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Ivory salt cellar
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This ornate ivory salt cellar is evidence for different links of trade between Europe and West Africa a thousand years after the pepper pot on the previous page was used. It would have graced the table of a wealthy European family in the 1500s. The carvings show four Europeans, probably Portuguese, along the base. On the lid, in a boat, is a fifth figure holding a telescope.

This salt cellar was made in the West African kingdom of Benin specifically for Portuguese traders and marks the beginning of regular direct contact and trade between Western Europe and West Africa. Carved ivory objects were highly desired by the Portuguese. Although traditionally ivory carvings were produced only for the royal court in the city of Benin, the king allowed decorated salt cellars, horns, spoons and forks to be made for European visitors.

Ivory salt cellar

From Benin, Nigeria, XVI century AD.
Ht 30 cm.

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