THE BEAUTY OF Ancient Benin Kingdom “Legroing tells us : ” The city of Benin is situated in a plain surrounded by deep ditches. Vestiges of an old earthen wall are to be seen ; the wall could hardly have been built of any other material as we did not see a single stone in the whole journey.
The houses for the most part are covered with latanier leaves, and those of the king with large shingles. In front of the king’s houses there were two thick clumps of high trees, and these appeared to us to be the only trees planted by the hand of man (Labarthe, p. 175)!’ From Landolphe we learn that a ” ditch more than 20 feet wide and as deep surrounds the town, and the soil taken out is made on the city side into a talus, on which a thorny hedge has been planted so thick, that not even an animal can get through.
The height of this talus deprives one of a view of the houses at a distance, and one does not see them until entering the town, the gates of which are very far apart ” (II., 48).”
The streets are very broad, in the middle there is turf on which the kids and sheep feed , about thirty feet from the houses there is a level road, covered with sand for the inhabitants to walk on ” [ibid, II., 50).
He also mentions several spacious courts surrounded by earthen walls about sixteen feet high. Along the inside of the walls there ran a gallery fifteen feet wide, thatched with natanier.
The thatching is done by overlapping the leaves which not being pulled apart, fall one on top of another to a thickness of eighteen inches.
This roof is supported by large pieces of timber cut into the shape of pillars. They are set up about eighteen feet apart, and carry stout horizontal planks on which abut the sloping joists which carry the roof, which was an ingenious piece of work ” (ibid, I., 111-112).
Of the apartments of the king’s wives he says the walls are twenty feet high and five feet thick, solidly built of earth [ibid, I., 335) H. Ling Roth, Great Benin ]Modern (recent) concept art by Stephen Hamilton giving his artistic interpretation.
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