Yoruba People (Nigeria)

Ceremonial Ring

16th century


Rings such as this were apparently used to display the head of a deceased ruler – either the actual head severed from the corpse or a cast-bronze replica of it. It is equally possible that the head could have been that of a victim sacrificed during the annual rites of purification and renewal of the king. Similar rites also attended the installation of a new king. Imagery on the ring suggests the Ogboni society, one of the most ancient Yoruba institutions. The function of Ogboni is to control or restrain the power of the king when such power is not used wisely.

Lowe Art Museum

Museum purchase through 35th Anniversary Funds, 85.0144