Lot 19
  • 19

Sherbro Stone Head (Mahen Yafe), Sierra Leone

12,000 - 18,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • stone
  • Height: 6 1/2 in (16.5 cm)


Merton D. Simpson, New York
Allan Stone, New York, acquired from the above on May 3, 1988

Catalogue Note

Mahen yafe, "head of the chief," are archaeological finds from an area covering parts of present-day Liberia and Sierra Leone. They are believed to have been made by populations ancestral to the Bullom, Sherbro and Kissi and most likely date from a period well before the first contact with Europeans in 1463. In his discussion of a related stone head in the collection of the Musée Barbier-Mueller in Geneva, Siegmann (in Schmalenbach 1988: 105) notes: "Evidence suggests that [mahen yafe heads] were originally made by the Sapi. They usually have elaborate coiffures, often, as in this case, showing a combination of shaved, tufted, and possibly plaited areas. Similar hair styles are described in early seventeenth-century sources, where they are apparently associated with the Sapi aristocracy. The elaborate jewelry, including earrings and nose rings, is also similar to that described in these sources. Although many of [Sapi stone heads] appear bound and gagged, it is unlikely that they represent sacrificial victims, as was previously thought; rather, they are probably chiefs ritually bound at the time of their installation - a practice still observed among
the Temne, who are descendants of the Sapi."