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In the history of the territories which since ca. 1900 have been known under the name of Nigeria during the pre-colonial period (16th to 18th centuries) was dominated by a number of powerful West African kingdoms or empires, such as the Edo Benin Empire and the Islamic Kanim Borno Empire in the north and west, and the Igbo kingdom of Onitsha in the southeast and various Hausa-Fulani kingdoms.
Past archaeological digs have uncovered the fairly advanced lifestyle of some of the Hausa civilizations. Some were able to work iron which helped with tool and weapon making. They also showed a vast advancement in cultural expression which was rare for civilizations in the area around that time. Many of the settlements also contained expertly coursed stone walls which showed the need for either protection from animals or other settlements. These various settlements would later clash, craving a rise in power which may explain these elements uncovered in the archaeological sites.
These kingdoms developed in the context of the trans-Saharan slave trade, but they peaked in power in the late 18th century, thriving on the Atlantic slave trade due to the great demand for slaves by the European colonies. During and after the Napoleonic period, the western powers gradually abolished slavery, which led to a collapse in demand and consequently a decline of the West African empires, and the gradual increase of western influence during the 19th century (the “Scramble for Africa“), in the case of Nigeria concluding with the British protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1900.