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

Nigeria; Yoruba (Ife) peoples

Ceremonial vessel with queen figure


H. 12.4 cm (4 7/8")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, L92.58

Photo by Dirk Bakker


In 1957 workmen leveling some ground in preparation for a building project in Ife discovered a group of brass sculptures. This sculpture was among those found at the site, called Ita Yemoo. It represents a queen wrapped around a pot, placed upon a circular stool, which is in turn supported by a four-legged stool. The miniature stools represent actual ones made of quartz and granite, which were used as thrones. The royalty sat on the circular stool with one leg on either side of the extending loop and their feet on the four-legged stool. Frank Willett excavated the site and obtained from it the first radiocarbon and thermoluminescence dates for ancient Ife. Nearby he discovered the first sculpture still in its primary context.