Horse and Rider and Four Figures

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Bankoni
Bougouni region, Mali

Horse and Rider and Four Figures, Probably late 14th/early 15th century

Terracotta
Horse and Rider: 70 x 21 x 48.5 cm (27 1/2 x 8 1/4 x 19 in.); Figures: 28.5 x 14.6 x 19.3 cm (17 1/4 x 5 3/4 x 7 5/8 in.); 46 x 14.7 x 19 cm (18 x 5 7/8 x 7 1/2 in.); 44 x 10.2 x 18.5 cm (17 1/4 x 4 x 7 1/4 in.); 28.5 x 12.7 x 18.4 cm (17 3/8 x 5 x 7 1/4 in.)
Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment, 1987.314.1-5

These sculptures are among the oldest-known art objects from the Western Sudan. They include a mounted horseman and a large seated male figure, believed to have been made by one artist, and one smaller male and two female figures that were probably made by a second artist. Bracelets, necklaces, belts, and incised geometric patterns, perhaps representing scarification, decorate all of the objects. While daggers and quivers indicate hunting and military power, the other forms of adornment suggest elevated status. The term Bankoni is used to refer to figures of this style. The name comes from the village where archaeologists unearthed one such object, about six miles from Bamako, the present-day capital of Mali. Today this region is home to the Bamana people, whose ancestors made these works. Archaeologists have found Bankoni-style terracottas buried in ritual mounds.

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