There are only 135 known miniature boxwood carvings and they have been puzzling art specialists all over the world. Recently, researchers have gathered some of these tiny religious pieces from museums and private collections to further study their secrets and have found a few very interesting answers.
It is thought that these wooden carvings were made during only a brief time frame, between 1500 and 1530 either in Flanders or the Netherlands. The rise of a new merchant social class in Europe created a market demand for high-quality portable religious carvings. However, soon the Reformation began and a lot of church-related accessories went out of fashion, including the miniature boxwood pieces.
Using micro-CT scanning and Advanced 3D Analysis Software, researchers found out just how intricate these miniature altars really are. The inner layers are pieced together, hiding the joints so completely, that only a microscope or an X-ray can detect them. The pieces also incorporate pins, smaller than a grass seed. However, much of the production process remains unknown, because traces of gold and other decoration materials conceal the X-ray views.