University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Athropology


Author: Margaret Plass

The Art of Benin

Benin Artwork Statue

By: Margaret Plass

An evaluation based on discussions with William Fagg, Deputy Keeper of Ethnography in the British Museum. The art of Benin is the most widely known of all forms of “primitive” art, yet it is also the least typical. It is, moreover, the most highly valued, and indeed, as to a great part of its output, […]


Above the Salt

By: Margaret Plass

The Mediaeval custom, among people of rank, of placing a large saltcellar, called a salt foot, near the middle of a long dining table and seating the more honored guests above “the salt” with the less honored below, probably developed because of the enormous cost and consequent prestige value of the lumpy, brownish salt of […]


The Fetish That Knew Too Much

By: Margaret Plass

A powerful fetish that also served as an oracle in the Kra or Tchien tribe of Liberia has recently been given to our African Gallery by Allen Clayton Davis, who acquired it in 1959 when serving as Second Secretary and Political Officer in the U.S. Embassy at Monrovia, Liberia. A larger-than-life black pottery head, widely […]


The Dance of Sigi

By: Margaret Plass

The old chief, seventy-five years old by the calendar of the Europeans, two Sigis and ten years by the calendar of his people, the Dogon, leaned against the sun-warmed rose-pink wall of his house in the village of Sanga, province of BandieĀ­gara, free Republic of Mali. Soon, in five months, would come the celebration of […]