Fragments of Commemorative Altar Head


The original accession record for this object, from April 1899, describes it as “part of the casting of a metal cone-shaped head-dress off a tusk holder like”. It constitutes a fragment of a commemorative queen mother head showing part of the beaded headdress. Three other smaller fragments are also associated with it. The fragments probably derived from a failed casting and may have been taken from a casting workshop when Benin City was looted by British troops in 1897. Although these fragments are described in museum records as having been acquired in exchange from the Field Columbian Museum Chicago, probably only the funds for their purchase came from the Field Museum, because the Field Museum has no record of having accessioned them. The director of the Liverpool Museum Henry Ogg Forbes was in contact with dealers who were offering him Benin items in 1899 and he acted as an agent in acquiring Benin bronzes for the Field Museum.