Igbo Ukwu

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

Nigeria; Igbo Ukwu artist


Leaded bronze

H. 32.3 cm (12 11/16")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 79.R.4

Photo by Dirk Bakker


This roped pot, one of the most beautiful and technically complicated objects from Igbo Ukwu, was the first object excavated by Shaw. The pear-shaped pot sits on a pot stand ornamented with pinwheel-shaped openings. Both are encircled by imitation ropework tied into square knots at the junctions. The bronze casters were so confident of their technique that hardly a flaw or seam can be seen, although it was cast in as many as eight different sections. The site where it was found may have been a storehouse of regalia or ritual material. More than fifty  objects—pottery, cloth, beads, bronzes, copper wire, calabashes, and ornamented iron blades—were all carefully laid out on a low platform, originally protected by walls and a roof. For some unknown reason the storehouse was abandoned.