Title:Seated DignitaryArtist:Unknown Date:c. 500 BCECreation Place:Africa, Nigeria, West Africa region, Credit Line:The John R. Van Derlip FundAccession Number:97.35
The Nok culture of northern Nigeria, a civilization that existed from approximately 500 B.C. to about 500 A.D., is principally known for its terracotta figures. Relatively little is known about the purpose of these figures or the civilization that created such extraordinary sculptural representations of its people. A few of the remarkable characteristics that distinguish Nok pieces from terracottas of later cultures in Nigeria include the triangular, pierced eyes; the elaborate coiffure and beard; and the placement of the ears.
This work depicts a person of high status wearing elaborate beaded jewelry, and with a crooked baton on his right arm and a hinged flail on the left. These are symbols of authority also found in ancient Egyptian depictions of the Pharaohs and the god Osiris. The Nok culture existed during the late Pharonic period and intra-African trading could have spread Egyptian influences into many other parts of Africa.