CT scans helped pinpoint the approximate age and also verify the authenticity of five African terra-cotta sculptures unearthed in Mali by researchers from Illinois.
The investigators from the Art Institute of Chicago sought to expand their understanding of five ancient, clay-based ceramic figures using advanced imaging technology. In collaboration with Dr. Michael Vannier, a radiologist from the University of Chicago, the group acquired and analyzed CT exams of the sculptures.
The CT scans confirmed that the five distinct sculptures were composed of the same clay and produced with the same manufacturing technique -- supporting the objects' authenticity. 3D models of the CT scans additionally revealed that the sculptures' date of creation was most likely between the 12th and 15th centuries, 500 to 800 years earlier than previous testing had estimated.
"As each figure went through the [CT] scanner we were able to see immediately that they had all been created with the exact same clay and with the exact same fabrication methods," Rachel Sabino, objects conservator at the Art Institute of Chicago, said in a statement. "This confirmed for us that our five were conceived as a group from the start and that they aren't figures from different places or different potters."