From NNP - Pre-Nigeria discussion:

A Black Byzantium by Nadel, Siegfried Frederick (1942)

Foundation of the Kingdom

Apart from the royal insignia and emblems of magic Tsoede is said to have brought to Nupe from Eda certain crafts and techniques hitherto unknown in the country.

He brought with him blacksmiths and brasssmiths who taught the [crude] blacksmiths of Nupe their more advanced technique; the canoe-men who came with him imported into Nupe the craft of building large canoes of which the Nupe are said to have been ignorant at that time.

Tsoede is also believed by some to have introduced human sacrifices — there is a gruesome story of the first sacrifice, the victim of which was Tsoede’s mother’s brother — and to have established first the custom of bride-price.

We can to some extent ascertain what there is of historical truth in this tradition. Certain indirect evidence tends to confirm the main facts of the Tsoede tradition.

The alien, southern provenance of some of the cultural goods, which in the tradition are linked with Idah and the coming of Tsoede, seems fairly certain.

Some at least of the sacred bronze figures in Tada and Jebba, cast in cire perdue, a technique unknown in Nupe and the north, bear the stamp of the culture which we are wont to associate with Benin — and Benin, as we know, has for a long period been the political overlord of Idah ; the same is true of the beautifully cast brass bells — among them the square-shaped bells typical of Benin work — on the state drums found all along the Niger.

The heavy iron chains and fetters, on the other hand, are most probably of Portuguese origin; they may have been brought in by slave-traders from the coast and have found their way up the river into the hinterland — the home of these precious trading goods.

Even the approximate date of the immigration of Tsoede and his band can be fixed with some accuracy. For on this point all the various genealogies of Nupe kings, obtained from quite different sources, tally.

Giving the years of reign of every Nupe king, back to Tsoede, they all place the life of Tsoede in the same period, the early fifteenth century.

It is interesting to note that the royal genealogies in two great neighbouring kingdoms, Yoruba and Ewe (in Togoland), also trace back the history of their royal ancestors to the same period, about 1400.

We may not be mistaken therefore in assuming that the beginning of the fifteenth century marks the end of a big wave of immigration which eventually led to the firm establishment of a number of new West African societies — kingdoms, in our three instances.

For Nupe we can go farther than this. The same period saw the first contact of the Guinea Coast with Europe.

In 1498 the Portuguese established themselves in Benin. But at that time they found a Benin already on the verge of collapse, the once powerful kingdom weakened and in obvious disintegration.

Idah, once tributary to Benin, and master over Nupe as of many other dependencies, must have weakened with it.

The myth of Tsoede’s delivery of Nupe from the yoke of Idah may well contain a kernel of historical truth (whatever form the events may have taken in reality); the foundation of an independent Nupe kingdom may have been one of the historical results of the disintegration of Benin and its vassal states.

The ancient contact of Idah and Nupe as well as the former sovereignty of Idah, are undoubtedly historical.

The tradition of Tsoede is as well known in Idah as in Nupe.

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Great Benin Bronze


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