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Following the bloody British punitive expedition to Nigeria, about three thousand brass, ivory and wooden objects were consigned to the Western world.
At that time, western scholars and artists were stunned by the quality and magnificence of these objects, more than 1,000 brass plaques were appropriated from the obas palace.
The heads were placed on the altars of kings, of brass caster corporation chiefs and dignitaries.
Occasionally, a brass head was surmounted by a carved ivory tusk engraved with a procession of different obas.
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Of objects in ivory: most elaborately decorated human masks, animals, beakers, spoons, gongs, trumpets, arm ornaments, and large elephant tusks covered with bands in figured relief.
The numerous commemorative brass heads, free-standing figures and groups, plaques in relief, bells and rattle-staffs, small expressive masks and plaquettes worn on the belt as emblem of offices; chests in the shape of palaces, animals, cult stands, jewelry, etc.
cast by Benin metalworkers were created for the royal palace.
The altar functioned as a tribute to the deceased and a point of contact with his spirit.
Using the bells and rattle stuffs to call the ancestors spirit, the oba offered sacrifices to him and to the earth on the altar.