In ancient times, the Kingdom of Mali was one of the wealthiest ancient Empires around – after all, it was the source of nearly half the world’s gold. Not surprisingly, this industrious Empire also had its own system of religious beliefs and customs, which included the production of complementary artifacts for those beliefs.
However, archaeologists also suspected that a little more than just plain sculpting went into many African artifacts, such as those from Mali – and so three analytical tests were done on seven Bamana and Dogon sculptures.
The results of the tests revealed that the beautiful, shiny patina on the outside of Malian works of art was created by a secret ingredient: blood. The ‘chemical fingerprint’ of blood showed up on each of the statues, confirming suspicions that these ritual statues were likely used for ceremonies that involved animal sacrifices, which may have made the statues representative of an animal’s death.
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Tomorrow: 2,000 year-old glue sticks!