By William Dewey
Pennsylvania State University (formerly University of Iowa)

Nigeria; Yoruba (Ife) artist

Head of a queen


H. 25 cm (9 13/16")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 79.R.7

Photo by Dirk Bakker


This terracotta head was recovered by Willett from that primary site at Ita Yemoo. It once was attached to a full length figure and, according to the reigning King of Ife, the elaborate five-tiered crown identifies it as a queen. Traces of paint that survive on the face and crown are evidence that other terracottas were also painted. These objects were found in the remains of a shrine, which originally had mud walls and a thatch roof, but which was destroyed by fire. Willett found another shrine nearby built on an extensive potsherd pavement. Potsherd pavements are a distinctive feature of ancient Ife that coincide with the period of fluorescence of terracotta and cast metal sculpture from 1000 to 1400 C.E. (A.D.) The pavements are made by setting pottery shards on edge in rows to form herringbone patterns and alternating these rows with stones.