WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN IGBOLAND BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST.
The study of Igbo origins has gained greater momentum since the Nigerian.
civil war (1967–1970), when the quest for Igbo identity began to occupy a more central space in academic discourse. Some researchers have explored the etymology of the nomenclature “Igbo” to offer clues to their origins and common cultural identity.
M.D. Jeffreys, for example, argues that “Igbo” means “forest dwellers” or the indigenous inhabitants of the forest region, whereas C. Ifemesia postulates that it is associated with the ancients (Ndi-gbo) who lived in the forest region.In his own contribu-tion, M. Onwuejeogwu maintains that the concept “ Igbo” simply means “a community of people” who shared common values and ideas.
But instead of attempting to define the concept “Igbo,” other researchers have provided different perspectives on Igbo origins. A.E. Afigbo, for example, hypothesized that the pristine homeland of the Igbo was the Niger-Benue confluence area, where the kwa-speakers of the Niger-Congo phyla, associated with the Nok Complex (500 b.c.–200 a.d., the first iron-using culture
of West Africa), expanded to the territories they presently occupy.
Current archeological research, however, suggests that the early occupants of the Igbo area were foragers who had shifted to agriculture before the Nok Complex, using iron tools to cultivate yams and other staples. V. Uchendu, E. Isichei, and others have turned their attention to Igboland, to differentiate between the primary core areas of its heartland, where the various groups lived before their migrations to the frontiers including the Nri-Awka zone, the Isuama Orlu, and the Owerri-Okigwe axes.
Oral traditions, however, indicate that the Isuama trace their origins to a common mythical ancestor called “Igbo,” who lived at Amaigbo (lit. the abode of Igbo) in Orlu area. A.E. Afigbo, an advocate of the Nri monolithic school of Igbo cultural roots, has recently affirmed the view that Amaigbo was a major center of ancient Igbo settlement and migrations. The Amaigbo traditions are popular among many Igbo groups, including the Isuama-Owerri, the Eastern Isuama groups of Ahiara-Obowo, Ohuhu-Ngwa, and Ikwerre-Etche axis.
In addition, traditions of the Eastern Isuama of Umuahia-Ibeku claim that their progenitor was one of the sons of “Igbo” who migrated from the Orlu axis. Hence, as C.J. noted, Ibeku is highly respected among communities in the Umuahia complex that trace their legendary origins to the town, including Umuokpara, Uzuakoli, Isu-Item, and those located in the Ohaffia-Abam-Arochukwu axis. According to G.I. Jones, it was from the Ohaffia-Arochukwu ridge that an offshoot of the Eastern Isuama migrated to the eastern plains, forming the Northeastern Igbo. The Isuama also constitute the autochthones of the Okigwe axis, and D. Forde,
G.I. Jones, P.A. Talbot, and H. Mulhall have classified the Nri-Awka as part of the larger Isuama Orlu group. Nri traditions claim that Isu (Isuama) constitutes the senior ward of the Agbaja (Ana-Edo) clan in Nnewi area, while H. Henderson’s study shows that the Isuama of Awka-Orlu uplands and other clans were already living in Onitsha and Western Igboland(Anioma) before immigrants from the Benin Empire settled in the town during the fifteenth-sixteenth centuries. Extant traditions of Ahaba (anglicized as Asaba) and Ibusa (Igbouzo) suggest that their progenitors were from the Isuama-Nri-Orlu.
Archeological and linguistic studies show that humans had occupied Igboland before the Bantu began to migrate from there and other parts of southeastern Nigeria to occupy and populate most of sub-Saharan Africa between 500 BC. and 200 AD. It is also significant that the Igbo had attained an outstanding degree of cultural complexity between 500 BC. and 1000 AD. Hence, they are classified by archeologists as among the “Pioneer Iron Age cultivators of West Africa.”