History

Listen: How Metallurgy is Helping Us Piece Together Our Past

Chola idols that may have been over a thousand years old have been retrieved, but how do you tell if they are real?

A temple built by the Chola dynasty in Thanjavur. Credit: nithiclicks/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

A temple built by the Chola dynasty in Thanjavur. Credit: nithiclicks/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

A few decades ago the curator of the Government Museum in Madras approached nuclear scientist Dr. Baldev Raj with a problem; bronze Chola idols that were stolen were being returned or retrieved but there was no way to identify if they were real. This posed a challenge not just to Dr. Raj but all other scientists in India: how to identify the origin of a historical artefact? How to tease out its ‘fingerprints’ and find out the era it belonged to? And can you use science to tell fake ones from real?

This is the latest episode of The Intersection, a fortnightly podcast on Audiomatic. For more such podcasts visit audiomatic.in​.