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Game piece

Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria
16th–17th century
Artist Unidentified


Length x width: 6.4 x 2.5 cm (2 1/2 x 1 in.)

Accession Number

L-G 7.8.2012

Medium or Technique

Copper alloy

On View

Benin Kingdom Gallery (Gallery 172)


Africa and Oceania, Jewelry



This beautifully detailed figure fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. The figure is wearing a leopard-tooth necklace and a bell, two accessories frequently worn by Benin warriors in the 16th century. Because of the object’s rounded base and the small feather-shaped loop on the back of the helmet, many think it may have been worn as a pendant. But scholar Kathy Curnow has identified this as a game piece in a pastime that reprises Oba Esigie’s success against the Idah in 1517.


By 1960, John Russell, London; July 11, 1972, Russell and others sale, Sotheby’s, London, lot 269, to James Kirkman for £ 2,000. 2012, promised gift of Robert Owen Lehman to the MFA.

Credit Line

Robert Owen Lehman Collection