Ife (aka Ile-Ife) was an ancient African city which flourished between the 11th and 15th century CE in what is today Nigeria in West Africa. Ife was the capital and principal religious centre of the Yoruba people.Ife was founded c. 500 CE by the Yoruba people a Kwa-speaking people of southwest Nigeria and Benin - but did not flourish until the early part of the 2nd millennium CE.
By the beginning of the 11th century CE, Ife had grown to become a large walled city with several large stone buildings and including a palace, workshops, and shrines. Some of the city’s streets were paved with terracotta tiles to make them more resistant to rain.
The kingdom prospered in trade connections with other West African kingdoms from plentiful harvests of food such as okra, yams, dates, palm oil, and fish. Goods which could be traded with kingdoms to the north including kola nuts, pepper, gold, and ivory. Ife is particularly famous today for the magnificent metal sculptures its artists produced which include serene-looking human heads so masterfully crafted that Europeans once wrongly considered them the work of another civilization.
The metal were sculptures of naturalistic and life-size human heads for which Ife is today most famous are so masterfully executed that when Europeans discovered them they could not believe that ancient black Africans had made such masterpieces.The heads were made from the 11th to 15th century CE according to chemical analysis and cast using the lost-wax process. Some were stolen by the Europeans and can now be found in London Museum and other Museums.
Ife is believed by the Yoruba people to be the exact place of creation, where the gods descended from heaven and created the world as we know it then separated the earth from water and made all living creatures, then He sent his children to rule over the twelve cities.Specifically at Ife, the first divine ruler was made the Ooni, whose name means 'king'. Archaeological excavations have revealed that the occupation of Ife was interrupted several times.
And this may explain why little is known of its early cultural practices as traditions were not passed on orally to subsequent generations. Ife ancient culture is said to have been connected to the kingdom of Igbo-Ukwu, which peaked in the 9th century CE on the other side of the River Niger, but details of this period of history in southern West Africa are lacking.