Carved stone (atal or akwanshi)

Cross River region
18th–19th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Nigeria


73.66 cm (29 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Richard B. Carter Gallery (Gallery 171)


Africa and Oceania



Sculpture in hard stone is somewhat rare in sub-Saharan Africa, yet some three hundred have been documented in the forested region of the middle Cross River. About forty groupings, often set up in the center of a village, are known to the present inhabitants. The Ejagham (or Ekoi) call them akwanshi (dead person in the ground); Bakon-speakers call the monoliths atal (the stone). The ovoid forms were carved out of volcanic boulders by grinding or pecking with stone tools to leave raised features of a human face and simplified body. A long, raised nose divides this symmetrical face. Beneath the brow, the circular eyes are emphasized by hatched borders, from which tearlike bands or keliods extend down the cheeks toward the open mouth. A V-shaped jaw or beard line points down toward the prominent ringed navel.


Early 20th century, said to have come from the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Farnham, England. December 3, 1991, anonymous sale, Christie's, London, lot 86, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1994, gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 25, 1995)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel