Head, 12th/15th century
31 x 19 x 25 cm (12 3/16 x 7 1/2 x 9 7/8 in.)
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, 1999.2.3
A symbolic focus on the head links Benin and the ancient kingdom of Ife, as does the use of brass casting to produce artworks related to kingship. According to some oral traditions, Benin traces its origins to Ife’s capital, Ile-Ife. A number of idealized brass heads, including this magnificent example, survive from there. The small holes were likely used to secure hair or beaded regalia. Larger holes at the neck may have attached the head to a wood body, perhaps for use during burial rites. The Ile-Ife heads may also have been placed on altars, as are brass heads from nearby Benin.