Apologies for a somewhat belated answer to last week’s mystery object – Christmas and all that…
I gave you these two unidentified objects from the Horniman Museum collections, so you could have a go at identifying them:
I was not disappointed either – Jake recognised that they were upper molars or premolars from a grazing animal and Rhea identified the animal in this cryptic clue:
If the owner of these teeth could market and sell a coffee, would it be interested in a label with a *unicorn* mascot that comes in the sumatran or javan blends?
These are the upper premolar teeth of an Indian Rhino, Rhinoceros unicornis Linnaeus, 1758. In fact I believe they may be the teeth of this Indian Rhinoceros in particular:
The Indian Rhino is a great example of successful conservation efforts – when the specimen above was acquired in the late 19th Century these animals were being hunted heavily, mainly for trophies. By the early 20th Century fewer than 200 of these animals remained, but by enforcing strict protection of the animals and their habitat the population had recovered to nearly 3000 individuals by 2009.
Unfortunately this success story may suffer a reversal due to a very worrying increase in demand for Rhino horn for use as a cancer cure in Traditional Asian Medicine in recent years. In fact, at the moment the demand is so great that specimens of Rhino horn are being taken off display in museums because they at risk of being stolen – although I’ve written about that in more detail before and I will do again.