The history of the Ibo people in modern day Nigeria is as diverse as the people themselves. Today, there is an estimated 25 million Ibo, mostly living in Nigeria, but can also be found in several other African countries, as well as many others around the world.
Like many other ethnic groups in Africa, the Ibo did not exist as a self-conscious and unified community prior to the colonial period, with no centralized chieftaincy. Instead, they were broken down into smaller clans and it wasn’t until the early 19th century that a more solid identity emerged (Smock & Smock, p.499).
Archaeological excavations uncovered a large amount of pottery dating to 4500 BCE with similar characteristics to later Ibo pottery. It has been suggested that the Ibo people originated from the African Great Lakes and Mountains of the Moon, a mountainous range in central Africa believed to be the source of the White Nile.
It has also been suggested that the Jewish Ibo people originated from a migration of Israelites who fled to West Africa. They claim to be descended from three tribes; Zebulon, Ged and Manasseh (Hebrew Qaraim Community). However, to date, there is no archaeological evidence for this has been uncovered.
The kingdom of Nri, dating to 1043 -1911 CE, was administration centre of the Nri-Igbo, a sub-group of the Ibo people, which is considered to be the foundation of their culture. It has been suggested that it was run by priest-kings who had much influence over the surrounding areas.