Seated figure, possibly from Ile-Ife, found at Tada, Nigeria, late 13th/14th century. Copper with traces of arsenic, lead, and tin, height 54 cm. National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Abuja, Nigeria, 79.R18. Photograph by Museum for African Art and The Fundación Marcelino Botín/ Karin L. Wilis

The style and the extraordinarily thin casting of this naturalistic figure point to its likely creation at Ife, the royal capital of a powerful kingdom. In the early 20th century the figure was part of the ritual life of Tada, a small village on the banks of the Niger River 120 miles north of Ife. During the medieval period, Tada’s location would have been of strategic importance to Ife, connecting it with long-distance trade. Analysis of the raw copper from which the statue is made suggests that it might have originated in France, traveling along these very trade routes to Ife, where it was cast.