The earliest evidence of human settlement dates from 9000 BC. The Nok culture, traces of which are visible in Nigerian art today, prevailed from around 800 BC to AD 200. By 1000 the state of Kanem was flourishing, thanks to the trans-Saharan trade route that ran from West Africa to the Mediterranean. In the 11th century northern Nigeria split into seven independent Hausa city-states. By the 14th century, two states had developed in the south, Oyo and Benin, with the Igbo people of the southeast living in small village communities. West of the Niger, the Ife flourished between the 11th and 15th centuries. The importance of the Ife civilization is evident today; all Yoruba states claim that their leaders are descended from the Ife as a way of establishing legitimacy. At the end of the 18th century, Fulani religious groups waged war in the north, merging states to create the single Islamic state of the Sokoto Caliphate.
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