Probing African art with CT scans

(image from 'Probing Art with CT Scans : A New Look at Two Masterpieces from Central Africa", by Anne-Marie Bouttiaux & Marc Ghysels, Arts & Cultures, 2008: p. 230)

(image from ‘Probing Art with CT Scans : A New Look at Two Masterpieces from Central Africa”, by Anne-Marie Bouttiaux & Marc Ghysels, Arts & Cultures, 2008: p. 230)

The use of medical equipment introduces some exciting new research opportunities. Marc Ghysels’s Scantix website¬†offers a rare glimpse of the many possibilities opened up by the use of CT scanners to probe art works. This sophisticated, non-invasive method of investigation yields slices and three-dimensional images that reveal unexpected facts and answer a number of questions. It lays bare earlier repairs and restoration work and shows up extraneous elements concealed within objects made from materials of all kinds. The CT scan of the above Yaka figure for example shows that the head poking out of the bundle is in fact the head of a squatting wooden figure, previously invisble underneath the magical charge. Some other interesting examples: a heavily restored wooden Chokwe figure, an ivory Lega figure and a terracotta Djenne shrine object. Much more case studies can be found on the website.