An Overview: History, Geography, Ecology, Subsistence, Technology.
The Yoruba People, of whom there are more than twenty-five million, occupy the southwestern corner of Nigeria along the border with Benin Republic and extends into Benin Republic itself. To the east and north the Yoruba culture reaches its approximate limits in the region of the Niger River. However ancestral cultures directly related to the Yoruba once flourished well north of the Niger. Portuguese explorers "discovered" (for the Europeans) the Yoruba cities and kingdoms in the fifteenth century, but cities such as Ife and Benin, among others, had been standing at their present sites for at least five hundred years before the European arrival. Archeological evidence indicates that a technologically and artistically advanced, proto-Yoruba (Nok) were living somewhat north of the Niger in the first millennium B.C., and they were then already working with iron. (Source 1).
Ifa theology states that the creation of humankind arose in the sacred city of Ile Ife where Oduduwa created dry land from water. Much later on an unknown number of Africans migrated from Mecca to Ile Ife. At this point the Eastern Africans and Western Africans synergized. .
Ife was the first of all Yoruba cities. Ado-Ekiti, Oyo and Benin came later and grew and expanded as a consequence of their strategic locations at a time when trading became prosperous. Ife, unlike Benin and Oyo, never developed onto a true kingdom. But though it remained a city-state it had paramount importance to Yoruba's as the original sacred city and the dispenser of basic religious thought. The world, say traditions of the Yoruba people, began at Ife, a city of great historical and religious significance in the heart of Yoruba country. The earth was completely covered with water, these traditions tell us, when the Creator, Olodumare, equipped a party of messengers with five pieces of iron, a lump of soil, and a chicken.