Looted bronze treasures returned to Nigeria by Berlin were made from metal tokens minted from brass mined in Germany, scientists have discovered.
Thousands of the distinctive bronzes disappeared during colonial raids on West Africa during the 19th century.
Germany recently handed back 200 of the statues, bought by collectors in the 1890s.
Now metal experts have revealed that the brass used to create the Benin bronzes was extracted from mines in Germany’s Rhineland region.
They believe the brass was used to make tokens that were used as cash by colonial occupiers in Benin.
The tokens – says the study by the Georg Agricola Technical College in Bochum, Germany – were then melted down to make the bronzes.
Lead scientist Tobias Skowronek said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “The Benin Bronzes are the most famous ancient works of art in all West Africa.
“Where their brass came from has long been a mystery.”
The breakthrough came after the experts studied tokens from Atlantic shipwrecks from between the 16th and 19th centuries and ruins in Europe and Africa.
Their analysis showed that the bronzes and the tokens made from German ore shared an almost identical make-up.
Skowronek said: “At last, we can prove the totally unexpected: the brass used for the Benin masterpieces, long thought to come from Britain or Flanders, was mined in western Germany. “
He said that the study shows that the metal was “shipped more than 6,300 kilometres [3,914 miles] to Benin” after being mined in Germany.
He added: “This is the first time a scientific link has been made.”
The study was published in the academic journal ‘Plos One’ on Wednesday, 12th April 2023.
To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Georgina Jadikovska, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
The Ananova page is created by and dedicated to professional, independent freelance journalists. It is a place for us to showcase our work. When our news is sold to our media partners, we will include the link here.