Friday mystery object #253 answer

Last Friday I gave you this lovely specimen from the King’s College Museum of Life Sciences to try your hand at identifying:

mystery253

It wasn’t easy, since there were limited views, so the dentition wasn’t entirely visible and the bones of the palate are not shown. Also, there was no scale bar – something that Ric Morris gently reprimanded me for.

Despite these limitations, many of you correctly managed to work out that this is the skull of a Mongoose of some sort. So congratulations to bugblokenzFlick Bakerhenstridgesj, Michelle and Allen Hazen for recognising that this is a member of the Herpestidae.

Narrowing it down beyond that is more of a challenge and without better images it’s a bit unfair to expect a species level identification – but I’m going to have a go.

Scouring through Mongoose skulls in collections and various images online (especially using the fantastic Animal Diversity Web resource, the ever helpful Skulls Unlimited and the brilliant Mammals of Tanzania Skull Key), I came to realise that the teeth are visible enough to discount many Mongoose species. Also, the shape of the zygomatic region and facial profile was quite distinctive (most Mongooses have cheekbones that are flat under the eye sockets – but not this chap).

Excluding the options that didn’t quite fit, left me with a few that did – the Egyptian Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon, Slender Mongoose Herpestes sanguinea, and White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda.

Not a clear-cut identification, but better than nothing, and it might be possible to refine it by looking at the specimen in the flesh… as it were.

#TwitteratiChallenge Museums Bolt-on = #MuseumTwitterati

I love social media. In particular I enjoy using Twitter because it provides me with a wonderful opportunity to engage in dialogue with interesting and knowledgeable people who have helped me develop in my profession, and I hope that I have been able to enrich other people’s experience in turn.

It was therefore a real pleasure to have been nominated by Katie Hobbs for the #TwitteratiChallenge, which was originally started by @TeacherToolkit to “recognise your most supportive colleagues in a simple blogpost shout-out. Whatever your reason, these 5 educators [museologists] should be your 5 go-to people in times of challenge and critique, or for verification and support“.

Note that I have slightly tweaked the focus of the challenge from the original – it’s such a nice idea that I think it’s worth borrowing (stealing?) for the museum sector. To help prevent the original intent of the challenge (i.e. finding helpful educators) from being diluted, I’m going to suggest that a new/additional hashtag be applied – so witness the birth of #MuseumTwitterati!

This is quite timely, as I recently attended the NatSCA conference, which was called Museums Unleashed and it focussed, in large part, on the role of social media in the museum profession.

NatSCA2015

As new tools are introduced, we need to be willing to give them a go, to see if they can be used to improve how we work. But Twitter is no longer a new tool.  It has proved its worth as a way of communicating and I see it rapidly becoming as important for museum professionals to use as email (although there are still a few people in the museum sector who haven’t quite got to grips with email yet).

For colleagues who are just starting out on Twitter, the #MuseumTwitterati hashtag may provide a helpful trail for identifying good people to follow.

Subversive as always, I’ve tweaked the original #TwitteratiChallenge rules, and simplified the ‘What to do’ section:

Rules:

  1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life (ex-colleagues are fine, it’s a small sector and we’d run out of people in no time otherwise).
  2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge or #MuseumTwitterati (sorry Jan Freedman)
  3. Copy and paste the ‘Rules’ and ‘What to do’ information into your own blog post and be sure to cite @TeacherToolkit since they came up with the idea.

What to do:

  1. Within 7 days of being nominated you must write your own blogpost identifying the top-5 museologists that you regularly go to for ideas, support and challenge. Share this on Twitter using the hashtag #MuseumTwitterati and tag them in – they are thus nominated.
  2. If you do not have your own blog, write your list by hand or on a computer, take a photo/screenshot and upload it to Twitter, tagging the people mentioned (yes, you can do that) and using the hashtag #MuseumTwitterati – they are thus nominated.

So here is my selection, which sadly omits a lot of fantastic people who I engage with regularly about my specialist interests, but who are not really museum professionals per se (people like Jake, Ric and Ben). There are also a lot of notable absences because I work with some excellent Twitterers (Tweeters? Tweeps? Whatever – check out this #TwitteratiChallenge post by Rupert Shepherd who is one of them, and he lists most of the others):

My #MuseumTwitterati

Mar Dixon (@MarDixon) – Doyenne of digital media for the museum sector. Trendsetter and maverick empowerer of the people, who has probably done more to unstarch the undies of the stiffest museum staff through the innovative Culture Themes than anyone could have imagined possible.

Erica McAlister (@

Mark Carnall (@mark_carnall) – Incisive and provocative natural science curator, with a playful sense of humour and a passion for Lego.

Tincture Of Museum (@TinctureOfMuse) – Another Lego lover, museum volunteer and a passionate advocate for access in museums, with a special insight into autism.

Nicholas Poole (@NickPoole1) – Trend tracker, strategist and big picture thinker. Tweets to share nuggets of museum management gold.

Apologies to many of the other fantastic people I engage with on Twitter who didn’t make the list – nothing personal, since I used commun.it to help me decide; it’s a very useful tool for managing your online community!

Friday mystery object #253

This week I have a lovely specimen from the hidden gem that is the King’s College Museum of Life Sciences for you to try your hand at identifying:

mystery253

Any idea what this specimen might be? As usual you can put your questions, observations and suggestions below – let’s see if we can work out what this is!

Friday mystery object #252 answer

Last Friday I gave you this object from the Horniman’s Anthropology collection and asked you to identify what it’s made from and what function it may have served:

mystery252

The identification turned out to be the easiest question to answer, despite the modification of the bone. The shape of the end of the bone is a result of the epiphyses (the ends of the bone) detaching from the diaphysis (the midshaft of the bone), which tells us that the animal was a juvenile at time of death and that the bone is actually formed from two bones that have fused together down their length – which is why a similar pattern is repeated on the left and right side of the bone.

This sort of fusion is normally seen in the hand and foot bones of artiodactyls, which narrows down the possible species. Judging by the size and general proportions it would be from something the size of a Roe Deer, although a bit more chunky. The closest species I could find for comparison was the the Goat Capra aegagrus hircus (Linnaeus, 1758), although it may be from a close relative, the Serow:

A Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis) by Melanochromis, 2007

 

As for the function, there were some great suggestions (from weaving comb to needle-case), but apparently this is the key to a set of handcuffs!

The variety of anthropological uses of bone is huge, and it’s always exciting to find something outside of our expectations – which this object most definitely is for me!

Friday mystery object #252

This week I have an object for you that one of my colleagues in Anthropology asked me to check the identification of:

mystery252

Any ideas what bone this is made from and, more of a challenge, what the function of this worked object might have been in its culture of origin?

As usual you can leave your questions, observations and suggestions in the comments box below. Have fun!

Friday mystery object #251 answer

Last week I gave you this object to have a go at identifying:

mystery251

I thought it looked a bit like an Ewok’s weapon, but fairly obviously it’s a bit of some critter’s leg. The question is, which critter?

In comments by David M WatsonDavid Honetaihaku and palfreyman1414  it was quickly recognised as being from a ratite (the group of flightless birds that include Emus, Cassowaries, Kiwis, Rheas and Ostriches – plus some extinct examples like Moas and Elephant Birds), but it was henstridgesj who narrowed it down to a tarsometatarsus (fused ankle and foot bones) of the correct ratite – the Ostrich Struthio camelus Linnaeus, 1758.

The size is a bit smaller than you’d expect for an adult Ostrich and the top of the bone (the bit on the left) is less well fused, so it appears to be from a subadult individual. The reason it can be distinguished from some of the other suggested ratites is all down to the number of trochlea (the rounded and grooved end bits that the toes attach to). Ostriches only have two toes, whereas the other ratites have three or four and this is reflected in those trochlea.

Ostrich foot by Tony Wills, 2007

Ostrich foot showing the two toes. Image by Tony Wills (2007)

So well done to everyone who took part, especially henstridgesj who was spot on!

Friday mystery object #251

This week I have a specimen for you to have a go at identifying, that has come from a box of “mixed bones” that I’ve been working through:

mystery251

It may look like some sort of Ewok weapon, but I’m pretty sure it’s also part of an animal. Any idea what critter this might be from?

As usual, you can leave your thoughts, comments and suggestions below. Have fun!