Identifying Map Content
Osaisonor Godfrey Ekhator-Obogie

The map is simultaneously the past and present of Benin Kingdom and Benin City—the streets mark present urban development while the quarters remain in their traditional geographical setting. Thus, the map creates an experience of Benin Kingdom from a temporal perspective, showing as many places of important historical trajectories in the kingdom as possible—from Ọba Palace in the capital of the kingdom, Benin City, through the inner and outer layers of centuries-old moats, to the outlying provinces, towns and villages. The map helps identify various locations and sites within the ancient Benin City that have survived to date—in particular,  the location of each guild and the gates to the ancient city.

These sites are labelled with historical content that complements the fieldwork, giving users a firsthand experience of historical Benin as a geographical space. The goal of the map is to connect the geographical location to historical content, like in the case of the Ọba Palace. On the map, the palace site is linked to the Itan Edo, which shows the kings of Benin Kingdom and some of their notable achievements. As part of the palace structure, the kings’ attendants, retainers and chiefs, described according to their chieftaincy categories, palace societies and affiliated guilds, are also shown. The descriptions highlight the socio-political and economic significance of this hierarchy of functionaries within Benin City, which is encircled by the great wall of Benin.

Two out of the large network of moats in Benin Kingdom are shown on this map. Their significance is related to the political economy of the kingdom. The inner moats separate the seat of the Ọba, the Ọba Palace, including its functionaries and guilds, from the Uzama N’Ihinron nobles, who are lords of their domains. The outer moat protects the entirety of Benin City from external aggression.

The map is designed to serve a special purpose for the users of the Digital Benin platform who have no knowledge of Benin Kingdom. It helps those who are familiar with the history of Benin to identify significant historical places and spaces in the kingdom.