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:


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!

Bonus mystery object

I usually offer up a mystery object on Friday, but here’ a bonus object that landed on my desk this morning.


Apparently it was found in a horsefield in Kent, I have narrowed down the likely species of the animal that ‘donated’ the bone to a couple of options, but thought you might like to have a go as well, before the specimen is handed over to our Anthropologists to inspect the engraved designs.

As usual can can leave your comments below. Have fun!

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:


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!


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

Northern Cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus) at Bali Bird Park by