chapter  7
21 Pages

Out and about

Images of violence on portable objects
WithLaurel Bestock

Three elaborately carved figures face forward, surrounded by intricate ornaments that make their attributes difficult to pick out. To those in the know, who recognize the particulars of dress and weaponry, are familiar with the relationship between military and ceremony in Benin, and can tell that the two smaller figures are European though they are given some attributes of Benin warriors, the complexity of violent associations would be much greater. Tags with smiting scenes are a transitional type of artifact, in some ways more at home with the late Predynastic Period than with the more developed pharaonic state. The triumph motif, including smiting, is known from two of the many spectacular pieces of jewelry found with the burials of royal women of the Twelfth Dynasty. Captivity as a motif on portable objects is more common than direct violence, but still appears relatively little in the extant material from before the New Kingdom.