Igbo-Ukwu; A Must Visit African Jerusalem For All Pilgrims
The name Igbo-ukwu needs no more formal introduction in the anal of history worldwide. The town which is currently in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State had been on the limelight since three notable archaeological sites were excavated between 1938, 1957 and 1959 at homes of its three worthy sons namely, Isaiah, Richard and Jonah Anozie, now referred to as Igbo Isaiah, Igbo Richard and Igbo Jonah.
News48hrs.com learnt that the sites were stockpiled with house of regalia, buried chamber, and disposal pit, wherein some bronze treasures such as a ritual Pottery Vessel, Scabbard, Pendant with rams head, Human face with scarification, Bronze bowl, and a pear – shaped bowl were recovered. These objects include bronze pendant ornaments in the form of elephants, leopard, ram heads as insects like flies, beetles and grasshoppers sit upon the heads, arranged sparingly in symmetrical order; bronze pendants in the form of a bird, lying on a pair of eggs.
According to our findings, first discovery was made by a worker hired to dig a cistern during dry season in 1939 by one Mr. Isaiah Anozie. The found treasures were eventually brought to the National Museum Lagos in 1957 by the Colonial Assistant District Officer in charge of the area informed of the incident, followed by proper archaeological excavations of the area led by Professor Thurstan Shaw and a team of National Museum experts after receiving a permission from Mr. Richard Anozie, the brother of Isaiah Anozie.
The dominant visible features of Igbo – Ukwu bronze objects most of which now lies in British Museum are: fine decoration of the surface of the objects: geometric designs of parallel lines, triangles, circles and raised dots, overlaid with fine threads, pellets and spirals; and the common representation of insects (like flies, beetles, grasshoppers that threatens agricultural products).
Scientific analysis shows that the bronzes are heavily leaded and differ in their metal composition and technological process from those of Ife and Benin, even as they were produced through the use of the “lost wax” or “hollow cast” method of casting, which involved the modelling of the object in wax and then replacing that with molten bronze.
Thus, the objects which carbon-date to 9th AD is said to constitute one of the richest bronze treasures in Nigeria, older than others later excavated in Africa, and best in the world though they have not received relative publicity like those of Benin bronzes, Ife terra-cottas and Nok terra-cottas. Consequent upon this, the town had been described variously as the ancient bronze city; the ancestral land of the entire Igbo – race, and the cradle of black civilisation.
Little wonder the Palace Secretary to Igbo-Ukwu Monarch, Mazi Okafouzu Ugochukwu said that the town made up of seven villages, called Obiuno, Ngo, Akukwa, Umudege, Ezihu, Ezigbo and Etiti, with largest ancient local market in Africa, Nkwo-Igbo, was previously known as Igbo till 1946 when the people in a meeting decided to add ‘Ukwu’ (great or first Igbo) to differentiate it from Igbo as a race following a punishment meted upon them by the colonial masters.
“We are not surprised by the discoveries because Igbo-Ukwu has been in existence since creation of the earth. The town was inhibited by Jabbokigbo or Igbo, the founder of Igbo race. That was why we retained the name till1946 when we chose to add Ukwu to it in order to differentiate it from Igbo as a race having being mercilessly punished by Oyibos working at Ugwuogbu Agulu. They usually whip our people working with them whenever they said they are from Igbo town thinking that they were trying to hide their real identity... But till date, the land agreement entered with them while building Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Mission remains Igbo as our market, Nkwo Igbo. Besides, our people used to burying things till date but not usually intentional. So, some of these archaeological materials were disposed waste” he told news48hrs.com.
On his part, the Traditional Ruler of Igbo-ukwu, His Royal Highness Igwe Dr. Barr. Martin N. Ezeh (Idu II) retorted: “These shows that Igbo-Ukwu is as old as Adam. It is the ancestral home of Igbos. People from all parts of the world, including the Israelites, Egyptians, Benin, Northern Nigeria and others migrated to their present locations from here. We have different history of how our people migrated from here to far Europe, and other part of the world as a result of needs for expansion, communal wars, etc. Some of these treasures were carefully buried by their owners, who ran for safety during the various wars and never returned”.
On further investigation, news48hrs.com gathered that no fewer than ten world renowned Igbo cultural monuments stands tall in the town to that effect for historians, archaeologists, tourists and lovers of history to behold. These include the Centre for Black Arts& African Civilisation (CIBAC), National Gallery of Arts (NAT), National Museum, National Yam House, Old People Home (home for rehabilitation of old people), and Anambra State Museum.
In a recent visit to Anambra State Museum, the curator, Mrs. Okoye Chukwunonyelum told news48hrs.com that most of the artefacts in the museum were excavated from Igbo-ukwu and they showcase how our forefathers lived their lives, the similarities and dissimilarities between their level of development and ours.
Among these artefacts are stones used for rekindling fire during stone age, oji (kola nut), ofo (ritual staff), white chalk (nzu), afa (used for divination), atanu (bell use for divination), ikenga (wooden figure or sculpture), jigida, uhe, and nja mostly wore by virgins and girls of marriageable age, olden day ceramics pots and plates (okwa oji, okwa nzu, okwa nri), deities, musical instruments uba akwala, igba), different currency, olden days save and baskets, ritual pots or iteike, masquerades, bullet proofs.
Explaining some of these artefacts, Okoye said: “oji is use for prayers and welcoming visitors. Nzu is use for peace and purifications that is why our people used it to draw four strokes on the ground which stands for four market days—Eke, afo, oye and nkwo... Ofo, made of ofo tree is a ritual staff and symbol of truth. The only person authorised to hold it is the most elderly male child or first born of the family, who must be a person of high integrity else he dies. This is why people answers Ejimofor, ofomaonyejiya, ojiofo gana, and others.
“Afa is used for divination by diviners to consult the spirit and the gods. Also, Atanu or bell is use for divination and as siren by the olden days rich men. Ikenga is a certificate awarded to warriors and great achievers. That is why you see people with ikengaof distinct sizes and figure symbolising their area of specialisation. Uri oku and uri akwu are Candle sticks....Most of these artefacts were used over 500 years ago, and were excavated in a tomb of their king. These show that our ancestors were civilised and orderly.”