This map shows contemporary Edo South (ancient Benin Kingdom) and Benin City. Focussing on the historical landmarks of Benin Kingdom, it is a geographical presentation of the rich cultural heritage of Benin people from the capital Benin City to the outlying ancient towns and villages within the seven present-day Local Government Areas of Edo South Senatorial District of Edo State, Nigeria.
The map draws on the historical relationship among people, places and objects to reveal the significant functionality of the Benin Bronzes to the Benin people compared to the location of Benin objects in other parts of the world. The socio-political structure of Benin Kingdom is innately tied to space and place, which can be explored in this map. The basic layout of the metropolis is still visible today, with long straight streets radiating from the centre of Benin City, where the Oba Palace is presently located. Each of these roads separates different wards and areas. Many guilds continue to operate in areas where they historically practised – for example, the Igun Eronmwon continue to be based in Igun Street. Although shown together, the places, sites and areas highlighted here have their own chronology. Some are more recent than others – for example, the current structure of the Oba Palace was rebuilt on the site where the palace was razed to the ground by British forces in February 1897 (Nevadomsky, 1997, p.2038). Meanwhile, other places originate further back in time – for example, the construction of the inner and outer moats was finished during the fifteenth century. Since the inception of the Oba dynasty in the twelfth century, Benin City has perpetually developed and changed, as it continues to today. Incorporating these sites and places onto a single map does not aim to collapse time into a single frame or create a sense of the ‘ethnographic present’ by placing historical places on a contemporary map. Anthropology as a discipline has a history of engaging in such practices, the repercussions of which continue to affect the ways present-day peoples and their pasts are viewed (cf. Fabian 1983). Conversely, this map seeks to collate these important places in one digital space as a purely representative tool. Important dates relating to sites and locations are given in the accompanying descriptions. This map illustrates the importance of space and place in understanding and explaining the history of Benin Kingdom, and in turn the objects in the catalogue. The institutions with objects from Benin Kingdom are visible on this map when selecting the Institutions view. Click on the icon for each institution to view information about the institution and see an overview of the objects it holds. The shade of the icon varies depending on the number of objects: a light colour signifies a smaller number, whereas darker shade signifies a greater amount.