Commemorative heads were part of royal ancestral altars. The two wing-like headdresses are a unique feature when dating the heads from the 19th century. They represent two attached feathers as a sign of great age, wisdom and authority. The kings of Benin had immense power: they ruled the empire, received taxes and tributes and controlled trade.
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These heads served to commemorate and venerate deceased kings, who were honoured on altars. Bronze was a symbol of stability and protection and embodied the continuity of Oba rule. In the late period of the Benin Empire, the bronze heads served as pedestals for elephant tusks and formed a ritual union with them. The vertical alignment of the elephant tusk symbolised the king's connection with his ancestors.