Originally known as Edo, Benin City was once the capital of Benin kingdom, a pre-colonial African empire located in what is now southern Nigeria. The kingdom of Benin, dating back to the 11th century, was one of the most highly developed states in Africa with a relatively well-recognized and refined African political system that was in operation before the arrival of European colonialists.
Benin City, with earthworks longer than the Great Wall of China, was one of the best-planned cities in the world. Its walls, which are a combination of strong materials like ramparts and moats used for defensive purposes, were at one point four times longer than the Great Wall of China.
In 1897, however, Benin City was ransacked and burnt down by British forces under Admiral Harry Rawson, destroying more than a thousand years of Benin history and one of the earliest evidence of African civilization. The British took away various works of art including Ivory and bronze works before burning down the ancient city. Today, most of these works of art are held in prominent museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum.