London (CNN)The Benin bronzes are universally recognized as a towering achievement in the history of art.
Artists of the once-mighty Kingdom of Benin, in present day Edo State, Nigeria, honed sophisticated techniques over centuries to craft detailed depictions of life in the Kingdom, from court scenes to foreign soldiers.
Thousands of the finest examples went on display at the palace of the king.
The collection was looted wholesale in 1897 when the British army sacked the palace and razed the kingdom in a punitive expedition.
The bronzes were sold and scattered across Western museums, where they met with astonishment and prompted revisions of racist assumptions about African art.
Since independence, the Nigerian government has intermittently pressed claims for restitution of the bronzes, which the museums have resi