Over a thousand years ago in Ijebu land, a mysterious woman, Sungbo, carved out an empire whose ruins dwarf the pyramids of Egypt and even compare with the Great Wall of China, and is now considered one of the largest archeological phenomena on earth. The locals call these ruins “Sungbo’s Eredo”.
The Eredo monument, hidden away and submerged within the thick rain forests of Ijebu land, southwestern Nigeria is about 160km-long along its boundary, and is made up of a system of ditches (moats) and earth wall ramparts, in which the almost-vertical ditch walls (over 10m-high in some places) are excellently well-preserved over the centuries. They are very big earth works and in some places tower seven storeys high, replete with guardhouses and garrison barracks. The ancient Ijebu land area enclosed by the uneven ring formed by the monument is about 35km wide along its east-west diameter and 40km-wide along its north-south diameter, thereby covering an area of about 1, 400km2.
Although the local Ijebu villagers and pilgrims knew about the Eredo all along, however, the monument was rediscovered in 1994 by Patrick Darling, a British Geographer, who chanced upon a small segment of it when he stopped his car along the Sagamu-Ore-Benin Express Way (also known as the Pan-African Highway) and set off on foot into the undergrowth. Darling later returned in 1999 with his team of Archeologists from United Kingdom to survey the monument and bring it to limelight. They discovered the charcoal remains of fires set by the ancient builders to clear the bush before the walls were built and radiocarbon dating of the charcoal revealed that the charcoal was around about 1200 years ago, which indicates that the rampart was dug at least 1,000 years ago. Further research has also shown that it is the earliest proof of the building of a kingdom in the African rainforest. Researchers also estimated that it took about three and a half million man-hours to construct the Eredo- an estimate which is about a million more than that used to build the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. It is amazing to observe the skill and precision with which the ancient Eredo builders kept the rampart on course irrespective of the obstacles they encountered, without compass or aerial photographs.
The Ijebu people believe that the construction of the Eredo was masterminded by a great, wealthy, childless widow, called Bilikisun Sungbo , who ordered her slaves to dig the moat for her remembrance. This powerful woman is also regarded as the Biblical and Quranic Queen of Sheba, who the people believed to have migrated down from Ethiopia to Ijebu land and ruled the kingdom.
On a beautiful Sunday morning, just before the rise of Nigeria’s tropical sun, I jumped off my bed and rushed through bathing and shoving my camera, lenses and a few stuff into my backpack and dashing out to meet up with my travel group somewhere in Victoria Island. Everyone was enthusiastic and anticipating an awesome adventure.
We departed from Victoria and snaked our way through the fairly light traffic along Lekki express way, through Ajah and continued down to Epe and finally arrived at the small sleepy village of Eredo, located along the Epe-Ijebu Ode road. The village was not too difficult to locate, although we had to stop a couple of times to ask people along the road for direction. The whole journey from Lagos to Eredo village took about forty-five minutes (45mins). Eredo village sits along a tiny segment of the ancient Eredo monument, and although the moats meander through several other villages and towns in Ijebu land, this small village has been named after it.
– Google map showing Epe and Eredo town.
As soon as we arrived at the village, we began to ask around for the official tour guide for the Eredo. We met two young men who eagerly acknowledged that we have come to the right place. They took us to the house of the Baale of Eredo (reigning governor of Eredo community) but we only met his absence. We were told that he went to the farm. We were then taken to another compound down the road which had a small signboard that read “Contact Sungbo’s Local Guide Here”. We had to wait a little for the tour guide to arrive. He was an old man, brief in height and feeble in appearance, but with his muscled arms, ebony dark skin toughened by decades of exposure to the searing African sun, gentle face with sparse and white facial hair growth, eye balls carefully set in their sockets, and dressing in an heavily patterned ankara attire, and an adornment of gold neck chain, the tour guide emerged as a perfect rustic African man but with a subtle dash of civilization and flair for good looks. He is regarded as one of the oldest and most respected men in the village, and he is also regarded as the most knowledgeable man in the village on the history and discovery of Eredo.
He welcomed us with a broad smile and introduced himself as Baba Sunny. We also introduced ourselves and explained the purpose of our visit. He expressed his appreciation for our passionate gesture in coming down to their small village to see their jealously guarded heritage and quickly ordered his son, Ibrahim to guide us into the forest to see the Eredo, along with the two young men that brought us down to his house. His son also bore his skin tone, but he looked sturdier and energetic. He picked a cutlass from the side of the house and asked us to follow him.
Descending into the Eredo
The footpath leading to the Eredo was at the back of Baba Sunny’s house. We trekked for a few minutes along the overgrown track as Ibrahim slashed at the forest thickets with his cutlass and trampled the fallen plants underfoot for us to have a clearer path to walk on. We later arrived at a point where the forest appeared to mask a deep gorge within its belly. He pointed into the gloomy depth and said “this is our entry point into the Eredo!”. We were immediately and uncontrollably overcome with fear as we peeped into the dark gorge enclosed by the forest thickets. Ibrahim led the way as he continued to cut through the thickets. We followed him slowly, each one carefully watching his steps as we descended into the subterranean trough and trudged through its network of connected trenches, submerged in dense overhanging forest canopies. The floor of the Eredo was permanently covered with layers of dead leaves and shrub undergrowths overlain at different points by fallen tree trunks. The air was soaked with a palpable fetid smell of rotting vegetation. It was a perfect forest set, except for the almost-vertical and roughly smooth, moss-coated walls of the ditch soaring high above our heads on both sides, with forest climbers hanging loosely down the walls from large trees standing tall on upper rims of the ditch like battlements. The Eredo was apparently hand-dug. We continued the trek, marveling at the beauty of nature around us. At a point within the Eredo, everyone halted to savor the spell-binding charm exuded by a group of mushrooms sprouting on the decaying bark of a big fallen tree trunk. The thin but sharp fingers of sunlight piercing through the thick foliage above cast sparks of radiance and glow on the white caps of the mushrooms.
Water-filled Earthen Pot that has Never Run Dry
We were told that the Eredo connects with various swamps where evil spirits are thought to dwell and we became even more scared to continue along the trek. We got to a point in the Eredo where we were shown a water-filled, moss-coated earthen pot with African art impressions near its rim. It had been sitting there peacefully in the shade of a bush thicket for several centuries since the construction of the Eredo. It was reportedly placed there by Queen of Sheba herself and miraculously, the water inside the pot has never for once dried up. Earthen pots of various sizes and shapes can be spotted at different points along the Eredo; some were used to sacrifice to the gods of the land, while others were probably lost belongings of the ancient people.
Ancient Toll Gate along the Rampart
After a long while, we got to the end of the ditch in which we had been maneuvering. The ditch seemed to have been cordoned off by a wall of earth that appeared like a bridge across the ditch. we climbed up the earthen blockade and realized that the Eredo continued on its other side. Ibrahim then told us that the blockade served as a bridge across the Eredo for people travelling from Epe into the ancient Ijebu Kingdom in the times of old. He also noted that the bridge served as a toll gate where the king’s officials collected cowries (ancient currency) from visitors entering to Ijebu Kingdom. We were also shown a broken earthen pot containing cowries, place at the foot of a tree.
Tree with 24 Rooms
We descended down the other side of the earth bridge and trudged through thick undergrowth and muddy floors of the Eredo till we got to what appeared to be a fallen and rotting tree trunk. The huge and wide ridge formed by the organic rot hinted the monstrous size of the tree itself before it fell. There was a muddied white stretch of cloth material that had been twisted and wedged into the rot. Ibrahim the explained that the tree was once the largest tree in the land before it was crushed down in 1993 by a violent and destructive thunder that struck the land. It is believed that the tree had spiritual powers and contained 24 spiritual rooms of power, and people of Eredo revered and worshiped it annually with two cows. He noted that the soiled white cloth was tied round the lower stem of the tree where the worshippers normally dropped their sacrifices and performed their annual rituals. We also sighted an old muddied lace material close to the rotting tree trunk, which we believe probably belonged to old worshippers of the tree.
We trekked back to the earthen bridge and clambered out of the Eredo. Our pants and boots were terribly soiled with mud and moss. We walked took another footpath that connected us back to the road that led to the Baba Sunny’s house. He brought out laminated scientific publications on the discovery of the Eredo and narrated the history and stories of Bilikisun Sungbo (Queen Sheba) and her connection with the Eredo. We asked questions and took photos with Baba Sunny.
Eyinfun and Oluweri Spiritual Springs
There are two major springs in the enclave and both of them are said to exude from a rock and have spiritual healing powers. The nearest to the village is Eyinfun Spring, while the other one, Oluweri, is farther away in the forest. After bidding Baba Sunny good bye, Ibrahim offered to lead us to the Eyinfun Spring.
We drove into the forest for about five minutes, then pulled up at a clearing, where we began to trek down a dusty foot path which abruptly terminated at the edge of a thick forest. The path leading into the forest plunged down a steep rocky path, enclosed by dense vegetation and heavily shaded by thick overhanging canopies. The mildly reflecting reddish-brown hue of the ferruginized laterite rocks cast a slight tinge of brown on the leaves of low-lying plants in the undergrowth. We slowly scampered down the path and heard the euphoric noise of kids splashing water one another. One could barely see what was going on at the bottom of the gorge. The noises grew louder as we descended deeper and closer to the cliff foot. Ibrahim screamed at the children to get out of the water and in an instant, the euphoria subsided and was taken over by the noise of splashing waters as the naked young humanities hopped out of the water onto the banks. The cliff bottom was now very clear as we were just a few meters higher. The naked children were wet from head to toe and they lined up along the rock path, opening the way for us to pass. Water dripped from every opening on their bodies- eyes, noses, ears etc. and they grinned at us as we passed by and laughed at them. They laughed back too. They seem to have been having fun and couldn’t wait for the ‘intruders’ to take their leave so they could return to their merriment.
There laid a pool of water at the bottom of the cliff, its surface glimmering and glistening with the few sunrays that managed to escape down the canopies from above and break into the belly of the crystal clear waters below. The waters crept out at one end into a small stream that meandered away into the forest, while the far banks of the pool are masked in a cover of dead and fresh leaves. A dead tree stump at the centre of the pool dramatically takes the form of a stool with its top rising a few centimeters above the water surface. At one corner of the pool, where it touches the high cliff face, numerous holes punctuated the reddish whitish sandstone rocks from which the cold spring exuded. The surface of the aquifer rock is smeared with pinkish pigment in different places and dry strands of grass underneath the water at the spring point made the water surface glisten softly with a honeycomb effect.
We took off our boots, rolled our pants and stepped into the waters. It was amazingly cool and soothing, its calming touch reaches into the heart and mind. Ibrahim smiled as he noticed the thrilling effect the water was having on us; and before we departed, he asked us to take a scoop from the spring point and make a wish. He explained that people come from outside Nigeria to fetch the water of the spring for healing purposes. Each of us decided to take a sip of the fresh water and make a wish. I joined the queue and when it finally got to my turn, I took a sip and immediately forgot about making a wish as I was instantly enraptured and mesmerized by the natural taste of the water. It wasn’t sweet per se, neither was it sour or tasteless. It had a taste- a indescribable, unique, charming and magical taste, one that can only be interpreted by a heart bound in the chains of wanderlust.
We later departed Eredo town and took off to Oke-Eiri village on the outskirts of Ijebu-Ode town, about one hour (1hr) drive from Eredo, to see the burial site of the legendary Queen of Sheba, known to the locals as Bilikisun Sungbo.
-The footpath leading to the Eredo was at the back of Baba Sunny’s house. We trekked for a few minutes along the overgrown track as Ibrahim slashed at the forest thickets with his cutlass and trampled the fallen plants underfoot for us to have a clearer path to walk on.
– He pointed into the gloomy depth and said “this is our entry point into the Eredo!”. We were immediately and uncontrollably overcome with fear as we peeped into the dark gorge enclosed by the forest thickets…
– We followed him slowly, each one carefully watching his steps as we descended into the subterranean trough and trudged through its network of connected trenches, submerged in dense overhanging forest canopies…
– Right in the belly of the Eredo.
– Grasscutter’s hole.
– Glorious mushrooms.
– In the Eredo, rotting remains of a fallen giant tree with 24 spiritual rooms. The people used to worship the tree with two cows every year, until it got struck and crushed by a destructive thunder over a decade ago.
– Earthen pot containing cowrie.
– Water-filled, moss-coated earthen pot with African art impressions near its rim. It had been sitting there peacefully in the shade of a bush thicket for several centuries since the construction of the Eredo. It was reportedly placed there by Queen of Sheba herself and miraculously, the water inside the pot has never for once dried up.
– Cross section of Sungbo’s Eredo fortifications. By Nyame Akuma, 1998.
– Inset Picture: Patrick Darling, the British geographer who rediscovered the Eredo.
– Signing the guest book of the Eredo.
– Some previous visitors to the Eredo.
– En-route to Eyinfun Spiritual Spring.
– The spell-binding pool of Eyinfun Spring with surface glimmering and glistening with the few sunrays that managed to escape down the canopies from above and break into the belly of the crystal clear waters below…
– Limpid and chilly spring water, crystal clear as glass.
– Taking a sip of the spiritual spring and making a wish…
– Taking a scoop to make a wish…
– Cool village kids of Eredo town.
– They waiting anxiously for us to leave so they could continue their fun!
– Peace Yo!
Watch a video of the Eredo here:
This article was written by Folarin Kolawole
Founder of Naijatreks, Nigerian-born Folarin Kolawole is a geologist, travel writer and researcher. When not at work, he travels the length and breadth of Nigeria, exploring, taking photos and writing about her numerous hidden tourist potentials. 'Naijatreks' is a product name registered under the Ntreks brand, which is also duly registered by Nigeria's Federal Corporate Affairs Commission. The contents on this blog are re-usable. However, it must be ensured that it is linked back to this blog, and correctly attributed to Naijatreks or the author. Please do not edit, rewrite or commercialize the original works on this blog without direct and written permission from the Founder (Folarin Kolawole). For inquiries and advert placement on the blog, kindly contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.