Kneeling Figure, Natamatao, Mopti region, Mali, 12th/14th century. Terracotta, 46 x 22.4 x 21.5 cm. Musée national du Mali, Bamako, 90.25.10. Photograph by Seydou Camara

This terracotta figure of a seated man 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. Bracelets and pendants, like those depicted on the kneeling figure, might well have been made of brass, a copper alloy.