Altar tusk

DP Temp 4070


This elephant tusk is carved with three bands of interweaving 'guilloche' pattern. It bears two of the Oba's ownership marks on the front. The tusk has been slightly charred with consequent damage, which may have been sustained during the fire that engulfed Benin after the British military conquest in 1897. In the late nineteenth century the Oba was reported to claim one tusk from every elephant killed in the Edo Kingdom (Ryder 1969: 206). Ivory was at times a trade commodity. It was a precious material, indicating greatness and strength, used in making commemorative artworks for the palace altars. It was also used to make regalia worn by the Oba and by some of his courtiers. This tusk has been given a temporary number because it lost its original label during the Second World War, when museum items were hastily moved to safe storage locations outside the city. Ryder, Alan Frederick Charles (1969), Benin and The Europeans 1485-1897, London and Harlow: Longmans.