Ancient Blood Found on Malian Sculptures (ca. 1st C BC)

By: The Scribe on Saturday, December 1, 2007

Tests confirmed the presence of blood on this artifact which was used in the Mali’s ancient rituals. (Photo by Pascale Richardin, Center for Research and Restoration for the Museums in France.)

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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