Loropéni Ruins (World Heritage)

Loropéni Ruins (World Heritage)


According to indexdotcom, the ruins of the approximately 1000 year old fortifications are located in the south of Burkina Faso. They are testimony to the centuries-old Trans-Saharan gold trade. The stone walls at Loropéni are part of a group of ten fortifications that have not all been explored.

Loropéni Ruins: Facts

Official title: Loropéni ruins
Cultural monument: Protective structures at least 1,000 years old on the southern border of today’s Burkina Faso; so far only partially exposed fortifications made of mighty stone walls up to six meters high in an area of ​​approx. 11,000 m², selected from ten comparable stone settlements; Use of the settlements by the Loron / Kulango people to control and protect gold mining and the trans-Saharan gold trade, especially between the 14th and 17th centuries; abandoned in the 19th century
Continent: Africa
Country: Burkina Faso
Location: Loropéni, southwest of Burkina Faso
Appointment: 2009
Meaning: Exceptional examples of early fortifications in West Africa; outstanding evidence of the trans-Saharan gold mining and trade over several centuries and the settlement system that developed from it

Mysterious ruins

At the beginning of the 20th century, the major European powers tried to bring large parts of the African continent under their control. In the course of these efforts, Henri Schwartz, an officer in the French army, made a discovery in 1902 in what is now Burkina Faso, which was to occupy the fantasies and research of numerous archaeologists, historians and anthropologists in the decades that followed. He came across ruins that predate the arrival of the Europeans and showed an architecture that cannot be found anywhere else in Africa. Scientists believe that the ruins near the city of Gaoua are 1,000 years old. To date, large parts have not yet been excavated.

The ruins cover a total of 11,133 square meters. A mighty wall that is about six meters high and up to 1.40 meters thick at its base encloses an almost square area, the sides of which are 105 meters and 106 meters long. Their corners are rounded, no traces of entrances can be seen, although according to tradition there should have been two entrances. About 30 meters from the wall to the south there are other walls that delimit small compartments.

Other layered arrangements of stones were also discovered outside of this wall structure – rectangular and round. Archaeologists also found fragments of millstones, ceramics and slag that suggest the mining of iron ore.

In the past few years, local and foreign archaeologists and anthropologists have tried again and again to uncover the riddle of the ruins of Loropéni, mainly concerned with the following questions: Who built the complex and when? What was their function? Why and when was it abandoned? So far there are no reliable results, but some interesting assumptions attempt to shed light on Loropéni. At first, the scientists did not want to believe that an African people had created these mighty masonry, and therefore attributed the ruins to the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Arabs or even the Portuguese or Dutch. These theses were soon refuted, but who actually built the walls is still unclear. This is partly because that the area in southwest Burkina Faso has a very changeable settlement history. There were repeated migrations there, as entire empires were destroyed by attacking peoples or the people were on the run from the slave traders. It is therefore certain that the walls of Loropéni were used by several different peoples in the course of their history. In between there were phases in which the system was completely abandoned. The Loron, Kulango and Touna peoples settled there before the 15th century – they are probably also the builders of the fortification. The Gan came to this region towards the end of the 17th century after their empire was destroyed in what is now Ghana. They moved into the walls of Loropéni but probably did not know who built it. A century later, the Lobi immigrated from Ghana, who now settle in the area and differ from the neighboring peoples mainly in that the families live in large kraals surrounded by high mud walls. These well-fortified round settlements are called Sukalas.

What function the Loropéni complex, of which we only know the ruins, once had, has also not been clearly clarified to this day. Three different views have emerged: The walled floor plans could indicate defensive houses that people built to protect themselves from savages, conquerors, slave hunters and other attackers – or from wild animals, because oral tradition reports that they are aggressive Elephants and man-eating lions that haunted the area. The height of the walls could support this hypothesis, but there is no evidence of defensive structures such as battlements or loopholes. However, it could also be that the ruins can be seen in connection with the gold trade on the Trans-Saharan routes, which ran from the 14th to 17th centuries. It was ruled by the Loron and Kulangas in the 19th century. The precious metal was known to these peoples as early as the 10th or 11th century – around the time the walls were built. Another theory is that the place served as a base for the slave trade and slaves were housed there.

Nothing precise can be said at present about the age of the ruins either. Oral tradition does not give any information about dates or periods, and the few written sources mentioning the ruins of Loropéni are not reliable. The scientists assume, however, that the place was settled from the 11th century onwards, but was deserted again and again in between. The settlement was finally abandoned in the 18th century. It remains one of the great mysteries of Africa. The world is eagerly awaiting new research results from the scientists.

Loropéni Ruins (World Heritage)