Carved ivory tusk
This ivory tusk from an African elephant is covered with a spiral design of detailed carved figures of men, women and children. They include bound prisoners and men chained together with neck rings, who are probably slaves or captives for sale. These represent a society disrupted by the impact of European trade. The carving would have been done with iron tools and an industry developed making these decorated tusks for export. This carved tusk was produced on the Loango coast in West Africa during the 19th century. It is 765 mm long: some could be up to a metre.
Until recently, many commentators on Africa claimed that African societies had no tradition of writing. Read more...