The Meaning of the Nigerian Pyramids

by admin nagas

Image: Examples of five-tier pyramids from around the world Courtesy Nenad M. Djurdjevic

Image: Examples of five-tier pyramids from around the world Courtesy Nenad M. Djurdjevic

At least ten circular pyramid structures are known to have once existed in Nsude, Enugu State of Nigeria, before being destroyed by colonialists to make sure they were not entered into any existing official records. They were made of mud and clay, with five circular tiers laid one above the other. As elsewhere, the five-tier pyramids of Nigeria are symbolic of sacred mountains like Mount Meru and other sacred mountains, such as Sumeru, Moriah, Olympus, Zion and others. They all represent a sacred symbol of ascension to the heavenly summit in the afterlife. In Igbo tradition, sacred mountains, hills, and other lands are seen as the abodes of certain deities.

The five layers are a common theme in ancient pyramid building, found in the five-tier organization of Babylonian ziggurats, five-tier pyramid of King Zoser at Saqqarra, five-tiers above the King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza, five-tier Mexican, Chinese and Korean pyramids, and, last but not least, five-tier Hindu funeral pyres. As a sacred symbol of ascension to the heavenly afterlife, the Nigerian pyramids are proof positive that the Igbo people had developed specific cosmological and spiritual concepts in prehistoric times.

The five-tier organization of these pyramids correspond to the different manifestations of the created universe from its highest to its lowest point:

1. Divine Source – The Seed 
2. The World of Divinity – Fire - The First Light 
3. The World of Creation – Water - The Primordial Ocean 
4. The World of Formation – Air – The Spiritual Element 
5. The World of Action - Earth - The Material Body of Living Things

The Nigerian five layers of the universe further correspond to the Old European concept of the "soul" represented by the "horizon" embedded into a pentagon. The pentagon embodies the natural order of the elements: fire, air, water, earth, and spirit. These elements are the five parts of man in Egyptian religion: BA, KA, AKH, REN, and SHWT. The five elements are also the creative idea behind Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man depicting a male figure superimposed simultaneously in a circle and a square. In Igbo tradition the five elements correspond to the five mirrors forming a pentagon in Ala’s headdress. These mirrors refer to the all seeing god who sees beyond anything as it is reflective.

Many features of Igbo sacred science have been preserved through oral tradition. Beliefs related to afterlife, the immortality of the soul, and reincarnation (Ilo Uwa) are expressed in different contexts by the most powerful, universal, meaningful, and sacred of all symbols, the circle. Although here we are concerned mainly with the sacred science of Igbo people, it is important to point out that many other ethnic groups in Nigeria, like the Edo and Yoruba, as well other early cultures of sub-Saharan Africa, share similar, if not identical, spiritual beliefs.