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Tiger bells in Africa


One tiger bell type A, shiny but surface heavily worn at some places.

Group: Yoruba

May 2018, on e-Bay this bell was offered with the message:

This African-style hand-cast Yoruba brass bell pendant is from Nigeria. It was acquired in Nigeria in the 1970' when we lived in Lagos. It is about 2" by 2".

I bought the bell for the price the vendor asked, $ 7,- .The vendor, Chris, did not have any more information.

Both sides

Tilted view and lateral view

Dimensions: width (front) 4,1 cm., width (side): 3 cm.,
height (with hoop): 5 cm. (without hoop): 3,8 cm

In my opinion this bell is neither made by a Yoruba black smith, nor made in Nigeria. On the 'foreheads' on both sides (where in less worn bells some Chinese characters would be visible) the design has disappeared. This indicates a long time use, possibly as an animal-bell. On one side however the Wang character is still clearly visible. This makes it very likely hat this bell is of Chinese origin. Explorers from China are known to have arrived at the east coast of Africa in about several hundreds of years AD, possibly even earlier (during the Qin and Han dynasties and before). Through the early silk routes (about 1000- BC) Chinese goods such as textiles arrived in ancient Egypt. From the Tang dynasty (appr. 600 AD) and on many official and private contacts are described in various documents. During the Tang dynasty the lost wax process for bronze casting was used for large scale production of bronze objects such as shamanic mirrors and tiger bells. It is very well possible that the Chinese diplomat and traders brought small and light objects such as textiles and small bronze objects with them as gifts and merchandise. Most contacts went through the east coast but traffic between the east and west coast of Africa existed since several hundred years AD.

Source: China's long history in Africa by Curtis Abraham, published in NewAfrican, 2015.

Reported by Hendrik Wittenberg in May 2018.

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