This sculpted bronze vessel may have been used as a container for ink or for perfume. It has the form of a bust of an African (Nubian) young man. These kinds of vessels using African faces as part of their design were popular during the Hellenistic and Roman age in the region. It seems that the representation of Africans was aesthetically desired and skillfully rendered, perhaps as a sign of wonder at the diversity of people and races.
It is known that during the reign of the Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD), who was of the province of Hispania Baetica, equal rights were given to all citizens of the Roman Empire, irrespective of their origins, so long as they submitted to the authority of the Roman Emperor. So every man was a free man, irrespective of race, and every man had the possibility of reaching the highest status by grace of his citizenship. Septimius Severus, for example, was Emperor of Rome even though he was African, of Libyan origin.