Although in 1897 a British punitive expedition removed objects after sacking the capital (establishing a no-later-than date for "authentic" Benin works), artifacts not part of that booty, and automatically suspected to be more recent in origin, may be authenticated by stylistic methods, by TL testing, or by another method such as metals analysis utilizing laser ablation.
While these methods provide an extra comfort level to collectors and museums, they leave something to be desired for reasons I deal with in An Elementary Guide to the Dating of Benin Bronzes (forthcoming; co-authored with Natalie Lawson, California State University, Fullerton).
It also poses a challenge to a corps of middlemen adept at faking Benin art.
The British punitive expedition against Benin returned with booty consisting of thousands of brass and ivory artifacts that now command premium auction prices. In chieftaincy homes in the city, in the palaces of dukes on the outskirts, and in rural communities, one occasionally finds castings that, judging from past experience, might someday enter the market. "Traditional Art from the Benin Kingdom," an exhibition at Southern University Museum of Art in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has intriguing pieces.
This Dick and Jane-style primer is meant for art historians who failed ninth-grade algebra and/or suffer from social anxiety syndrome.
TL is problematic as an accurate chronometric dating procedure and as a certification of authenticity for dealers and their clients.
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Bronze sculptures with clay-core remnants have also been dated in this way, including the so-called bronze art of the kingdom of Benin in Nigeria.
These sculptures are among the most technically proficient works made by the lost-wax casting process.
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