Beaded Ornament


Red and orange beads in coral and carnelian or agate are still widely worn by the chiefly class in Benin today. The Oba presents a circular necklace of beads called ikele to those he gives chiefly titles. Thereafter, titled chiefs must always wear the ikele in the presence of the Oba. Such beads are valued items said to hold ase, an inherent quality likened to ‘authority’. These beads were given to the museum in January 1903 by Henry Ling Roth, curator of the Bankfield Museum in Halifax, who may have acquired them from his brother Dr Felix Roth, surgeon to the Advance Guard with the British forces that attacked and looted Benin in February 1897.