Ceremonial Sword

Accession Number

Ceremonial Sword

Edo (Benin); Benin (ancient Nigerian)

Artist Nationality
Edo (African culture)

Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support
brass, iron and wire

35 1/16 in x 5 1/2 in x 2 15/16 in (89 cm x 14 cm x 7.5 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Susan B. and John F. Ullrich

Subject matter
The saber-shaped ceremonial sword, called ada in the Edo language, has a long history of use by the rulers of the kingdom of Benin (in what is today the Edo State of Nigeria). The blade is made of iron, which has the power of ase, to ensure that any proclamations made would come to pass. Although this was (and still is) an object of status and loyalty to the king, or oba, it was not normally carried by the oba or high-ranking chiefs. Rather, pages called emada carried the ada for the oba during public appearances. Chiefs who were granted this privilege could have the ada carried next to them in their own domain, but not within the royal palace, the oba's domain. In the precolonial past, the ada also represented the oba's right to take a human life. When not is use, these swords were sometimes displayed as a part of shrines or altars for ancestors. 

References Cited: 
Ben-Amos, Paula Girshick. 1995. The Art of Benin. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. 
Ezra, Kate. 1992. Royal Art of Benin: The Perls Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Physical Description
Metal sword with a blade that is narrow toward the handle and wider and curved at the top. The handle is wrapped in wire, with disc-shaped grips on either side. 

Primary Object Classification
Arms and Armor

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
bearing swords
ceremonial swords
royalty (nobility)
symbols of office or status

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