Old Owu's large earthwork enclosures is available from:
    African Legacy

    Fuller details can be obtained from: 
    Dr Ogundele, 
    Department of Archaeology, 
    University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

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