The arrival of the Portuguese prompts the Benin sculptors to undertake a new style of work - brass plaques with scenes in relief, in which the Portuguese themselves sometimes feature.These plaques are nailed as decoration to the wooden pillars of the royal palace.A figure may represent an ancestor, destined to stand in a shrine.A mask may be intended for use by a shaman just once a year in a special dance.
Modelled in a brutally chunky style, they date from about the 6th century AD.
By one of the strange coincidences of history, the 5th century BC produces the first masterpieces in two incompatible styles of sculpture.
Nearly 2500 years later, these styles become bitter rivals in the studios of our own time.
A post may be designed to prop up a chief's verandah or to form part of a palisade round his house.
An elaborate chair is likely to be for the chief himself to sit on.