Thorn Carving

About this object

History of use

Thorn carvings are miniatures depicting scenes from Nigerian life. This type of carving began circa 1930. Thorns vary in size. They can be as large as 12.7 cm. long and 9.6 cm. wide. They are comparatively soft and easily carved. The light yellow-brown thorn and the dark brown thorn come from the Ata tree; the light red-brown thorn comes from Egun trees. The parts are glued together with viscous paste made from rice cooked with water. They are carved by men.


Depicts pounding and cooking yams, a women's activity.

Cultural context

craft; tourist art

Physical description

Three figures representing women. Two women are pounding yams with a double-headed pestle and a single-headed one. The third is stirring cooking yams with a long handled spoon. Two figures are wearing knee-length skirts and tops while a third is wearing a skirt. Two have similar flat hairdos while the other has a conically shaped hairdo. The yams are in a mortar sitting on the ground and in a pottery cooking bowl elevated over a fire. Head, limbs, and cooking pot are dark brown. Clothing, pestle, mortar, and spoon are light yellow-brown. The yams are light red-brown. All are glued to a light brown base covered with earth.