Sunday, March 2, 2008

CT Scanning of Tribal Antiquities

On Thursday, February 28, 2008 I attended a fascinating lecture by Dr. Marc Ghysels and Kristina van Dyke. The lecture was part of the 2008 lecture series presented by the Museum for African Art in New York.

Dr. Ghysels ( , a Belgian radiologist and son of the noted tribal jewelry dealer Colette Ghysels, is using CT scanning to examine 12th - 15th century terra cottas from Jenne (Inland Niger Delta of Mali). Many of the scans are of objects from the Menil Collection, Houston of which Kristina van Dyke is the Associate Curator.

As I understand it, thermoluminescence (TL) testing is not always helpful in authentication. Sophisticated fakers can take portions of old terra cottas (or crush them entirely) and reconstitute them into new objects, thus passing a TL test as the ceramic is old although the object is not.

CT scanning may be performed on ivory, wood and terra cotta and is non-invasive.

Dr. Ghysels performs individual CT scans for $1,600 per scan and provides a written report for each scan. If you are purchasing an expensive object, this may be a small price to pay for peace of mind.