Home Region:  West Africa (Africa)

Foys

G SC PT New WA  ni_dahomey_k

Preceding:
1100 CE 1724 CE Allada (ni_allada_k)    [None]
Add one more here.

Succeeding:
No Polity found. Add one here.

No General Descriptions provided.

General Variables
Identity and Location
Utm Zone:
31 N  
Original Name:
Foys  
Capital:
Abomey  
Cana  
Alternative Name:
Foys  
Temporal Bounds
Peak Years:
[1,818 CE ➜ 1,858 CE]  
Duration:
[1,715 CE ➜ 1,894 CE]  
Political and Cultural Relations
Suprapolity Relations:
nominal allegiance to [---]  
Succeeding Entity:
French Dahomey  
Preceding Entity:
Preceding:   Allada (ni_allada_k)    [None]  
Degree of Centralization:
unitary state  
Language
Linguistic Family:
Niger-Congo  
Language:
Fongbe  
Religion
Religious Tradition:
Vodun  
Religion Family:
Dahomey royal ancestor cult  
Social Complexity Variables
Social Scale
Population of the Largest Settlement:
- 1600 CE 1699 CE
30,000 people 1700 CE 1800 CE
- 1801 CE 1892 CE
Polity Territory:
1,200 km2 1724 CE
5,400 km2 1727 CE 1820 CE
7,200 km2 1820 CE 1892 CE
Polity Population:
- 1600 CE 1699 CE
[136,000 to 214,000] people 1700 CE 1800 CE
[200,000 to 214,000] people 1800 CE 1890 CE
Hierarchical Complexity
Settlement Hierarchy:
4  
Religious Level:
[3 to 4]  
Military Level:
6  
Administrative Level:
- 1600 CE 1699 CE
[3 to 6] 1700 CE 1799 CE
6 1800 CE 1892 CE
Professions
Professional Soldier:
present  
Professional Priesthood:
inferred present  
Professional Military Officer:
present  
Bureaucracy Characteristics
Full Time Bureaucrat:
inferred present  
Law
Judge:
present  
Formal Legal Code:
inferred present  
Court:
present  
Specialized Buildings: polity owned
Market:
present  
Food Storage Site:
inferred present  
Utilitarian Public Building:
present  
Symbolic Building:
present  
Other Utilitarian Public Building:
present  
Transport Infrastructure
Road:
present  
Port:
present  
Bridge:
present  
Special-purpose Sites
Ceremonial Site:
present  
Information / Writing System
Written Record:
absent  
Script:
absent  
Phonetic Alphabetic Writing:
absent  
Nonwritten Record:
present  
Non Phonetic Writing:
absent  
Mnemonic Device:
present  
Information / Kinds of Written Documents
Scientific Literature:
absent  
Sacred Text:
absent  
Religious Literature:
absent  
Practical Literature:
absent  
Philosophy:
absent  
Lists Tables and Classification:
absent  
History:
absent  
Fiction:
absent  
Calendar:
absent  
Information / Money
Token:
present  
Article:
present  
Store Of Wealth:
present  
Information / Postal System
Courier:
inferred present  
Information / Measurement System
Warfare Variables (Military Technologies)
Fortifications
Military use of Metals
Projectiles
Handheld weapons
Animals used in warfare
Armor
Naval technology
Religion Tolerance Nothing coded yet.
Human Sacrifice Nothing coded yet.
Crisis Consequences Nothing coded yet.
Power Transitions Nothing coded yet.

NGA Settlements:

Year Range Foys (ni_dahomey_k) was in:
Home NGA: None

General Variables
Identity and Location

Original Name:
Foys

“The Dahomeans, Dalzel states, were formerly called Foys and inhabited a small territory somewhat to the south of Abomey. Tacoodonou, chief of the Foys, treacherously murdered a neighboring chief, seized his town, Calmina (Kano), and subjugated the people. He then turned northward to Abomey, reduced it after an extended siege, and captured the chief, whose name was Da. In fulfillment of a vow, he ripped open Da’s belly, and built a compound over the deceased’s grave. He called this compound Da-Homey or, literally, in the language of the Foy (Fon), Da’s Belly. From that day forth, the Foys referred to themselves as Dahomeans and the area under their sovereignty was known as Dahomey. This phase of conquest began in the early years of the seventeenth century and was accomplished by 1625.” [1]

[1]: Diamond, S. (1996). DAHOMEY: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PROTO-STATE: An Essay in Historical Reconstruction. Dialectical Anthropology, 21(2), 121–216: 130. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/MW2G58RP/collection


“Royal palace construction for all subsequent kings of the seventeenth century, however, was limited to Abomey. This supports the argument that, like Allada and Hueda, administrative control in Dahomey was largely limited to the capital at this time.” [1] “Cana played a central political role in Dahomey throughout its history. This town may have been the center of political authority on the plateau prior to the arrival of the Fon dynasty. Under Dahomey, Cana was widely cited as the usual residence of the king. Dalzel claimed, for example, that he resided there year round and only left for Abomey when the Xwetanu approached.83 This led some to consider Cana the country capital of the kingdom. Each minister had a residence at Cana, permitting the entire administration to be available to the king at any given time. Cana was also a centrally important site of interaction between Dahomey and the Oyo Empire for much of the eighteenth century, and Oyo maintained an ambassador there in this period.” [2]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373; 357. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

[2]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 366–367. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

“Royal palace construction for all subsequent kings of the seventeenth century, however, was limited to Abomey. This supports the argument that, like Allada and Hueda, administrative control in Dahomey was largely limited to the capital at this time.” [1] “Cana played a central political role in Dahomey throughout its history. This town may have been the center of political authority on the plateau prior to the arrival of the Fon dynasty. Under Dahomey, Cana was widely cited as the usual residence of the king. Dalzel claimed, for example, that he resided there year round and only left for Abomey when the Xwetanu approached.83 This led some to consider Cana the country capital of the kingdom. Each minister had a residence at Cana, permitting the entire administration to be available to the king at any given time. Cana was also a centrally important site of interaction between Dahomey and the Oyo Empire for much of the eighteenth century, and Oyo maintained an ambassador there in this period.” [2]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373; 357. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

[2]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 366–367. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection


Alternative Name:
Foys

“The Dahomeans, Dalzel states, were formerly called Foys and inhabited a small territory somewhat to the south of Abomey.” [1]

[1]: Diamond, S. (1996). DAHOMEY: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PROTO-STATE: An Essay in Historical Reconstruction. Dialectical Anthropology, 21(2), 121–216: 130. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/MW2G58RP/collection


Temporal Bounds
Peak Years:
[1,818 CE ➜ 1,858 CE]

“In the history of the Abomey dynasty two names have stood out in the memory of Dahomeans by virtue of the renown and the conquests of the kings who bore them. The first, Agadja, who reigned from 1708 to 1732, is considered the country’s greatest warrior king. […] Agadja’s successors all extended the boundaries of the kingdom. In 1818 Gezo, the king who was to become the most revered in Dahomean history, came to the throne. He early proved himself a consummate politician and a skilful warrior and also established a close control over the whole kingdom by organizing a highly specialized administration. He managed to wrest independence from his Oyo suzerains, who were by now weakened by the Fulani invasions. He continued his predecessors’ military expeditions against the Yoruba chiefdoms and kingdoms to the north and east of his kingdom. During his long reign the arts and crafts flourished at the royal court, which reached an unprecedented splendour. By 1858, the year of Gezo’s death, the kingdom had reached its apogee.” [1] “Most of the chroniclers depend on the memoirs of Archibald Dalzel, published in 1793, for systematic information on the early history of Dahomey. Since it is generally agreed that Dalzel was a scrupulous observer, we have a chain of data stretching back to the early 1600s. Where gaps appear, it is doubtful that they can ever be precisely filled, for beginning with the French conquest in 1892, Dahomey has become increasingly part of the contemporary world.” [2]

[1]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 72–73. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection

[2]: Diamond, S. (1996). DAHOMEY: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PROTO-STATE: An Essay in Historical Reconstruction. Dialectical Anthropology, 21(2), 121–216: 127-128. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/MW2G58RP/collection


Duration:
[1,715 CE ➜ 1,894 CE]

"Contemporary accounts suggest rather that the ruler of Dahomey was originally merely a subordinate governor under the king of Allada, who ’made himself sovereign’ only in 1715 when he rebelled against Allada authority." [1]

“The kingdom of Abomey was captured by the French forces in 1894, after a campaign lasting nearly 20 years. King Gezu, who had ruled between 1818 and 1858, signed a commercial treaty with France in 1851, but his successor son Glele (reigning 1858-89) had provoked a series of hostilities between France and Dahomey. A first French military expedition lead by Dodds in 1890-91 against King Behanzin (reigning 1889-94) was followed by a second in 1892, which lead to the eventual surrender of Behanzin and the capture of Abomey and other strategic sites in Dahomey.” [2]

“Most of the chroniclers depend on the memoirs of Archibald Dalzel, published in 1793, for systematic information on the early history of Dahomey. Since it is generally agreed that Dalzel was a scrupulous observer, we have a chain of data stretching back to the early 1600s. Where gaps appear, it is doubtful that they can ever be precisely filled, for beginning with the French conquest in 1892, Dahomey has become increasingly part of the contemporary world.” [3]

“In 1892, three years after the accession of Behanzin, the last Abomey king, the French conquest brought about the collapse and disintegration of the monarchy (Dunglas, 1957, passim).” [4] “What are the descriptions available for a study of the life of the Dahomean kingdom prior to its conquest by the French in 1892?” [5]

[1]: (Law 1988: 447) Law, R. 1988. History and Legitimacy: Aspects of the Use of the past in Precolonial Dahomey. History in Africa 15: 431-456. Seshat URL: https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/search/dahomey/titleCreatorYear/items/TXMRDFMN/item-list

[2]: Kelly, J. A. 2015. ”Dahomey! Dahomey!”: African Art in Paris in the Late 19th Century. Journal of Art Historiography 12. ISSN: 2042-4752. Seshat URL: https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/items/TH4QZJQ5/library

[3]: Diamond, S. (1996). DAHOMEY: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PROTO-STATE: An Essay in Historical Reconstruction. Dialectical Anthropology, 21(2), 121–216: 127–128. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/MW2G58RP/collection

[4]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 73. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection

[5]: Herskovits, M. J. (1938). Dahomey: An Ancient West African Kingdom (Vol. 1). J. J. Augustin, New York. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/tags/Dahomey/items/F6XQPZFA/collection


Political and Cultural Relations
Suprapolity Relations:
nominal allegiance to [---]

Certainly early in the history of the Dahomey, it appears they were subordinate to the Oyos, a tributary state. Tributary status ended under Dahomean king Gezo (or Gezu), who reigned 1823–1858. “It is, first of all, well established that from 1708 (Dalzel 1793:14) to 1827, Dahomey was under continuous pressure from the Oyos, the Yoruba-speakers who lay to the northeast. Through the use of cavalry and firearms, the Oyos were able to defeat the Dahomean footsoldiers, and for almost a century held Dahomey in tribute, without occupying the area in force. It is even likely that the Oyos considered Dahomey just another conquered province (Burton 1864:11:197ff). Dalzel claims that the Oyos had besieged Allada as early as 1698 (Dalzel 1793:14). It is quite probable, therefore, that they had made frequent incursions into the Allada-Kano-Abomey area prior to Tacoodonou’s assault on Abomey. If their purpose had been tribute, as it was in later years, then the sudden expansion of the Foys under Tacoodonou may have been inspired by the need to set up a territorial buffer against the horsemen from the northeast. Such a buffer would also have served as a centralized tribute-collecting agency. Once the game of tribute had been learned, Tacoodonou and his followers would certainly have attempted to appropriate as much as possible for themselves. And the long struggle between Dahomey and the Oyos, not terminated until the reign of Gezu, eighth in the line of ten Dahomean "kings," would have resulted. It should be noted that even Gezu, at the height of Dahomean power, was not capable of defeating the traditional enemy directly. By 1827, certain Hausa-speaking groups fleeing before the Fulani, had overrun portions of Yoruba territory and so weakened the Oyo Yorubas in a protracted war that Gezu’s victory was merely a coup-de-grace (Ellis 1890:309-310).” [1] “The extent of the Old Oyo Kingdom had been a subject of debate among the professional and non-professional historians. […] Among the states incorporated into the Kingdom was Benin on the east, and Dahomey on the west. […] It was able to incorporate into the imperial power such sub-Yoruba states like Ajase-Ipo, Igbomina, Ekiti, Egba and Egbado (Atanda, 1973:5); and non-Yoruba groups like Dahomey.” [2] Law suggests that the Kingdom of Dahomey and others were separate polities with a large degree of independence, but which still paid tribute to Oyo. Law outlines three categories of Oyo subjects, counting Dahomey and others as part of the third category, so it’s up for debate whether this counts as supra-polity relations or not. Categories are: “1. The area that, to use Araji’s phrase, ‘owed direct allegiance to the Alafin’, and was subject to a relatively centralized administration from the capital. […] 2. Those kingdoms whose dynasties were traditionally supposed to be descended from Oduduwa, the legendary king of Ile Ife, and over whom the Alafin claimed authority as the legitimate successor to Oduduwa’s kingship. Of these perhaps only the Egba were in any real sense subject to Oyo, but others (such as the Ijesa) were prepared to acknowledge loosely the suzerainty (or at least the senior status) of the Alafin. 3. States outside the Ife dynastic system which paid tribute to Oyo, such as Dahomey.” [3] “In 1818 Gezo, the king who was to become the most revered in Dahomean history, came to the throne. He early proved himself a consummate politician and a skilful warrior and also established a close control over the whole kingdom by organizing a highly specialized administration. He managed to wrest independence from his Oyo suzerains, who were by now weakened by the Fulani invasions.” [4]

[1]: Diamond, S. (1996). DAHOMEY: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PROTO-STATE: An Essay in Historical Reconstruction. Dialectical Anthropology, 21(2), 121–216: 131. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/MW2G58RP/collection

[2]: Akinwumi, O. D. (1992). The Oyo-Borgu Military Alliance of 1835: A Case Study in the Pre-Colonial Military History. Transafrican Journal of History, 21, 159–170: 160. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J42GPW63/collection

[3]: Law, R. (1977). The Oyo Empire c. 1600 – c. 1836: A West African Imperialism in the Era of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Oxford University Press: 84–85. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/SB32ZPCF/collection

[4]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 73. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Succeeding Entity:
French Dahomey

After conquest by the French, Dahomey was made a French Protectorate in 1892 and in 1902 (NB I’ve also seen 1894 and 1904, but not from major sources, plus 1893 from Monroe) became part of a French colony, French Dahomey. “In 1892, three years after the accession of Behanzin, the last Abomey king, the French conquest brought about the collapse and disintegration of the monarchy (Dunglas, 1957, passim).” [1] “What are the descriptions available for a study of the life of the Dahomean kingdom prior to its conquest by the French in 1892?” [2]

[1]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 73. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection

[2]: Herskovits, M. J. (1938). Dahomey: An Ancient West African Kingdom (Vol. 1). J. J. Augustin, New York. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/tags/Dahomey/items/F6XQPZFA/collection


Preceding Entity:
Allada [ni_allada_k] ---> Foys [ni_dahomey_k]

“The rise of the Fon kingdom of Dahomey is a well-studied theme of West African history. Founded probably in the first half of the seventeenth century, Dahomey was originally subordinate to the kingdom of Allada, from whom it asserted its independence only in 1715. Under its fourth ruler Agaja (d. 1740), Dahomey proceeded to conquer both Allada in 1724 and the coastal kingdom of Whydah (itself also a former dependency of Allada) in 1727, thus becoming the dominant power in the region.” [1]

[1]: Law, R. (1989). ‘My Head Belongs to the King’: On the Political and Ritual Significance of Decapitation in Pre-Colonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 30(3), 399–415: 399. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/5335RH4I/collection


Degree of Centralization:
unitary state

“The success of the kings of Dahomey, in origin rebels with no traditional claim to authority, in winning acceptance of the legitimacy of their rule and uniting the conquered communities in a new sense of national identity, is remarkable. The successful consolidation of the Dahomian monarchy in the eighteenth century, it seems clear, cannot be adequately explained solely by the exercise of the coercive powers of the state, and its physical liquidation of rivals to and opponents of its authority, but requires consideration also of the sphere of ideology.” [1] “Thus, provincial governors were royal agents: they were responsible for public order, collecting taxes, providing military quotas, maintaining national highways, and settling all land disputes.” [2]

[1]: Law, R. (1989). ‘My Head Belongs to the King’: On the Political and Ritual Significance of Decapitation in Pre-Colonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 30(3), 399–415: 399. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/5335RH4I/collection

[2]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 76. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Language
Linguistic Family:
Niger-Congo

WALS classification.


Language:
Fongbe

WALS classification. “Apart from the nucleus, referred to by Newbury as ’Aja Proper’, who occupy the Mono River valley along the present Togo-Benin boundary, other important sub-groups are the Ewe of today’s Togo and Ghana; the Fon of ancient Allada, Agbome (Abomey), and Whydah or Hueda and the Gun of Porto Novo (new Allada).” [1]

[1]: Asiwaju, A. I. “The Aja-Speaking Peoples of Nigeria: A Note on Their Origins, Settlement and Cultural Adaptation up to 1945.” Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, vol. 49, no. 1, 1979, pp. 15–28: 16. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/2XUNFSVW/collection


Religion
Religious Tradition:
Vodun

“At Annual Customs, kings assembled the entire population, offered sacrifices, conducted Vodun ceremonies, gave gifts, reviewed the previous year, and planned future activities.” [1]

[1]: Shillington, Kevin, ed. Encyclopedia of African History. 1st Ed., Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005; 333. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/AWA9ZT5B/collection


Religion Family:
Dahomey royal ancestor cult

“Though not more than half of the people in Dahomey worship the great gods of earth, thunder, and creation, most of them belong to lesser cults. The cult-house is their spiritual home. It holds them relentlessly in its magical grip, for their nail- and hair-clippings, deposited there, may be used to bewitch them if they ever misbehave. Like the economic societies, these cults are strongly cooperative. Striking a member on the cheek will send him, and all the cult-brothers who rush to aid him, into a fit of spirit possession. Dahomean formalism makes these fits less spontaneous than in other parts of Africa. They may even be postponed for some purely practical reason. The human world is often reflected in the world of the gods. Dahomean gods form family groups, each with its divine genealogy. Their precedence depends on their relative age. A mortal takes care to invoke them in the order of their birth, and the youngest member of the pantheon plays a mischievous part in the myths, like a spoiled and unruly youngest child. Mawu the moon-goddess and her son Legba illustrate the family life of the gods and their more subtle functions. In the practical world, Mawu manifests herself as Destiny, Fa, whose cult the Dahomean kings borrowed from the Nago tribe to gain "a more efficient control over society . . . and to overcome the influence of those other divinatory systems which were less well organized and therefore less easily con- trollable." To reveal the will of fate, Fa’s priests cast sixteen palm kernels, record the way they fall by marks on a board covered with white powder, and interpret these marks by referring to a long series of myths. Destiny would seem to be inexorable, but Legba, the youngest son of Mawu, may influence her decrees. After every night he climbs to the top of her heavenly palm tree to open some of her sixteen eyes. Fearing to be overheard, she indicates those which she wants him to open by handing him the appropriate number of palm kernels. In the myths Legba is the trickster, always intriguing against the gods. In everyday life he personifies Accident, man’s only defense against a relentless Destiny. Da, the snake or the rainbow, personifies Fortune, an elusive substance that comes mysteriously and will slip away unless carefully guarded. All snakes are called Da, but all snakes are not respected. The vodu Da is more than a snake. It is a living quality expressed in all things that are flexible, sinuous and moist; all things that fold and refold and coil, and do not move on feet, though sometimes these things that are Da go through the air. The rainbow has these qualities, and smoke, and so has the umbilical cord, and some say the nerves, too.” [1] “In Dahomey, however, national cults were closely supervised by the king. The priests of these cults - which were of great importance and influence in the country - were his loyal subordinates. Royal agents supervised their activities constantly. The king was also high-priest in a state religion. With the political elaboration of the kingdom the cults associated with the royal dynasty quickly assumed primacy over others. Unlike the chiefs of some West African societies, the king was never enstooled by an indigenous ‘chief of the earth ’, a representative of the original inhabitants, but by the priest of the royal ancestor cult. Besides this, no religious ritual, however domestic or private in nature, could be performed before the annual celebration in honour of the royal ancestors.” [2]

[1]: Cline, W. (1940). Review of Dahomey: An Ancient West African Kingdom. The Journal of American Folklore, 53(208/209), 206–209: 207–208. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/3BEHI8UP/collection

[2]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 79–80. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection



Social Complexity Variables
Social Scale
Population of the Largest Settlement:
-
1600 CE 1699 CE

Inhabitants. “Although the nature of pre Dahomean settlement on the plateau is poorly understood, it is clear that by the 18th century two Dahomean cities rose to dominance across the region: Abomey and Cana. Abomey, an expansive community settled around a marketplace and a series of royal palace compounds, emerged as greater Dahomey’s political capital and home to as many as 30,000 in the 18th century. Nearby Cana also became a significant center on the plateau in this period. It was a major node in regional administration and interregional trade routes, with significant regional markets and as many as 15,000 inhabitants in the 18th century. Historical population estimates suggest 21 to 33 percent of the plateau’s population lived at Abomey and Cana.” [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2011). Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast: Archaeology sheds new light on cities in the era of the Atlantic slave trade. American Scientist, 99(5), 400–409: 406. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/E5WA63Z2/collection

Population of the Largest Settlement:
30,000 people
1700 CE 1800 CE

Inhabitants. “Although the nature of pre Dahomean settlement on the plateau is poorly understood, it is clear that by the 18th century two Dahomean cities rose to dominance across the region: Abomey and Cana. Abomey, an expansive community settled around a marketplace and a series of royal palace compounds, emerged as greater Dahomey’s political capital and home to as many as 30,000 in the 18th century. Nearby Cana also became a significant center on the plateau in this period. It was a major node in regional administration and interregional trade routes, with significant regional markets and as many as 15,000 inhabitants in the 18th century. Historical population estimates suggest 21 to 33 percent of the plateau’s population lived at Abomey and Cana.” [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2011). Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast: Archaeology sheds new light on cities in the era of the Atlantic slave trade. American Scientist, 99(5), 400–409: 406. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/E5WA63Z2/collection

Population of the Largest Settlement:
-
1801 CE 1892 CE

Inhabitants. “Although the nature of pre Dahomean settlement on the plateau is poorly understood, it is clear that by the 18th century two Dahomean cities rose to dominance across the region: Abomey and Cana. Abomey, an expansive community settled around a marketplace and a series of royal palace compounds, emerged as greater Dahomey’s political capital and home to as many as 30,000 in the 18th century. Nearby Cana also became a significant center on the plateau in this period. It was a major node in regional administration and interregional trade routes, with significant regional markets and as many as 15,000 inhabitants in the 18th century. Historical population estimates suggest 21 to 33 percent of the plateau’s population lived at Abomey and Cana.” [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2011). Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast: Archaeology sheds new light on cities in the era of the Atlantic slave trade. American Scientist, 99(5), 400–409: 406. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/E5WA63Z2/collection


Polity Territory:
1,200 km2
1724 CE

in squared kilometers. Calculated approximately from map supplied in: [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2011). Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast: Archaeology sheds new light on cities in the era of the Atlantic slave trade. American Scientist, 99(5), 400–409: 402.https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/E5WA63Z2/collection

Polity Territory:
5,400 km2
1727 CE 1820 CE

in squared kilometers. Calculated approximately from map supplied in: [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2011). Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast: Archaeology sheds new light on cities in the era of the Atlantic slave trade. American Scientist, 99(5), 400–409: 402.https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/E5WA63Z2/collection

Polity Territory:
7,200 km2
1820 CE 1892 CE

in squared kilometers. Calculated approximately from map supplied in: [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2011). Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast: Archaeology sheds new light on cities in the era of the Atlantic slave trade. American Scientist, 99(5), 400–409: 402.https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/E5WA63Z2/collection


Polity Population:
-
1600 CE 1699 CE

People. “Abomey, an expansive community settled around a marketplace and a series of royal palace compounds, emerged as greater Dahomey’s political capital and home to as many as 30,000 in the 18th century. Nearby Cana also became a significant center on the plateau in this period. It was a major node in regional administration and interregional trade routes, with significant regional markets and as many as 15,000 inhabitants in the 18th century. Historical population estimates suggest 21 to 33 percent of the plateau’s population lived at Abomey and Cana.” [1] “On the eve of European penetration the Dahomey kingdom stretched from the important coastal ports of Whydah and Cotonou to the eighth parallel, excluding Savé and Savalou. […] The Dahomey kingdom thus stretched almost two hundred miles from north to south , and one hundred miles from east to west. Its population has been estimated roughly at two hundred thousand.” [2]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2011). Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast: Archaeology sheds new light on cities in the era of the Atlantic slave trade. American Scientist, 99(5), 400–409: 406. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/E5WA63Z2/collection

[2]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 70. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection

Polity Population:
[136,000 to 214,000] people
1700 CE 1800 CE

People. “Abomey, an expansive community settled around a marketplace and a series of royal palace compounds, emerged as greater Dahomey’s political capital and home to as many as 30,000 in the 18th century. Nearby Cana also became a significant center on the plateau in this period. It was a major node in regional administration and interregional trade routes, with significant regional markets and as many as 15,000 inhabitants in the 18th century. Historical population estimates suggest 21 to 33 percent of the plateau’s population lived at Abomey and Cana.” [1] “On the eve of European penetration the Dahomey kingdom stretched from the important coastal ports of Whydah and Cotonou to the eighth parallel, excluding Savé and Savalou. […] The Dahomey kingdom thus stretched almost two hundred miles from north to south , and one hundred miles from east to west. Its population has been estimated roughly at two hundred thousand.” [2]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2011). Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast: Archaeology sheds new light on cities in the era of the Atlantic slave trade. American Scientist, 99(5), 400–409: 406. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/E5WA63Z2/collection

[2]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 70. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection

Polity Population:
[200,000 to 214,000] people
1800 CE 1890 CE

People. “Abomey, an expansive community settled around a marketplace and a series of royal palace compounds, emerged as greater Dahomey’s political capital and home to as many as 30,000 in the 18th century. Nearby Cana also became a significant center on the plateau in this period. It was a major node in regional administration and interregional trade routes, with significant regional markets and as many as 15,000 inhabitants in the 18th century. Historical population estimates suggest 21 to 33 percent of the plateau’s population lived at Abomey and Cana.” [1] “On the eve of European penetration the Dahomey kingdom stretched from the important coastal ports of Whydah and Cotonou to the eighth parallel, excluding Savé and Savalou. […] The Dahomey kingdom thus stretched almost two hundred miles from north to south , and one hundred miles from east to west. Its population has been estimated roughly at two hundred thousand.” [2]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2011). Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast: Archaeology sheds new light on cities in the era of the Atlantic slave trade. American Scientist, 99(5), 400–409: 406. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/E5WA63Z2/collection

[2]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 70. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Hierarchical Complexity
Settlement Hierarchy:
4

levels. 1) Cities, 2) major towns, 3) minor towns, 4) villages. “Although the nature of pre Dahomean settlement on the plateau is poorly understood, it is clear that by the 18th century two Dahomean cities rose to dominance across the region: Abomey and Cana. Abomey, an expansive community settled around a marketplace and a series of royal palace compounds, emerged as greater Dahomey’s political capital and home to as many as 30,000 in the 18th century. Nearby Cana also became a significant center on the plateau in this period. It was a major node in regional administration and interregional trade routes, with significant regional markets and as many as 15,000 inhabitants in the 18th century.” [1] “Additionally, whereas eighteenth-century sources are relatively silent on the nature of regional governance, by the nineteenth century, towns throughout Dahomey were clearly managed by officials sent from Abomey. Indeed, major centers like Whydah and Allada, as well as minor towns such as Whegbo, were divided into quarters, each of which was controlled by lower-ranking officials36 ’who regulate their own departments, and distribute justice except in some extraordinary cases which are referred to Abomey’.” [2] “The fundamental unit of Dahomean society was the patrilineal joint, or extended family, the immediate locus of social production and biological reproduction, the center, in short, of the domestic economy. Each extended family, consisting of a man, his wives, his children, his younger brothers and their children, occupied a family compound, the subsistence base of which was its fields. A series of these compounds comprised a village. Historically, it is probable that all of the joint families in a given village were related through the patrilineal line, forming a localized patrilineal clan.” [3]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2011). Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast: Archaeology sheds new light on cities in the era of the Atlantic slave trade. American Scientist, 99(5), 400–409: 406. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/E5WA63Z2/collection

[2]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 355. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

[3]: Diamond, S. (1996). DAHOMEY: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PROTO-STATE: An Essay in Historical Reconstruction. Dialectical Anthropology, 21(2), 121–216: 16.https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/MW2G58RP/collection


Religious Level:
[3 to 4]

levels. 1) King, as head of the royal ancestor cult, 2) high priests, 3) local priests and 4) shrine priests. It’s unclear to me whether the local and shrine priests were of different status levels, so there may only be three. “The most important shrines were attended by priests, who dwelled near by. One of the highest-ranking priests, the Agasun-no, called Dahomey’s Archbishop of Canterbury by Burton, had his "country palace" along the royal road.” [1] “Subsequent secular travelers grumbled at delays along the road due to the emergence of priests from shrines to say prayers and solicit alms, or simply to the presence of barriers marking religious sites.” [2] “In Dahomey, however, national cults were closely supervised by the king. The priests of these cults - which were of great importance and influence in the country - were his loyal subordinates. Royal agents supervised their activities constantly. The king was also high-priest in a state religion. With the political elaboration of the kingdom the cults associated with the royal dynasty quickly assumed primacy over others. Unlike the chiefs of some West African societies, the king was never enstooled by an indigenous ‘chief of the earth’, a representative of the original inhabitants, but by the priest of the royal ancestor cult. Besides this, no religious ritual, however domestic or private in nature, could be performed before the annual celebration in honour of the royal ancestors.” [3]

[1]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 19. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection

[2]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 22. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection

[3]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 79–80. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Military Level:
6

levels. 1) King, 2) Commander-in-chief, 3) Second in command, 4) regimental officers, 5) general and specialist corps, 6) individual soldiery. “Every Dahomean was a potential soldier. Burton states that the "nation" was synonymous with the army (Burton 1846:II:220ff).” [1] “Dahomey developed a revolutionary political system in which power was based on centralized military might rather than traditional rules of royal descent. Military power allowed Dahomey to construct a centralized bureaucratic apparatus that broke radically with the kin-based institutions of the past and was thus better able to resist collapse.” [2] “The regular army consisted of fourteen regiments of about eight hundred men strong, and three brigades of Amazons amounting altogether to three thousand. Two officers, ranked as councillors, commanded the army. The Gau, the commander-in-chief, led the right wing. During the campaign he shared the prerogatives of the king. The Kposu, second-in-command, led the left wing. In peace-time the Gau came under the Migan, on the king’s right; the Kposu came under the Meu, on the king’s left.Regular soldiers wore blue-and-white tunics and were organized into regiments and companies, under the command of an officer, each with its own drums and standard. Veterans wore indigo tunics and were called atchi. Among the others, the more numerous were the fusiliers, who fought with bayonets, and the blunderbussmen, or agbaraya. The Ashanti company was the élite corps, formed of the king’s hunters. Lastly, there were companies of archers, armed with poisoned arrows, a cavalry company, and a few artillerymen.//"The Amazons were organized into two separate corps: a permanent army and a reserve. The reserve company guarded the capital, and especially the palace, in war-time. In the nineteenth century the Amazons were highly organized. They wore uniforms similar to the men’s: sleeveless tunics, with blue-and-white stripes, reached to the knees; baggy breeches were held in at the waist by a cartridge belt. Members of the king’s bodyguard wore a band of white ribbon about the forehead, embroidered with a blue crocodile. Amazons lived at the palace and belonged to the king, who recruited them from free Dahomeans and captives. They were celibate and were forbidden to marry until they reached middle age, when they still needed the king’s consent. In peace-time they saw to their own needs by manufacturing pots or carving calabashes; both crafts were their exclusive monopoly.//"During the campaign the Amazon army was organized into three groups: the Fanti company - royal bodyguard - constituted the main body, and the left and right wings came under female officers who corresponded to the Gau and Kposu of the male army. Individual companies were distinguished by the arms they carried: bayonets, muskets (each musketeer was accompanied by a carrier), and bows and arrows (borne by the youngest recruits). The élite corps, the Fanti company, consisted of the famed elephant huntresses, the boldest and toughest of the Amazons.” [3]

[1]: Diamond, S. (1996). DAHOMEY: THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PROTO-STATE: An Essay in Historical Reconstruction. Dialectical Anthropology, 21(2), 121–216: 29. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/MW2G58RP/collection

[2]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 351. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

[3]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 86–88. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Administrative Level:
-
1600 CE 1699 CE

levels. Dahomey was, from the first, a monarchy. Based on the following selection of quotes, it seems reasonable to infer the following levels, at least for the period from the 18th century on:1. King :2. Core group of high ministers (bonugan daho and begani) (from the 18th century, possibly earlier) ::“For example, eighteenth-century sources identify a core group of high ministers, or bonugan daho, who provided support for the expanding state. Under King Gezo, the palace became the residence of additional female officials, or begani, who corresponded to the major male dignitaries and their subordinates. In all, these officers, male and female, were state-appointed officials, charged with directly administering various political, economic, military and religious sectors of the kingdom.” [1] :2. Royal wives ::"Many of the royal wives, officials themselves, were placed in palaces throughout Dahomey to manage the interests of the monarchy. Agaja may have built nine palaces during his reign, and references to additional palaces at Allada, Cana and other towns are common in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century sources. The presence of these structures across the landscape clearly facilitated political integration in Dahomey.” [2] ::3. Regional and town officials (from the 19th century, possibly earlier) :::4. Town officials ::::5. Within-town divisional officials :::::6. Subordinates :::::: :::“Additionally, whereas eighteenth-century sources are relatively silent on the nature of regional governance, by the nineteenth century, towns throughout Dahomey were clearly managed by officials sent from Abomey. Indeed, major centers like Whydah and Allada, as well as minor towns such as Whegbo, were divided into quarters, each of which was controlled by lower-ranking officials ’who regulate their own departments, and distribute justice except in some extraordinary cases which are referred to Abomey’.” [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 355. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

[2]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 356–357. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

Administrative Level:
[3 to 6]
1700 CE 1799 CE

levels. Dahomey was, from the first, a monarchy. Based on the following selection of quotes, it seems reasonable to infer the following levels, at least for the period from the 18th century on:1. King :2. Core group of high ministers (bonugan daho and begani) (from the 18th century, possibly earlier) ::“For example, eighteenth-century sources identify a core group of high ministers, or bonugan daho, who provided support for the expanding state. Under King Gezo, the palace became the residence of additional female officials, or begani, who corresponded to the major male dignitaries and their subordinates. In all, these officers, male and female, were state-appointed officials, charged with directly administering various political, economic, military and religious sectors of the kingdom.” [1] :2. Royal wives ::"Many of the royal wives, officials themselves, were placed in palaces throughout Dahomey to manage the interests of the monarchy. Agaja may have built nine palaces during his reign, and references to additional palaces at Allada, Cana and other towns are common in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century sources. The presence of these structures across the landscape clearly facilitated political integration in Dahomey.” [2] ::3. Regional and town officials (from the 19th century, possibly earlier) :::4. Town officials ::::5. Within-town divisional officials :::::6. Subordinates :::::: :::“Additionally, whereas eighteenth-century sources are relatively silent on the nature of regional governance, by the nineteenth century, towns throughout Dahomey were clearly managed by officials sent from Abomey. Indeed, major centers like Whydah and Allada, as well as minor towns such as Whegbo, were divided into quarters, each of which was controlled by lower-ranking officials ’who regulate their own departments, and distribute justice except in some extraordinary cases which are referred to Abomey’.” [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 355. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

[2]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 356–357. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

Administrative Level:
6
1800 CE 1892 CE

levels. Dahomey was, from the first, a monarchy. Based on the following selection of quotes, it seems reasonable to infer the following levels, at least for the period from the 18th century on:1. King :2. Core group of high ministers (bonugan daho and begani) (from the 18th century, possibly earlier) ::“For example, eighteenth-century sources identify a core group of high ministers, or bonugan daho, who provided support for the expanding state. Under King Gezo, the palace became the residence of additional female officials, or begani, who corresponded to the major male dignitaries and their subordinates. In all, these officers, male and female, were state-appointed officials, charged with directly administering various political, economic, military and religious sectors of the kingdom.” [1] :2. Royal wives ::"Many of the royal wives, officials themselves, were placed in palaces throughout Dahomey to manage the interests of the monarchy. Agaja may have built nine palaces during his reign, and references to additional palaces at Allada, Cana and other towns are common in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century sources. The presence of these structures across the landscape clearly facilitated political integration in Dahomey.” [2] ::3. Regional and town officials (from the 19th century, possibly earlier) :::4. Town officials ::::5. Within-town divisional officials :::::6. Subordinates :::::: :::“Additionally, whereas eighteenth-century sources are relatively silent on the nature of regional governance, by the nineteenth century, towns throughout Dahomey were clearly managed by officials sent from Abomey. Indeed, major centers like Whydah and Allada, as well as minor towns such as Whegbo, were divided into quarters, each of which was controlled by lower-ranking officials ’who regulate their own departments, and distribute justice except in some extraordinary cases which are referred to Abomey’.” [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 355. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

[2]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 356–357. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection


Professions
Professional Soldier:
present

“Forbes, the English traveller, estimated in 1845 that the army consisted of twelve thousand soldiers, five thousand of whom were women.” [1] “The first kings had led their own armies to war. In the nineteenth century they were content to follow in the wake of the main body with their retinues, spurring on their officers from the rear. Firearms were first introduced towards the end of the seventeenth century; in the eighteenth century the army even possessed a few cannon. Rapidly a gun became the indispensable part of a Dahomean soldier’s equipment, replacing the bow and arrowentirely except for one or two companies. In the second half of the nineteenth century there were two armies: a standing army of male and female warriors, and a reserve army of all adult men and women capable of bearing arms. They were mobilized by the king in time of war. The regular army consisted of fourteen regiments of about eight hundred men strong, and three brigades of Amazons amounting altogether to three thousand. Two officers, ranked as councillors, commanded the army. The Gau, the commander-in-chief, led the right wing. During the campaign he shared the prerogatives of the king. The Kposu, second-in-command, led the left wing. In peace-time the Gau came under the Migan, on the king’s right; the Kposu came under the Meu, on the king’s left.Regular soldiers wore blue-and-white tunics and were organized into regiments and companies, under the command of an officer, each with its own drums and standard. Veterans wore indigo tunics and were called atchi. Among the others, the more numerous were the fusiliers, who fought with bayonets, and the blunderbussmen, or agbaraya. The Ashanti company was the élite corps, formed of the king’s hunters. Lastly, there were companies of archers, armed with poisoned arrows, a cavalry company, and a few artillerymen.The Amazons were organized into two separate corps: a permanent army and a reserve. The reserve company guarded the capital, and especially the palace, in war-time. In the nineteenth century the Amazons were highly organized. They wore uniforms similar to the men’s: sleeveless tunics, with blue-and-white stripes, reached to the knees; baggy breeches were held in at the waist by a cartridge belt. Members of the king’s bodyguard wore a band of white ribbon about the forehead, embroidered with a blue crocodile. Amazons lived at the palace and belonged to the king, who recruited them from free Dahomeans and captives. They were celibate and were forbidden to marry until they reached middle age, when they still needed the king’s consent. In peace-time they saw to their own needs by manufacturing pots or carving calabashes; both crafts were their exclusive monopoly.During the campaign the Amazon army was organized into three groups: the Fanti company - royal bodyguard - constituted the main body, and the left and right wings came under female officers who corresponded to the Gau and Kposu of the male army. Individual companies were distinguished by the arms they carried: bayonets, muskets (each musketeer was accompanied by a carrier), and bows and arrows (borne by the youngest recruits). The élite corps, the Fanti company, consisted of the famed elephant huntresses, the boldest and toughest of the Amazons.” [2]

[1]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 86. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection

[2]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press; 86–88. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Professional Priesthood:
present

Priests were clearly important, but I can’t find confirmation that they were full-time roles. “The most important shrines were attended by priests, who dwelled near by. One of the highest-ranking priests, the Agasun-no, called Dahomey’s Archbishop of Canterbury by Burton, had his "country palace" along the royal road.” [1] “Subsequent secular travelers grumbled at delays along the road due to the emergence of priests from shrines to say prayers and solicit alms, or simply to the presence of barriers marking religious sites.” [2] “In Dahomey, however, national cults were closely supervised by the king. The priests of these cults - which were of great importance and influence in the country - were his loyal subordinates. Royal agents supervised their activities constantly. The king was also high-priest in a state religion. With the political elaboration of the kingdom the cults associated with the royal dynasty quickly assumed primacy over others. Unlike the chiefs of some West African societies, the king was never enstooled by an indigenous ‘chief of the earth’, a representative of the original inhabitants, but by the priest of the royal ancestor cult. Besides this, no religious ritual, however domestic or private in nature, could be performed before the annual celebration in honour of the royal ancestors.” [3]

[1]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 19. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection

[2]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 22. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection

[3]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 79–80. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Professional Military Officer:
present

“The regular army consisted of fourteen regiments of about eight hundred men strong, and three brigades of Amazons amounting altogether to three thousand. Two officers, ranked as councillors, commanded the army. The Gau, the commander-in-chief, led the right wing. During the campaign he shared the prerogatives of the king. The Kposu, second-in-command, led the left wing. In peace-time the Gau came under the Migan, on the king’s right; the Kposu came under the Meu, on the king’s left.Regular soldiers wore blue-and-white tunics and were organized into regiments and companies, under the command of an officer, each with its own drums and standard. Veterans wore indigo tunics and were called atchi. Among the others, the more numerous were the fusiliers, who fought with bayonets, and the blunderbussmen, or agbaraya. The Ashanti company was the élite corps, formed of the king’s hunters. Lastly, there were companies of archers, armed with poisoned arrows, a cavalry company, and a few artillerymen.The Amazons were organized into two separate corps: a permanent army and a reserve. The reserve company guarded the capital, and especially the palace, in war-time. In the nineteenth century the Amazons were highly organized. They wore uniforms similar to the men’s: sleeveless tunics, with blue-and-white stripes, reached to the knees; baggy breeches were held in at the waist by a cartridge belt. Members of the king’s bodyguard wore a band of white ribbon about the forehead, embroidered with a blue crocodile. Amazons lived at the palace and belonged to the king, who recruited them from free Dahomeans and captives. They were celibate and were forbidden to marry until they reached middle age, when they still needed the king’s consent. In peace-time they saw to their own needs by manufacturing pots or carving calabashes; both crafts were their exclusive monopoly.During the campaign the Amazon army was organized into three groups: the Fanti company - royal bodyguard - constituted the main body, and the left and right wings came under female officers who corresponded to the Gau and Kposu of the male army. Individual companies were distinguished by the arms they carried: bayonets, muskets (each musketeer was accompanied by a carrier), and bows and arrows (borne by the youngest recruits). The élite corps, the Fanti company, consisted of the famed elephant huntresses, the boldest and toughest of the Amazons.” [1]

[1]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press; 86–88. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Bureaucracy Characteristics
Full Time Bureaucrat:
present

Full-time specialists. There were clearly bureaucratic roles, but I can’t find confirmation that they were full-time. “Other sources suggest, however, that subsequent rulers experimented with novel political strategies, including the expansion of bureaucratic control over Dahomean territories. For example, eighteenth-century sources identify a core group of high ministers, or bonugan daho, who provided support for the expanding state. Under King Gezo, the palace became the residence of additional female officials, or begani, who corresponded to the major male dignitaries and their subordinates. In all, these officers, male and female, were state-appointed officials, charged with directly administering various political, economic, military and religious sectors of the kingdom. Additionally, whereas eighteenth-century sources are relatively silent on the nature of regional governance, by the nineteenth century, towns throughout Dahomey were clearly managed by officials sent from Abomey. Indeed, major centers like Whydah and Allada, as well as minor towns such as Whegbo, were divided into quarters, each of which was controlled by lower-ranking officials ’who regulate their own departments, and distribute justice except in some extraordinary cases which are referred to Abomey’.” [1] “Long-term political stability in Dahomey was facilitated by the creation of a centralized state bureaucracy designed to project royal control over critical economic interests. This bureaucracy was built upon existing political foundations, flexibly redesigned and expanded to deal with the changing dynamics of internal Dahomean politics as well as the shifting tides of the Atlantic trade. By the nineteenth century, Dahomey emerged from this tumultuous era with a government system clearly more effective at centralizing administrative control over its interests than its predecessors on the Slave Coast. Thus, although Dahomey may not have brought about a ’revolution* in political order, it clearly represents dramatic ’evolution’ in the nature of administrative organization on the Slave Coast of West Africa.” [2] “Akinjogbin sees the central governments’ members as exercising strict control over events in every part of the country. The central government had, it appears, stationed in each of the country’s various localities representatives who both maintained law and order and saw to the implementation of national policy. The national government was able to keep in touch with its local representatives by drawing on the services of a group of "messengers-cum-civil-servants" or Illari. These were "sent to any part of the kingdom and thus used to check any remote officer or co-ordinate any national plans." Eighteenth-century Dahomey was, by this account, a nation state whose bureaucratic government was fairly similar to that of some of the states of contemporary Western Europe.” [3]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 355. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

[2]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 373. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection

[3]: Ross, D. (1983). European Models and West African History: Further Comments on the Recent Historiography of Dahomey. History in Africa, 10, 293–305: 294. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/WF92T7BH/collection


Law
Judge:
present

“The king, as we have seen, was supreme judge, with power of life and death over his subjects. There was, however, a well organized hierarchy of courts. Village chiefs dealt only with civil disputes. Criminal cases were adjudicated by the provincial governor or the king’s councillors. At village level there was a court of first instance only; sanctions were limited to fines and short periods of imprisonment. Village chiefs supervised trials by ordeal.The provincial chief had wider powers. He could inflict the bastinado or impose lengthy periods of imprisonment. In all cases, however, the death penalty was the king’s prerogative.” [1]

[1]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 89. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Formal Legal Code:
present

“The king, as we have seen, was supreme judge, with power of life and death over his subjects. There was, however, a well organized hierarchy of courts. Village chiefs dealt only with civil disputes. Criminal cases were adjudicated by the provincial governor or the king’s councillors. At village level there was a court of first instance only; sanctions were limited to fines and short periods of imprisonment. Village chiefs supervised trials by ordeal.The provincial chief had wider powers. He could inflict the bastinado or impose lengthy periods of imprisonment. In all cases, however, the death penalty was the king’s prerogative.” [1]

[1]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 89. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Court:
present

“The king, as we have seen, was supreme judge, with power of life and death over his subjects. There was, however, a well organized hierarchy of courts. Village chiefs dealt only with civil disputes. Criminal cases were adjudicated by the provincial governor or the king’s councillors. At village level there was a court of first instance only; sanctions were limited to fines and short periods of imprisonment. Village chiefs supervised trials by ordeal.The provincial chief had wider powers. He could inflict the bastinado or impose lengthy periods of imprisonment. In all cases, however, the death penalty was the king’s prerogative.” [1]

[1]: Lombard, J. (1976). The Kingdom of Dahomey. In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century (Repr, pp. 70–92). Published for the International African Institute by Oxford University Press: 89. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/T6WTVSHZ/collection


Specialized Buildings: polity owned
Market:
present

“Nearby was a market called Akwe-janahan, meaning, if you didn’t have cowries, you could buy nothing. "A busy trade is always under weigh at this place," Skertchly reported, "for the traffic between Kana and Abomey is very considerable, and the grateful shade of the majestic cotton and umbrella trees entices the wayfarer to halt, and indulge in a ’chop’ [meal] and smoke.” [1]

[1]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 19. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection


Food Storage Site:
present

“In some European eyes, the farmland on either side was as lovely as the road itself. It was intensively cultivated, with sorghum, corn, beans, and yams among field crops and palm oil and shea butter among tree crops. Forbes wrote that cultivation in the Cana area "rival[ed] that of the Chinese." His companion Beecroft remarked "Corn Plantations tastefully cleared and laid out in Ridges." Fraser rated the royal road environs "by far the prettiest part of the journey" from the coast." Bouit called the countryside "extremely beautiful," with "pretty dwellings [and] rich croplands extending as far as one could see on both sides of the route." Repin said the lay of the land favored the traveler with "views both varied and pleasant; it’s a sort of kitchen garden supplying grain and vegetables." For Burton, the land from Cana to Abomey was "emphatically the garden of Dahome, showing a wondrous soft and pleasant aspect... a succession of palm orchards and grain fields... [with] frequent villages that stud the fair champaign.” [1]

[1]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 17. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection


Utilitarian Public Building:
present

“According to Duncan, this was facilitated by the placement of customs houses on the major roads leading into the kingdom. Palace sites may have served, therefore, as higher-order collection points for goods produced and taxes collected throughout the region in the nineteenth century.” [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 361. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection


Symbolic Building:
present

“Besides fields and villages, the royal roadside was dotted with religious shrines. Forbes counted more than 60 in just the last quarter-mile before reaching Abomey. These usually consisted of mud huts or thatched sheds containing wooden or clay images; Europeans called them fetish houses. In traveling the road, Beecroft "came upon numbers of Fetish Houses neatly built of Red Clay and Sand, all in the Vicinity clean and neat, beautifully ornamented with Trees." Burton, too, remarked on the cleanliness and neatness of certain places cleared for worshipers. Other shrines were crossbars between poles-Burton and Skertchly called them "gallows"-and sacred trees." [1]

[1]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 18–19.https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection


Other Utilitarian Public Building:
present

“According to Duncan, this was facilitated by the placement of customs houses on the major roads leading into the kingdom. Palace sites may have served, therefore, as higher-order collection points for goods produced and taxes collected throughout the region in the nineteenth century.” [1]

[1]: Monroe, J. C. (2007). Continuity, Revolution or Evolution on the Slave Coast of West Africa? Royal Architecture and Political Order in Precolonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 48(3), 349–373: 361. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/ASTPFKNP/collection


Transport Infrastructure
Road:
present

“Nineteenth-century European visitors to the kingdom of Dahomey were not easily impressed, certainly not by any infrastructural refinement. So when one after another perceived grandeur in the Cana-Abomey road, it was no small compliment. For French travellers the road was "magnifique," "superbe," a "merveille," "fort belle," "vraiment belle," or "des plus belles." For British travelers "splendid" or-perhaps the ultimate accolade-as broad as any thoroughfare in England. This remarkable road was the last leg of the regular route from Dahomey’s Atlantic port of Whydah to the royal capital at Abomey. Its basic purpose was not to impress foreigners on their approach to the capital, as one might imagine, but to allow the kings of Dahomey to travel to and from Cana in style.” [1] “The royal road would seem to have predated Gezo though I have found no eyewitness testimony earlier than his reign. Forbes gathered, in 1849-50, that Gezo’s grandfather Kpengla (1774-89), "died the M’Adam of Africa, leaving roads leading to his capital as broad as Pall Mall." This may dovetail with a report by Lionel Abson, longtime head of the English fort at Whydah, as transcribed by Dalzel, that in 1779 Kpengla ordered all his subjects to set about clearing the paths, giving each caboceer a string, measuring ten yards, the intended width of roads. Thus a spacious communication was opened, not only between each town and the capital, but all the way down to the beach [at Why-dah]. With incredible labour and fatigue, a passage was cut through the wood at Apoy; the gullies were filled up, and the hurdle bridges, over the swamps, were widened.When this work was completed, the King said, with a vainglorious air, If any one be desirous of paying me a visit, he shall not have it to say, that thorns or briars impede his march.’” [2]

[1]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 11–12. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection

[2]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 13. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection


Port:
present

“This remarkable road was the last leg of the regular route from Dahomey’s Atlantic port of Whydah to the royal capital at Abomey.” [1]

[1]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 11. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection


Bridge:
present

“[A] passage was cut through the wood at Apoy; the gullies were filled up, and the hurdle bridges, over the swamps, were widened.” [1]

[1]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 13. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection


Special-purpose Sites
Ceremonial Site:
present

“Besides fields and villages, the royal roadside was dotted with religious shrines. Forbes counted more than 60 in just the last quarter-mile before reaching Abomey. These usually consisted of mud huts or thatched sheds containing wooden or clay images; Europeans called them fetish houses. In traveling the road, Beecroft "came upon numbers of Fetish Houses neatly built of Red Clay and Sand, all in the Vicinity clean and neat, beautifully ornamented with Trees." Burton, too, remarked on the cleanliness and neatness of certain places cleared for worshipers. Other shrines were crossbars between poles-Burton and Skertchly called them "gallows"-and sacred trees."’ One religious complex was dedicated to Legba, the ithyphallic deity who served as intermediary between mankind and the other gods, and could both do evil and protect worshipers against it. Europeans often confused him with the devil: Bouit called Legba’s abode on the royal road the king’s "Maison du Diable." Burton noticed a shrine to another priapic god called Bo, "Legba on a larger scale," who protected brave soldiers. Several shrines contained the "fetishes" of military units, including the elite Bru (or Blue) "company" of the male troops and the Fanti "company" of the "amazons." One holy place was dedicated, unexpectedly, to a sea god, another to a goddess presiding over childbirth. Skertchly saw a pot-topped earthen mound consecrated to Aizan, a deity said to protect roads from evil spirits and keep them in repair. He also saw a "fetiche-place" reserved exclusively, he said, for the crown prince because the resident deity "impart[ed] the power of governing." The most important shrines were attended by priests, who dwelled nearby. One of the highest-ranking priests, the Agasun-no, called Dahomey’s Archbishop of Canterbury by Burton, had his "country palace" along the royal road." Perhaps the holiest roadside site was called the Adan-gbno-ten, meaning swearing place. Burton said the king stopped there before re-entering Abomey from Cana "to receive the oaths of fidelity, and to hear the brave talk of his high officials, especially the military."" Skertchly agreed on the spelling, but said the Adan-gbno-ten was where the king "repeat[ed] his coronation oath" when traveling between Abomey and Cana.” [1]

[1]: Alpern, S. B. (1999). Dahomey’s Royal Road. History in Africa, 26, 11–24: 18–19.https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/J4ZASAV6/collection


Information / Writing System
Written Record:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Script:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Phonetic Alphabetic Writing:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Nonwritten Record:
present

“The prime minister and chief executioner of the king, the Mingan, had command over the village-chiefs of the region of Abomey. Shortly before operations of a new campaign were to start, every head of a "collectivity," e.g., a group of compounds inhabited by those families related in the male line, brought an account of the number of his men to the head of the village, who placed a number of pebbles corresponding to the total in a small sack. In this count were included all males over the age of thirteen, because above this age, all were considered men. // “About ten or twelve days before mobilisation was to commence, the village-chiefs, with their sacks of small stones, came before the Mingan. On each sack was sewn a symbol which indicated from which village it had come,4 so that there would be no difficulty in identifying it. In the South, the villages about Whydah reported to the Yovogan, who there represented the king. In Aliada there were five sub-chiefs to whom the chiefs of villages brought their sacks; in the north, two; to the east, two; and to the west, two. All the sacks sent to these district chiefs were also brought to the palace at Abomey, and any chief who disclosed the number of pebbles he brought to the palace did so at the peril of his life, for were this disclosure to be discovered he would lose his head. The essence of this system, as a matter of fact, was its secrecy. The power of Dahomey lay in the number of its inhabitants, and this constituted a secret which the king alone might know. // “The sacks, then, were brought before the Mingan. But while it was his duty to receive their bearers, it was not his right to count their con- tents. This was done by an official called the Koto, who took the sacks, still in the possession of the village-heads of the district of Abomey, to the king himself. The chiefs were conducted by one of the king’s wives to whom this service was specially delegated, and who, with the Koto, had already counted the pebbles and knew how many men were to be found in each village. The king, as each chief prostrated himself to show respect for the monarch, would indicate to which army corps the men from his village were to be assigned. Nothing was said as to the number of men who were to go. After the campaign, however, the commander of each corps would be asked how many men he had received from each village, and if the answer was not a number equal to one-half of the counters in that year’s sack for that village, its chief was strangled. // “What of the enumeration of the women? After the troops had been mobilised, there was a period before the army set out for the battle, during which organisation was perfected. When the men had been assembled for six days, every commander asked each of his soldiers how many wives he had, whether his mother was alive or dead, how many unmarried daughters over thirteen there were in his family. In accordance with the principle of indirection I have already enunciated, the real purpose for which this information was desired was not indicated, for the soldiers were told that the king wanted to know those who had been left at home, so that if a man were killed on a battle field, his dependents could be recompensed for their loss. // “The army chief, using pebbles to indicate the number of women dependent on his soldiers, village by village, reported the number to the palace, where the sacks were put in charge of a woman who kept check on the affairs of the army. When this count was finished, the army began its campaign. On its completion, each commander was asked how many men he had received from each village, being con- fronted with the village-chiefs, each of whom, as a control, was asked also to tell the number of men who left for war from his village and the number who returned. At the same time, before a commission pre- sided over by one of the war-chiefs, the heads of the army-corps con- firmed the numbers of women and girls over thirteen reported by the men from each village. Thereupon, each village-chief was told to indicate the day on which he would again appear before this court with the heads of those collectivities from which men did not go to war.” [1] “Another question arising from the incidence of credit in both the local economy and the overseas trade is the nature of the indigenous system of recordkeeping. In Allada the local people, it was noted in 1670, in the absence of writing used knotted strings to keep records of various matters, including commercial transactions (“the price of goods”). Several later accounts allude to other mechanical devices for keeping financial (and fiscal) records in Dahomey. After the conquest of Allada in 1724, the King’s officers counted the captives taken (over 8,000) by “giving a booge [cowrie] to every one.” An English trader visiting the Dahomean court in 1772 recorded that the royal gunner showed him a calabash containing fifteen pebbles to indicate the number of cannon fired in a salute in his honour.” [2]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261; 255-257 https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection

[2]: Austin, Gareth, et al. “Credit, Currencies, and Culture: African Financial Institutions in Historical Perspective.” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, vol. 34, no. 1, 2001, p. 144: 33. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/SPXH2IUW/collection


Non Phonetic Writing:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Mnemonic Device:
present

“In the Aido Hwedo house, then, rested these thirteen boxes. When a birth occurred during the year, a stone was put in the proper part of the first box, according to whether the baby was a boy or a girl. At the end of the year the woman in charge took the stones out of the thirteenth box and threw them away, for after a child had reached fourteen years of age, he was regarded as an adult and was included in the annual counting. The stones in the twelfth box were put into the thirteenth, those in the eleventh into the twelfth, those in the tenth into the eleventh, and so on until the second had been emptied into the third, the first into the second, and this last one, now empty, was ready to receive the stones which indicated the births for the new year. Inside the palace walls there was another house named Abodji, watched over by a woman called Ndana. In this house, also, there were cases, but here they numbered fifteen. These cases received the stones which marked the deaths of Dahomean citizens. When a chief came to report deaths, he was asked the age and sex of the persons who had died. These reports were brought at short intervals during the year to the proper officials. For the region about Abomey, they were told to the Mingan, and for the other districts of the Kingdom to the chiefs who ruled over them. When a report was made at the palace, if the death was that of an adult male, a stone was placed in the fourteenth box; if it was a woman who had died, one was put in the fifteenth. If a boy aged three had died, a stone was placed in the proper half of the third case.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Information / Kinds of Written Documents
Scientific Literature:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Sacred Text:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Religious Literature:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Practical Literature:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Philosophy:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Lists Tables and Classification:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


History:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Fiction:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Calendar:
absent

“The question as to the manner in which a record of the age of these children was kept by a people who had no writing, poses itself here.” [1]

[1]: HERSKOVITS, M. J. (1932). POPULATION STATISTICS IN THE KINGDOM OF DAHOMEY. Human Biology, 4(2), 252–261: 258. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/8T74FM7D/collection


Information / Money
Token:
present

Cowry shells. “…by the cowry shells which served as currency in local markets. The importance of imported goods in royal largesse was already clear in the 1720S, when Bulfinch Lamb noted that the king of Dahomey ’gives away Booges [cowries] like Dirt, and Brandy like Water’. The importance of cowry shells should especially be stressed: in the second half of the seventeenth century, it appears that between a third and a half of the value of imports into the Slave Coast was normally in cowries. It is somewhat ironic that Peukert points to the existence of a flourishing local exchange economy in Dahomey as part of his argument for the downgrading of the significance of overseas trade. But this flourishing local trade, lubricated by a currency of imported cowry shells, was evidently, in large measure, itself a consequence of the booming Atlantic trade.” [1] “The counting of cowries in strings and heads was subject to a number of adjustments. In eighteenth-century Dahomey, strung cowries were one cowrie short of the nominal 40, the reward to the stringer for the work of piercing and stringing the shells. […] In the later stages of the nineteenth-century cowrie inflation, part of the loss of value of cowries in Dahomey was taken up by increasing the number of cowries in a string, the number of strings in a head remaining 50. Thus, at Whydah, instead of 40 cowries to the string there were 50; at Alladah and Abomey, 46.” [2]

[1]: Law, R. (1986). Dahomey and the Slave Trade: Reflections on the Historiography of the Rise of Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 27(2), 237–267: 260. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/9ABZ5ETX/collection

[2]: Johnson, M. (1970). The Cowrie Currencies of West Africa. Part I. The Journal of African History, 11(1), 17–49: 45. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/XZMB8INB/collection


Article:
present

‘’’ “The objects displayed in these parades were articles of commerce - cloth, cowries, gold, and silver” [1] “According to the classic ethnographic study of Le Herisse, the skulls of sacrificed human victims, preserved in the compound of the Migan (the senior non-royal chief of Dahomey), constituted ’one of the treasures of the Dahomian king ... equal to the greatest riches’. In this connection Le Herisse cites a Dahomian story relating the alleged diplomatic preliminaries to the Dahomey-Whydah war of 1727, when King Huffon of Whydah sent to Agaja a gift comprising 40 each of cloths, barrels of gunpowder, muskets, bottles of rum, and 40 loads of 4,000 cowry shells, asking if Agaja could afford to make so rich a gift without receiving anything in exchange; Agaja in response treated Huffon’s messengers to a display of two lines of skulls of enemies killed in war or sacrificed, declaring that ’his only wealth consisted in enemy spoils, and that he would not be slow to teach their master so’.” [2]

[1]: Yoder, J. C. (1974). Fly and Elephant Parties: Political Polarization in Dahomey, 1840-1870. The Journal of African History, 15(3), 417–432: 421. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/KNUC3TGF/collection

[2]: Law, R. (1989). ‘My Head Belongs to the King’: On the Political and Ritual Significance of Decapitation in Pre-Colonial Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 30(3), 399–415: 404. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/5335RH4I/collection


Store Of Wealth:
present

“The spectacular parades displaying the king’s wealth were designed to dramatize the rewards of the nation’s economic and military policies. The objects displayed in these parades were articles of commerce - cloth, cowries, gold, and silver; gifts of tribute -wheeled coaches, firemen’s uniforms, plumed police helmets, and European furniture; and the spoils of war-plantation slaves, skulls and jawbones of dead opponents, prisoners of war, and models of towns captured by Dahomean armies. On the day after the display of his wealth, the monarch distributed a portion of this treasure to his subordinates. Standing on a high platform, he threw cowries and cloth to the assembled officials. At the same time he, or one of the ministers, executed war captives and cast their bodies to the waiting crowd.” [1]

[1]: Yoder, J. C. (1974). Fly and Elephant Parties: Political Polarization in Dahomey, 1840-1870. The Journal of African History, 15(3), 417–432: 421. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/KNUC3TGF/collection


Information / Postal System
Courier:
present

“Reflecting the entire Dahomean body politic, the Great Council was composed, not only of men, but also of women who were active participants in all levels of the civil and military structures of government in Dahomey. In order to maintain surveillance over the country, the king appointed a royal wife as a counterpart to every male official from the Minister of Defence down to the royal Ilari messengers.” [1]

[1]: Yoder, J. C. (1974). Fly and Elephant Parties: Political Polarization in Dahomey, 1840-1870. The Journal of African History, 15(3), 417–432: 419. https://www.zotero.org/groups/1051264/seshat_databank/collections/GWWIKDDM/items/KNUC3TGF/collection


Information / Measurement System

Warfare Variables (Military Technologies)
Fortifications
Military use of Metals
Projectiles
Handheld weapons
Animals used in warfare
Armor
Naval technology

Human Sacrifice Data
Human Sacrifice is the deliberate and ritualized killing of a person to please or placate supernatural entities (including gods, spirits, and ancestors) or gain other supernatural benefits.
- Nothing coded yet.
- Nothing coded yet.
Power Transitions