The representations of these objects served above all to exalt the king, the queen mother, the princes and royal household, army commanders, shown with their arms and armor and their retainers (huntsmen, musicians), or alternatively depicted important events.When British forces entered Benin City in 1897 they were surprised to find large quantities of cast brass objects.Bronze figures ordered by the king were kept in the palace.
The numerous commemorative brass heads, free-standing figures and groups, plaques in relief, bells and rattle-staffs, small expressive masks and plaquettes worn on the belt as emblem of offices; chests in the shape of palaces, animals, cult stands, jewelry, etc.
cast by Benin metalworkers were created for the royal palace.
The altar functioned as a tribute to the deceased and a point of contact with his spirit.
Using the bells and rattle stuffs to call the ancestors spirit, the oba offered sacrifices to him and to the earth on the altar.
The powerful ancient Benin kingdom was founded by the son of an Ife king in the early 14th century AD.