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On February 16, the Art Institute of Chicago announced the results of significant new research on five terracotta sculptures—so named Bankoni after a village in present-day Mali where they were found. The objects date from between the 12th and 15th centuries. This places them "among the oldest surviving sculptures from sub-Saharan Africa and among the oldest works of African art in the Art Institute's collection beyond Egypt," according to Constantine Petridis, Chair of the Arts of the Americas and Africa and Curator of African Art at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Art Institute's Bankoni figures are exceptional, not only for their large size and fine detail, but also for the fact that they have remained as a group throughout history (whereas others have been dispersed). The group's inclusion in a major traveling exhibition, Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture and Exchange Across Medieval Saharan Africa, presented the Art Institute's Conservation & Science department with an unprecedented opportunity to expand on previous scientific analysis using cutting-edge technology made possible by the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
Thanks - Relationship - Dr - Michael - Vannier
"Thanks to our long-standing relationship with Dr. Michael Vannier, a radiologist at the University of Chicago School of Medicine, we were able to use computed axial tomography or CT scanning—which is basically an X-ray but in 3-D—to closely examine the ceramic," said Rachel Sabino, Objects Conservator in the Department of Conservation & Science at the Art Institute of Chicago. "As each figure went through the scanner we were able to see immediately that they...
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