As Consul General Moor was helpless to stop the African troops and carriers looting the ivory tusks, these could not be counted and as such there are no figures on their numbers. Thieving by British marines, sailors and ranks has also made it impossible to put a number on total items and treasures found. A plausible estimate is over twenty thousand based on the number of houses and alters with Bronze plaques and carved ivory and tusks across Benin City. High ranking officials, rich others, chiefs' houses and every other house each had an altar dedicated to their forefathers (Read & Dalton, 1899, page 8), therefore there was a lot of trophies to be had.
Admiral Rawson and Consul General Moor allowed trophies to all officers involved in the expedition from the collection of bronzes and ivory artworks found on the alters and interiors of houses across Benin City.
According to Ratté:
‘Admiral Rawson picked out what he wanted for himself and chose a large carved tusk for a gift to the Admiralty Office and a suitable trophy was also chosen for the Queen. Moor, and then all the other officers present gathered trophies for themselves. What remained they packed up.
Since only the officers received tangible rewards, many of the smaller bronze pieces may have found their way into the pockets of the first sailors or marines to lay eyes upon them, and then gone to England unobserved in sea chest or duffel bag. Since each house had an altar of some kind, and the compound included not only the King's but the large compounds of the chief and the Queen Mother, the pickings would be easy.’
Additionally, Herbert Walker one of the intelligence officers in the expedition in his dairy, describes how a fellow officer "is now wandering round with chisel & hammer, knocking off brass figures & collecting all sorts of rubbish as loot". He wrote too that, 'Religious buildings and palaces were torched.'
Most telling are Consul General Phillips' own words, 'PS I would add that I have reason to hope that sufficient Ivory may be found in the King’s house to pay the expenses in removing the King from his Stool (FO dispatch, 17 November 1896)."
Mr. Phillips was correct , there was sufficient ivory tusks in the king's palace and in wells across Benin City to offset the cost of the invasions. Read: Oba Ovonramwen
There were rich pickings to be had and substantial money to be made by the invaders.
Furthermore, according to Read & Dalton (1899, page 27) ‘The British Museum possesses some manillas from the Bonny River, and these are said to be of some age, and to have been buried in immense quantities in the graves of chiefs.’
1) J.R. Phillips to Foreign Office. Advising the deposition of the Benin King. 17 Nov 1896. Despatches to Foreign Office from Consul-General, Catalogue of the Correspondence and Papers of the Niger Coast Protectorate, 268 3/3/3, p. 240. National Archives of Nigeria Enugu.
2) Ovonramwen, accessed- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovonramwen
3) READ C.H, & DALTON O,M, ANTIQUITIES FROM THE CITY OF BENlN AND FROM OTHER PARTS OF WEST AFRICA IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM, 1899, PAGE 8
4) Ibid., page 27
5) Ratté, Mary Lou, "Imperial looting and the case of Benin." ().Masters Theses 1911 - February 2014. Paper 1898. Page 74.
6) Roth, H. L, Great Benin, 1903, app 11 page xiv – xv
7) The Witness, BBC World Service, The man who returned his grandfather’s looted art, 26 February 2015. Accessed: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-31605284