Columbia ANS Seminar Series: Applying Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis(INAA) on the Study of Nok Sculptures in I. P. Stanback Museum

Abstract: The I.P. StanbackMuseum is home to one of the premier African/African-American art collections in the United States. Among the valuable collections of the museum, a unique group is the Noksculptures donated by tribal chiefs in West Nigeria. The sophistication of Noksculptures has led scholars to believe that an older but undiscovered tradition must have preceded them. Some experts also believe that Noksculptures have some relationship to later portrait arts. But these assumptions have not been proven yet.

To get further provenance information of Noksculptures, we collected several clay and soil samples at different points of the sculptures and analyzed them with instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). Sample irradiation was conducted by the PULSTAR research reactor at NC state university. After irradiation, qualitative and quantitative information of the elements was obtained from the decay spectra recorded by HpGespectrometers. Experimental results show that (1) clay samples from the sculptures have different elemental concentrations with the mud samples buried the sculpture, which confirms that the burial location is not the place where the sculptures were made. (2) samples from different sculptures of Nokhave similar elemental concentrations, which indicates that terracotta figures may be made with the clay from the same manufacturing location. Sculpture manufacture may be a large-scale industry at that time.

Biography: Dr. ZaijingSun is an assistant professor at the Applied Radiation Sciences Laboratory (ARSL) at the South Carolina State University (SCSU). He is also the advisor of SCSU chapter of the American Nuclear Society (ANS). Before joining SCSU, he was a postdoc in the Nuclear Engineering division at the Argonne National laboratory. His research focuses on applying nuclear analytical techniques to environmental, biological and agricultural samples. Other research interests include temporal data mining (TDM) in nuclear detections, transportation of nuclear materials, homeland security applications of photo-nuclear physics, Monte Carlo simulations of nuclear processes, and medical isotope production.

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