Igbo Ukwu

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

Nigeria; Igbo Ukwu artist


Leaded bronze

H. 21.6 overall (8 1/2")

National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria, 79.R.5 (Is367)

Photo by Dirk Bakker


This pair of eggs with a diminutive bird on top of them and with bells attached by wire chains is perhaps the most unusual bronze pendant excavated at Igbo Isaiah. Each egg has three bronze flies ornamenting it. The wire chainwork connecting the small bells to the rest of the object is as ornate (with wire spirals and yellow beads) as other aspects of Igbo Ukwu decoration. The bells are more correctly known as crotals, for they are clapperless and are more like jingle ornaments than true bells. Today both the Eze Nri and Ozo titleholders are buried in elaborate graves with repositories or shrines of their regalia (Shaw 1977: 98-99), so it is easy to imagine that the storehouse of regalia and the burial chamber excavated at Igbo Ukwu are perhaps examples of a tradition that survives to the present.