Unless the Nigerian government takes appropriate steps to reconstruct the once-famous pyramids located at Nsude, Enugu state, that historical monument will remain, perhaps, one of black Africa’s greatest losses to world civilization. Appeals have been made in the past by the community leaders as well as historians, for the restoration of the circular pyramids which bear striking resemblance to the Step Pyramid of Saqqara, in Egypt.
A report on such monuments published in Wikipedia describes the Nsude pyramids as “one of the unique structures of Igbo culture”, though all that were known of them were tales about how they were used in times past for surveillance against hostile neighbours during inter-community wars. Now, scholars the world over believe there were more to them, with the possibility they may rewrite the history of black Africa and provide a more compelling attraction for tourism in Nigeria. So far, little has been done by way of response, for the restoration of the monument.
It is still a mystery why the pyramids were constructed in the first place, for how long and what technology was employed, if any. Historical accounts say the pyramids were first constructed in the topmost altitudes of the community’s boundary villages at Umuaka and Ugwuto to provide easy surveillance of the movement of hostile neighbours. While only one large pyramid stood at Umuaka overlooking Ngwo and parts of Nkanu land, a set of 10 pyramids–standing five-a-side on two rows–was located at Ugwuto, overlooking Owa in Ezeagu Local Government Area. While this surveillance theory is the most believable considering the community’s fame in inter-community wars in times past, other accounts, however, attribute the construction of the monuments to the memory of Uto-Nsude, one of the community’s deities. The third theory that the pyramids may have served as furnaces for iron smelting lacks credibility as not much by way of history has linked Nsude and the larger Udi area to iron smelting.
Europeans who carried out extensive geographical survey and explorations for solid mineral in various places around the Udi hills had first ‘discovered’ the great pyramids. The first discovery was credited to one Luke Walter, a British who led one of the exploration missions in 1891. It is either Mr. Walters did not document his ‘discovery’ probably because he did not consider it of historical significance, or whatever he did has been lost in time. It was not until 1935 that Mr. G.I. Jones took what is, perhaps, the only surviving photographs of the historical monuments and after printing them, scribbled behind them what has today become vital information. His photographs were not made public until a few years back when they were published online by his estate. Apart from oral historical accounts of the pyramids, the limited information provided online are reproduced from notes written by Jones on the black and white photographs he took in 1935.
Recently, the Nsude community leader Mr. Emmanuel Ozoani had ordered an inspection of the site of the set of pyramids in Ugwuto, with a view to renewing the call for their restoration. The pyramids which were said to have been maintained annually with red mud mixed with cow dung, were robbed of this by the advent of modernity and sheer negligence. It is believed that since the late 1930s, they were not preserved in any way and have over the years been totally degraded. The visit, however, revealed that it was still possible to fully restore them.
According to another community leader, Mr. Gab Ozougwu, the lone pyramid at Umuaka stood at the eastern entry point where the town had maintained the mysterious Iga gate. While he explained that it has almost been submerged by erosion that has since developed a gully at the site, Ozougwu who now heads the village union, says it has been a subject of enquiries by some foreigners in recent years. He disclosed that one of his predecessors, well aware of the historical relevance of the pyramid, constructed a miniature version in front of the Umuaka community hall at Obu Anukwu in the 1970s. The replica made of concrete cement, still stands to this day.
It still remains a mystery when and how the pyramids were built. The recent discovery of an ancient circular monolithic stone structure site in Mpumalanga, South Africa, is thought to be at least 75,000 years old, pre-dating any other such structure on earth, according to South African author and politician Michael Tellinger, but no records are available on the actual period when the Nsude Pyramids came into being. Archaelogists believe the clay/mud pyramids may have been built at the same time the first or second wave of Egyptian pyramids were built by the Nubians. While those great pyramids of Egypt, the archaeological site on the Giza Plateau on the outskirts of Cairo which consists the massive sculpture known as the Great Sphinx, have historically become symbols of Egyptian culture, Nigeria and the Black race have not benefitted culturally from the Nsude pyramids. Listed as one of the Wonders of the World, the Egyptian pyramids are by far the oldest of them and the only one still in existence. Unlike the Nsude pyramids which were made of tons of hardened red mud, construction theories say Egyptian pyramids were built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place.
Built during the reign of Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu over a 20 year period ending in 2540 B.C., the 2.3 million cubic meters pyramids at Giza, with base measurement of 227.5 meters and vertical height of 137.2 meters, is believed to have involved 40,000-60,000 labourers working on its construction for three months every year. The pyramids have turned tourism into Egypt’s economic mainstay as one of the leading sources of income. With approximately 14.7 million tourists visiting Egypt, the tourism sector at its peak in 2010 employed about 12% of Egypt’s workforce, and providing revenues of nearly $12.5 billion.
If restored, the Nsude Pyramids which once stood with circumferences of about sixty feet and a pinnacle reaching up to 30 feet, according to information obtained online, may yet rewrite Black Africa’s history. More importantly, in terms of potentials for tourism in Nigeria, it is a gold mine waiting to be tapped. (The Authority)