Friday mystery object #33


Once again it is Friday (where did the week go?) so that means it must be time for another mystery object! This week’s object was chosen by a work experience student who helped me in the collections earlier in the week (and proved to be very capable and enthusiastic). So here’s the challenge set by Taylor:

Total length 18cm

Any idea what this oddity might be? It’s a pretty difficult one, so here’s another image which may help if you can’t get it from the one provided.

As usual make your suggestions below and I will do my very best to answer any questions you may have about the specimen.

27 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #33

  1. It’s a slice through a skull. On the second picture you can see where the spine goes in. The archy bits on the second pictures are the bits that go round to the eye sockets. Is it a red deer skull ?

  2. It’s the skull of something which has been sliced horizontally by a deranged museumista. I believe it is the bottom half but I’m not confident about that and to be honest thinking about it has made me doubt my identification of the section orientation.

    The big sticky out handles visible in the alternative picture not only look like a racing car steering wheel but I suspect are important for identification and make me think of something sheepy.

    • There was certainly a deranged museumista involved at some point, the other parts of this specimen are stuck on walls or hidden in drawers miles away from this bit.

      Certainly not sheepy.

  3. It’s a slice through a skull, and those great big handles are the cheekbones – the zygomatic arches. The size – and the distance from the skull — suggests an animal with a relatively small brain but enormous masseter muscles. This beastie had a big bite. Looks like a big carnivore to me, and it weren’t for last week’s object I’d say you had a bear fixation.

  4. was thinking big cat myself but will happily defer to Henry Gee. Unless I’m right. The other picture shows the position of the occiput which makes it look pretty habitually quadrupedal though.

      • So you are also a Bristol alumnus I presume? I remember Bob Savage well – he supervised one of my undergraduate projects. The first time I met him he made me attempt to identify Megistotherium osteothlastes Savage, 1973 (which I’d never heard of up until then) and when I ran out of knowledge at “something like a massive hyaena?” he made me go through various descriptive Latin permutations to arrive at the name of it.

        Bob was a legend.

        By the way, it isn’t a tiger.

  5. Crikey. Yes, did my undergrad (joint geology & biology) with Derek Briggs and ballsed it up. I just loved fossils, and was especially fascinated by human origins (which is how the name Henry Gee is familar to me), so later went to Liverpool to study early hominids with Bernard Wood, John Gowlett &c. Didn’t balls that up but I’m not cut out to do what I’d love to do, which is a painful realisation, so here I am building web stuff in museums – not bad really, but I still love them bones.

    I’m thinking smell is reasonably important to this animal. Let’s go for another big feline: Panthera leo?

    • I was four years after you on the same course – Jeremy Rayner and Mike Benton had taken over from Briggs (although Derek was still around and giving scintillating lectures).

      Went on to Leeds with Rayner, which was a real learning experience that got me interested in the museum sector rather than University research. After some formative adventures in Ireland here I am at the Horniman (and loving it).

      I’m going to blank out your answer now, because you’ve got it right and there might be other people who want to work it out for themselves. Well done!

      • wow, what a coincidence! Jeremy Rayner: major bird man, right? And now you’re just down the road at the Horniman too. Sounds like you’ve found a good path. I can’t complain about my own, actually.
        Anyway, it just goes to show if you make enough guesses you’ll get there in the end!

      • Rayner was once a major bird man, but after a decline into publishing nothing but reviews and doing nothing to nurture his grad students and postdocs (never mind doing any research himself) he turned completely to the dark-side and embraced administration. I hear he recently lost the Alexander Chair in Leeds. Nice guy in person, but beyond lousy as a supervisor.

        Certainly enjoying my path – glad you’re happy on yours! I’m very keen on the area of museums and digital access, so who knows, our paths may even cross at some point!

      • That would be good. This little bit of fun has reminded me how much I’ve lost touch with the world of natural sciences I still love – it’s amazing how much I’ve forgotten in the course of ten years of doing other stuff, yet I still imagine myself a naturalist by inclination. So perhaps I’ll start hanging out at blogs like yours a bit more, and if you want to talk about the digital side of things at all then I’m up for that (just like @pekingspring, of course)

    • A badger that big would rule the animal kingdom with an iron fist, a short temper and a steely if myopic stare.

      Thankfully it’s not a badger.

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