I was scrolling through my laptop yesterday when I came across these images. Once upon a time, I was trying to write steampunk set in the Benin empire. These images show that I took my research very seriously. I couldn’t remember where I found the images so did a reverse image search on Google.
Here are the curator’s comments from the link above,
A variety of brass keys are still used to lock palace rooms where valuable objects such as the king’s regalia are stored. They are also employed to secure palace shrines, and especially those large quadrangles – only one of many still exists – more publicly accessible and that contain carved ivories, staffs, and cast brass objects. The key holder knocks three times on the large timbered door to ensure that the spirits of the deceased are awake, inserts the key and with a twist, lifts the hook off its latch. This releases the bolt that locked the door. The hooks operate in much the same way as the cast keys. Inserted at an angle, the hook key catches the slide and lifts it, the hooked part of the key holds the slide securely and ensures that the slide does not fall to the ground.
Locks of a more conventional padlock type also existed. Insertion of a key into the side of the lock released a mechanism that held the padlock together. Made of brass, these padlocks often had designs of the king, chiefs, or other court dignitaries, and various animals making them decorative and symbolic at the same time…Read more
Then there are these lamps…just look at the detail!
Can’t read the small print? Don’t worry
FIG. 126. A Benin Hand-Lamp. Every arm has a different design (see Fig. 122) and is about half and inch or 12 mm. wide; two of the arms are cracked and have been rivetted together by means of pieces of brass plate (a) and copper rivets (b). The diameter of the pan is about 15 inches (38 centimetres). It will be observed that the two hawkbells depending above the mannikins are of different pattern from those handing on the snuffer fig. 127, the ornamentation being zigzag on one of the two and arched on the other. I have elsewhere pointed out that one of the dominant features of Benin art is its variety. “All the gentry had these lamps. Palm oil was put in the pan, and a piece of raw cotton wool placed on the edge of the pan served as a wick; a small flat piece of iron was placed on the top of the wick to prevent the oil all taking fire at once. Fig, 127 shows the implement used for snuffing and picking up the cotton wool. The open compounds at night, full of people and lit up with these lamps, were very striking” (C, Punch)
Here’s another lamp (I think, I save the image as “cubical metal lamp with handle chain hook for suspension” but it may be a burner for incense). This must have been hung on walls.
See why I get pissed when I read historical novels that have people walking around in the forest/town in the darkness. If “all the gentry” had lamps like these, these writers who shall not be named can do better.
I’d saved more images, like
Anyone in the know knows that the Benin empire was all shades of amazeballs but stumbling across these photos sharpened my imaginings of how people there may have lived centuries ago.
For more everyday objects, check out the Iyare exhibition. I was especially interested in the hairpins and bracelets worn by the royal women.
I may have to do another photo series on Benin as I have many more images —of warriors and architecture especially.