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Arochkwu Long Juju Slave Route (Cave Temple Complex)

Date of Submission: 08/10/2007
Criteria: (iii)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
National Commision for Museums and Monuments
State, Province or Region:
Abia State, South East Nigeria
Ref.: 5170

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


There is a six-foot gully though now covered 'in a thickest that leads into the ancient Cave Temple. This is the main oracular shrine of Ibn Ukpabi and by which stands as if on guard the cult statute of Kamalu "the warrior god". The site also contains an altar, which is the kitchen area. A waterfall (the loud sound of which from a distance is regarded as the prophetic voice of Ibn Ukpabi). There is also the throne of judgement - the dark presence ("the Holy of Holies") those who were found guilty walked into dark tunnels and those found innocent returned to their relatives. Other features include a .hill of rags. That is the place where the condemned were required to undress and Leave their clothes before they disappeared into the tunnels around the hill of rags. There is also the tunnel of disappearance, which is the dark tunnels into which the victims disappeared. At the site can be found the red river where it is said that as the victims disappear, the aro would colour the river red to give people the impression that the condemned has died. And the red water flowing down the stream would be a sign to the relatives that the victims were dead. Yet another feature is the Iyi-Eke - an outlet from where the victims now blind folded walk to "Onu Asu Bekee" (the European beach, which later became the government beach) and from there, waiting boats took the enslaved to Calabar for onward transmission to Ala Bekee.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Aros, centred around Arochukwu were able to manipulate their central oracle, Ibn Ukpabi (Long - Juju) in such a way, that it became the judicial machinery in every Igbo community. Trusting in the efficacy of the oracle, people in dispute went to settle their scores. The guilty victims became a property of the gods. They were eventually sold as slaves or retained as domestic property of the Arb Priest.

Comparison with other similar properties

Along the coastal areas of Nigeria developed a number of major slave ports such as old Calabar, Bonny, Brass, Opobo, Lagos and Badagry. These slaving ports were linked by well defined routes to the slave markets and capital cities of the interior such as Oke-Odan, Oyo and Kano to the West and North West and old Calabar. Arochukwu and Borno to the East and North East.

Of all these slave ports, only Arochukwu held the position of divine intermediaries. In addition, other slave ports in Nigeria are not associated with Caves expect Arochukwu. This site can compare with Shimoni Caves in Kenya.