Ile-Ife is the most sacred city, in Yoruba Civilization. Ile-Ife is considered the birthplace of man and woman, the beginning of the Yoruba culture.
One Yoruba legend has it that Olorun (God of the Sky), lowered founding ancestor Oduduwa on Ife. Another, Yoruba tradition has it that the great ancestor hero, Oduduwa, came from the east and settled at Ile Ife. From Ife, Oduduwa's descendants went out and founded various Yoruba states and empires. His sons founded the first alafin of Oyo, the first oba of Benin, the first onisabe of Sabe. His oldest daughter was the mother of the first alaketu of Ketu. Another daughter gave birth to the first olowu of Owu.
Yoruba Legends seem to point to arrivals of newcomers, who merge with the native population. The immigrants seem to have arrived about 1000 A.D. The new arrival introduced new forms of political structures from legends of various sons and daughters of various states.
Religion was the basis of explaining the world. Although the oni of Ife was viewed as supreme priest, his authority never translated to political power. Yoruba chiefs were in constant rivalry. It was not until the Oyo Empire conquered all rivals, did Yoruba people become united(Davidson 96-99).
By 1300, we see artistic traditions developed in terracotta and brass. Artisans of Ife produced realistic sculptures in bronze, brass, copper, and clay. They were representation of the onis of Ife. The sculptures were reminiscent of the figurines of Nok culture. Most sculptures have been dated around the 1100s through 1400s (Shillington 186-188).
Davidson, Basil , F.K Buah, and J.F. Ade Ajayi (1966). A History of West Africa to the Nineteenth Century. Anchor Books: New York, 96-99. Library of Congress, 66-24317.
theooni.org, Past Oonis of Ife.<http://theooni.org/pastoonis.htm> retrieved 27-Feb-2012
Shillington, Kevin(2005). History of Africa, Rev. 2nd Ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p.186-188, ISBN 0-333-59957-8.