Was the Great Wall of China the Most Impressive Wall Ever Built?

The Great Wall of China might be the world's most famous fortification system, but it's certainly not the only one. For example, an impressive series of walls once encircled Benin City, the capital of the Kingdom of Benin in what is now southern Nigeria. Ruled by the Oba of Benin, the Kingdom of Benin existed from the 11th century until the 19th century, when it was conquered by the British Empire. Over hundreds of years, Benin's inhabitants surrounded their capital and criss-crossed their kingdom with a series of walls that, according to some estimates, measured around 10,000 miles (16,000 km) in length. The Benin Walls required so much material that Guinness World Records described their construction as the largest earthworks project ever attempted before the mechanical age. Sadly, although the walls took an estimated 150 million manpower hours to build, there is little trace of them today.

A powerful West African kingdom, lost to history:

  • Benin City (originally known as Edo) was all but destroyed during the Benin Expedition of 1897. The city was burned and looted as a punitive measure carried out by around 1,200 British soldiers under the command of Admiral Sir Henry Rawson, and the kingdom became part of the British Empire.

  • According to author Fred Pearce, the Benin Walls covered an area of around 2,500 square miles (6,500 sq km), including the kingdom's capital and 500 surrounding settlements. He described them as "perhaps the largest single archaeological phenomenon on the planet.”

  • In 1691, a Portuguese ship captain described Benin City as "wealthy and industrious." Lourenco Pinto said that "Great Benin" was larger than Lisbon, with long, straight streets, large houses, and very little crime.

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More Info: The Guardian

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