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Bell  (erowo)
Date: 18th century
Medium: Copper alloy, iron
Dimensions: H x W x D: 21.6 x 12.1 x 12.1 cm (8 1/2 x 4 3/4 x 4 3/4 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution in 1979
Geography: Nigeria
Object Number: 85-19-22
Search Terms:
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Shrine/Altar
Object is not currently on exhibit

This type of bell, identified by its distinctive four-sided, flat-topped shape, was once placed on an ancestral altar in the royal palace. Its shape is thought to resemble the palace roof turrets. Benin Kingdom warriors wore smaller versions of these bells on their chests, as can be seen on the plaques that formerly covered the piers in the palace courtyard. The sound of the bells identified Benin Kingdom warriors in battle, served as a sign of the spiritual protection of the king and spread terror among the enemy.

Cast copper alloy four-sided flat topped bell with iron clapper.

Joseph H. Hirshhorn, Greenwich, Connecticut, before 1979


Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1979 to 1985


Slavery and Freedom, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 24, 2016 (ongoing)



Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 17, 2014-July 31, 2016



Life...Afterlife: African Funerary Sculpture, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 1981-March 1, 1982


Freyer, Bryna. 1987. Royal Benin Art in the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, p. 42, no. 10.


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