Ikpin (snake figures) featured on the roof of Ọba Palace. In the Kingdom of Benin, the crocodile and the boa constrictor are considered the guardians of Olokun, the god of the great waters or the ocean, of wealth, prosperity and fertility. When the palace was burnt down during the 1897 British expedition the Ikpin were stolen, and they do not feature on the roof of the current palace.
A number of large cast snake heads and a single body segment are held in institutional collections. These snakes would have adorned the roof of Ọba Palace in Benin City, and did so until 1897, as photographs taken during the expeditionattest. There is no consensus on the kind of snake represented, but it may be a python (Ben-Amos, 1976) or a viper of some kind (for overview of the discussion, see Plankensteiner 2010, p.25). During research for Digital Benin, the snakes were identified as boa constrictors.
Art historians have identified two different stylistic groups of snakes. The first features a smooth surface, recessed almond-shaped eyes, and motifs of circles with smaller inner circles that adorn the face. The second type has a scaly surface, decorated with either stylised plant or snake motifs, and convex almond-shaped eyes. According to Plankensteiner (2010, p.25), the first, less ornate type is older, possibly from the seventeenth century, while the more ornate snakes are possibly from the eighteenth century.