Horse, Natamatao, Mopti region, Mali, 12th/14th century. Terracotta, 37.7 x 23.5 x 45 cm. Musée national du Mali, Bamako, 2002.17.16. Photograph by Seydou Camara

This terracotta figure of a horse was found at Natamatao, Mali, alongside skeletons of horses and humans. It was part of a widespread local terracotta sculpture tradition that stretched from the tenth to the fifteenth century. The Niger River’s fertile inland delta supported a thriving urbanism in the Middle Ages that included more than sixty interdependent communities. At Natamatao, excavations unearthed materials associated with trans-Saharan trade, notably a bundle of imported copper ingots. The depiction of horses points to commerce, as they were traded across the Sahara.