Ruins of Loropéni

Ruins of Loropéni

The 11,130m2 property, the first to be inscribed in the country, with its imposing stone walls is the best preserved of ten fortresses in the Lobi area and is part of a larger group of 100 stone enclosures that bear testimony to the power of the trans-Saharan gold trade. Situated near the borders of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, the ruins have recently been shown to be at least 1,000 years old. The settlement was occupied by the Lohron or Koulango peoples, who controlled the extraction and transformation of gold in the region when it reached its apogee from the 14th to the 17th century. Much mystery surrounds this site large parts of which have yet to be excavated. The settlement seems to have been abandoned during some periods during its long history. The property which was finally deserted in the early 19th century is expected to yield much more information.

Ruines de Loropéni

Ce premier site burkinabé est bardé de hauts murs et s’étend sur 11 130 m2. C’est la mieux préservée des dix forteresses que compte la région du Lobi. Il s’inscrit aussi dans un ensemble plus large qui compte une centaine d’enceintes en pierre, reflétant la puissance du commerce transsaharien de l’or. Vieilles d’au moins mille ans selon des découvertes récentes, ces ruines sont situées près des frontières du Togo et du Ghana. L’emplacement a été occupé par les Lohron ou les Koulango qui contrôlaient l’extraction et la transformation de l’or dans la région à l’apogée de cette exploitation aurifère (XIVème au XVIIème siècle). Beaucoup de mystère entoure ce site dont une large part n’a pas encore été fouillée. Au cours de sa longue histoire, Loropéni semble avoir été abandonné à plusieurs reprises. L’abandon définitif est intervenu entre le début et le milieu du XIXème siècle. Ce site promet encore beaucoup d’informations.

أطلال لوروبيني

أطلال لوروبيني (بوركينا فاسو) ـ من بين الحصون العشرة الواقعة في منطقة لوبي، بقي هذا الممتلك ذو الجدران الضخمة، الذي تبلغ مساحته 130. 11 متر مربع، في أفضل صورة له؛ وهو يُشكل جزءاً من مجموعة واسعة تتكون من 100 سور حجري التي تدل على ازدهار تجارة الذهب العابرة للصحراء. وقد دلت شواهد حديثة على أن  تاريخ هذه الأطلال، الواقعة بالقرب من حدود الكوت ديفوار وغانا وتوغو، يعود إلى ما لا يقل عن 1000 سنة. وقد احتلت قبائل لوهرون أو كولانغو هذا الموقع، وسيطرت على عمليات استخراج وتحويل الذهب فيه أثناء فترة ازدهاره التي استمرت من القرن الرابع عشر إلى القرن السابع عشر. ويكتنف كثير من الغموض الموقع الذي بقيت أجزاء شاسعة منه بمنأى عن الحفريات الأثرية. ومن الواضح أن الموقع ظل مهجوراً في بعض الفترات من تاريخه الطويل. ومن المتوقع أن يتوافر المزيد من المعلومات بشأن هذا الممتلك الذي هجره سكانه بصفة نهائية في أوائل القرن التاسع عشر.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Ruinas de Loropeni

Este sitio de 11.130 m2 es el primero de Burkina Faso que ingresa en la Lista. En él se hallan los impresionantes muros de piedra de la mejor conservada de las diez fortalezas existentes en la zona de Lobi. Es parte integrante de un conjunto más amplio de cien recintos de piedra que atestiguan la importancia del comercio del oro a través del Sahara. Recientemente se ha podido comprobar que la ruinas de esta edificación, situadas cerca de las fronteras con Côte d’Ivoire, Togo y Ghana, tienen diez siglos de antigüedad como mínimo. Este asentamiento humano fue ocupado por los pueblos lohron y kulango que controlaban la extracción y transformación del oro en la región durante el periodo de apogeo de ésta, entre los siglos XIV y XVII. Existen muchas incógnitas sobre el sitio, debido a que todavía no se han efectuado excavaciones en una gran parte del mismo. Parece ser que sus habitantes lo desertaron en algunos periodos de su secular historia, hasta abandonarlo definitivamente a principios del siglo XIX. Se espera que las excavaciones futuras proporcionen mucha más información.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Loropéni ruïnes

Het gebied van de Loropéni ruïnes is 11.130 vierkante meter groot. Met haar imposante stenen muren is ze het best bewaarde fort van de tien forten in het Lobi gebied. Het fort is onderdeel van een grotere groep van 100 stenen behuizingen die getuigen van de macht van de Trans-Sahara goudhandel. De ruïnes liggen nabij de grenzen van Ivoorkust, Ghana en Togo en blijken meer dan 1.000 jaar oud te zijn. De nederzetting is bezet geweest door het Lohron of Koulango volk, dat het winnen en verwerken van goud leidde tijdens de hoogtijdagen van de regio van de 14e tot de 17e eeuw.

Source: unesco.nl

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The Ruins of Loropéni © DGPC Burkina Faso
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief Synthesis

The dramatic and memorable Ruins of Loropéni consist of imposing, tall, laterite stone perimeter walls, up to six metres in height, surrounding a large abandoned settlement. As the best preserved of ten similar fortresses in the Lobi area, part of a larger group of around a hundred stone-built enclosures, they are part of a network of settlements that flourished at the same time as the trans-Saharan gold trade and appear to reflect the power and influence of that trade and its links with the Atlantic coast. Recent excavations have provided radio-carbon dates suggesting the walled enclosure at Loropéni dates back at least to the 11th century AD and flourished between the 14th and 17th centuries, thus establishing it as an important part of a network of settlements.

Criterion (iii): Loropéni is the best preserved example of a type of fortified settlements in a wide part of West Africa, linked to the tradition of gold mining, which seems to have persisted through at least seven centuries. Loropéni, given its size and scope reflects a type of structure quite different from the walled towns of what is now Nigeria, or the cities of the upper reaches of the river Niger which flourished as part of the empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. It thus can be seen as an exceptional testimony to the settlement response generated by the gold trade.

Integrity and Authenticity

The authenticity of the fortified settlements as ruins is not in doubt. Although the precise history of Loropéni is only recently coming into focus through the recent research programme, and its function still remains in part speculative, the integrity of the monument in terms of its status as the largest and best preserved fortified settlement is satisfactory. In time as more evidence emerges, it may be necessary to consider whether a larger area could encompass more of the attributes that are linked to its use, function and history.

Management and protection requirements

The Committee of Protection and Management for the Ruins of Loropéni, the Scientific Council for the study, conservation and development of the Ruins of Loropéni and the Management Plan which has been implemented since 2005 form a good basis for management of the ruins as a focal point for sustainable development within the local community.

Historical Description

The recent inter-disciplinary project has allowed a reassessment of the history of Loropéni. This has pushed much further back the date of its construction from around the 17th century to at least the 11th century AD and disassociated it from the Gan people, mentioned in the previous evaluation report.

Indeed in spite of the many writings on these ruins since the beginning of the 20th century, no serious archaeological investigations have been undertaken to support information from oral traditions and the other documentary sources. The recent targeted excavations were to thus able to start to bridge this gap.

It is necessary to locate the construction of the Loropéni ruins in the geopolitical context of the sub-Saharan kingdoms. They appeared after the fall of the first empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai, when there were migrations of gold miners and goldsmiths into the Lobi area, and well before the development to the south of the Akan kingdoms, such as the powerful Ashanti kingdom, which caused migrations to the north as people fled slave hunters. Around Lobi country are the remains of many gold mines such as Werimitangna, close to Loropéni.

The gold bearing region was connected by caravans to the large commercial cites to the north on the river Niger, such as Djénné, Mopti and Timbuktu and from there across the Sahara to north Africa., It was probably later that the gold was traded south to the Atlantic coast. Lobi country is crossed by the north-south Mopti - Sore-Dioulasso - Kong route, and the east-southwest route from Ouagadougou, through Boromo, Diébougou, Gaoua, to Bondoukou.

The ruins have long been associated with the gold trade but the evidence for this is circumstantial. It is suggested that such large and fortified structures need to be associated with defending a high value product and the need to house labour. The southern enclose could have been used for slaves or miners at the gold mines. However no direct evidence for gold or for the use of the southern enclosure was forthcoming from the recent excavations.

Most oral traditions collected since the "discovery" of the ruins in 1902 indicate the Koulango people as builders of fortresses in the area, as well as in Burkina Faso in Ivory Coast. However, the most recent research shows that the Koulango were preceded by Lorhon and Nabé peoples who migrated south into the area and were known to be in the area of Kong, from the 10th century.

The Gan, who have been attributed as being the builders of the ruins, simply re-used them from the end of the 17th century when they left the territory of current Ghana to escape oppression from the Ashanti. At around the same time the focus of gold production moved south to the Ashanti area and the gold trade declined around the Lobi area. With its decline the fortified buildings were abandoned to be re-colonised by the Gan.

This is contrary to the work of Madeleine Père, recently published posthumously, who maintained that the Loropéni settlement would have been built by Tokpã Farma, ninth king of the dynasty of Gan, towards the end of his life with the aim of transferring the capital to it from Obiré. This project apparently did not meet with the approval of the ancestors and he died three years later. This explains the name ‘Kpôkayâga', the house of the refusal, by which the site is known. In the previous report it was stated that not all local historians and archaeologists accept the attributions of the ruins to the Gan. It was suggested that archaeological excavations could provide evidence to help understand the genesis of the ruins and this indeed has been the case.

Certain versions of oral tradition record that the quadrangular ramparts were initially built, then the interior partitions and finally the buildings. Observation of the junction between the walls corroborates this assertion.

Recent studies and excavations have revealed evidence for use over a long duration and with possible discontinuities, or even periods of abandonment. Certain zones present several coats of plaster (up to five perfectly distinct layers), and the mortar in the external walls shows clearly several repairs. The higher levels from the excavation show a poverty of finds suggesting that the places could have been looted. Loropéni seems to have fallen out of use in the early to mid 19th century and before colonial times. The trees growing out of the ruins confirm this timescale.

The recent research has provided some enlightenment, but more work is needed. The conclusion of the archaeological report is that it is necessary to set up a research programme of a few years duration to elucidate better the function, use and historical context of the ruins.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation