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An important town in Yoruba country in southern Nigeria, whose archaeological antecedents extend back into the 1st millennium ad, although they are only known with clarity from the 11th century onwards. The buildings were of sun-dried brick: their architecture is not known in detail but included open courtyards paved with potsherds set on edge. Ife has yielded a magnificent series of realistic bronze and terracotta human figures, the style of which probably owes at least some inspiration to the earlier Nok tradition. The metal employed in the cire perdue (lost wax) process by which the bronze figures were made appears to have been derived from a northerly origin, perhaps ultimately from trans-Saharan trade; it may be that the gathering of forest products required for this trade formed the basis of lie’s prosperity. It has been suggested that the bronze-working tradition of Benin was derived from that of Ife.

The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983Copied