Friday mystery object #211

The mystery object has been a bit boring recently, mainly because I’ve been tied up with other projects (like the After Life exhibition I’ve been curating with the excellent fine art photographer Sean Dooley) and haven’t been in the stores much. So this Friday I thought I’d give you a bit of a fun object that my brilliant colleagues at the Horniman (check out their Tumblr) came across when reviewing the Anthropology collections:

mystery211a

Any idea what this weird piece of art (a Vicar, or perhaps Nicholas Cage?) has been painted on to? I’ve added a few more images below to help you work it out.

As usual you can put your suggestions in the comments section below – I can’t wait to hear what you think!

mystery211b

Friday mystery object #175 answer

On Friday I gave you this anthropological mystery object to identify:

I asked you what the teeth might have belonged to and where in the world might this necklace be from.

It’s always a bit tricky to identify worked material as it will often be different from what you’d see or expect in the wild state and you lose the context of the rest of the specimen. Nonetheless, these teeth are quite distinctive to a particular group of animals.

Barbara Powell, 23thorns and Robin got the right general area with suggestions of Islands in the South Pacific, in particular New Guinea. 23thorns also nailed the animal group with his suggestion of  Continue reading

Friday mystery object #175

This Friday I have a bit of a change for you – an anthropological mystery object made from animal bits. This specimen was being looked at as part of a review project that we have going on at the Horniman Museum. Any idea what these teeth might belong to and where in the world this necklace might come from?

As usual you can put your suggestions, observations and questions below and I’ll do my best to respond. Good luck!

Friday mystery object #104 answer

On Friday I gave you this Anthropological object and asked what is it, where is it from and what is it made from:

As some of you spotted, this object is not made of hair, but of feathers that look like hair. This indicates that the feathers are from a flightless bird – and given their length it would be a big bird. That narrows it down to a ratite (also known as a Struthioniform).

There are large ratites in Africa (Ostriches), South America (Rheas), Australia (Emus and Cassowaries) and New Guinea (Cassowaries), so this object must come from one of these places.

Given the shape and size it seems fairly clear that the object is a headdress, so the easy way to identify what this object is made from (and therefore the area of the world from which it originated) is to do an image search for ‘*type of ratite* headdress’, after all, there are only 4 options. Sneaky but effective.

To save you the trouble I will tell you that it is in fact made from Cassowary feathers – probably Northern Cassowary Casuarius unappendiculatus (Blyth, 1860) and it’s from New Guinea, which David Craven successfully identified – well done!

Northern Cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus) at Bali Bird Park by www.viajar24h.com

Northern Cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus) at Bali Bird Park by http://www.viajar24h.com

Friday mystery object #95

It had to happen; a mystery object on Friday the 13th – a day reputed to be unlucky. So with the theme of superstition in mind I have an anthropological object for you to identify:

I admit that this doesn’t look much different to the usual mystery objects, but this one is reputed to have certain powers. Can you work out what these powers may be and where in the world this superstition comes from? Of course, the first step will be to identify what the object actually is.

As usual you can put your suggestions, observations and questions below and I’ll do my best to answer.

Good luck!

Friday mystery object #79 answer

On Friday I gave you this anthropological mystery object to identify, asking you to tell me what it is, where it’s from and what it’s made of:

Well, OdenedO worked out that it is a skirt (or apron) and Sam Kelly and Julie Doyle both correctly suggested that it was African in origin. Jake and Julie Doyle suggested that it could be ivory and Sam Kelly specified that it could be Hippopotamus teeth (although this suggestion was discarded in favour of horn).

So a bit of a group effort, but you pretty much got there – it’s an African (Ethiopian in fact) skirt/apron made using ivory, probably Hippopotamus incisors. That’s my current preferred hypothesis based on the photo – but I need to check the specimen myself to be entirely sure.

Ivory (teeth as a workable material) is an interesting area for us in the museum trade, since most kinds are controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This means that objects made of certain types of ivory need to have licenses for import and export, or for any commercial use, unless they can be shown to have been made before 1st June 1947.

There are various characteristics that can help identify different ivories – the best known being the presence of Schreger lines in Elephant ivory:

But there are other clues that can indicate which species an ivory has come from – unfortunately I don’t have time or the appropriate images to go into detail here, so I will pull together a post on identifying ivory as soon as I can. For now, here’s a link to a useful pdf article on this very topic.

Back to the skirt/apron – anthropology isn’t my area of expertise, but to the best of my knowledge this sort of attire is largely an indicator of status rather than a practical piece of clothing. In other African cultures beaded aprons are given to young women when they marry, so this may fulfil a similar purpose. I will try to track down some more on this – I think it may be included in one of the Horniman’s planned exhibitions in the next couple of years, so there may be a lot more information forthcoming. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday mystery object #79

This week I’m going to give you a break from skulls, here’s an Anthropological mystery object for you to identify (as suggested by Emilia, who is one of our excellent Conservators):

Any idea what it is, where it’s from and what it’s made of?

As usual you can leave your suggestions, observations and questions in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to respond. Good luck!

Friday mystery object #72 answer

On Friday I gave you this rather snug looking object to identify, asking where does it come from and what is it made of?

Suggestions ranged from Beaver fur from North America to Yak fur from Bhutan. However, a number of you managed to get it right – it is in fact a  Continue reading