Title:Equestrian FigureArtist:Unknown Date:c. 1450Creation Place:Africa, Mali, West Africa regionCredit Line:Gift of Aimée Mott Butler Charitable Trust, Anne S. Dayton, Mr. and Mrs. D...Accession Number:83.168
This mounted horseman fuses human dignity with animal strength. It comes from the Inner Niger Delta in Mali, a region where several kingdoms succeeded each other between the 9th and 16th centuries. Horses, introduced from north of the Sahara to West Africa around 1000 AD, soon became prestigious possessions, associated with political power and wealth. Representations of horse riders from ancient Mali have come to us in clay and wood. Yet this one is unlike any other example, in both style and age.
Due to its uniqueness, however, this horseman has been subject to controversy. Some specialists questioned its authenticity. In 1980 the object underwent x-ray testing and radiocarbon dating, which revealed that it was carved from a single piece of wood dating from between 1250 and 1450 - making it one of the oldest Sub-Saharan sculptures known.