Igbo Ukwu

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

Nigeria; Igbo Ukwu artist


Leaded bronze

L. 20.6 cm (8 1/8")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 39.1.13

Photo by Dirk Bakker


Another shell, also presumably from Igbo Isaiah, the regalia storehouse, is smaller than the site's other two shells and has what seems to be a leopard standing upon a circular pedestal. The decoration of this shell is different from the other shells and consists of bands of concentric circles, diamond shapes, and herringbone ornamentation. There are three other instances of leopard imagery from Igbo Ukwu, so leopards probably had ritual importance. From this same ritual storehouse some cast bronze leopard teeth and a small pendant in the form of a leopard head were also found. From a nearby site, Igbo Richard, a grave found near the home of Richard Anozie, Isaiah's brother, a cast bronze leopard skull was found. Many cultures equate powerful animals with powerful political or military leaders. Africans frequently do this using the leopard as their chosen symbol.