Friday mystery object #34 answer


Friday’s mystery object was a tricky one:

Suggestions for an identification ranged from earwax to fungi, from a monstrous gall stone to diseased bone. The first ranging shot from Gimpy (It looks like bone that has been calcified or has some sort of tumour growing on it. It also seems to have … no internal blood vessels or marrow) was actually very close and I thought this would be nailed in short order, but perhaps my evasive answer put people off the scent more effectively than I had intended. Eventually the one person who has managed to guess all of the correct elements is Jake – so a hearty round of applause to our youngest contributor! It is in fact a section ofdiseased elephant tusk, probably from an Indian elephant Elephas maximus Linnaeus 1758.

When I set this identification challenge I mentioned that things like this “can potentially cause problems when they’re not identified and dealt with appropriately” – the reason being that elephants are protected under CITES legislation, which means that this piece of ivory cannot be bought, sold, or exported out of the EU without a CITES Article 10 certificate. Not only that, but it cannot be used in an exhibition that charges an entrance fee without an Article 10 or an Article 60 certificate. If this piece of ivory has documentation that proves it was acquired before 1947 (as this does) then it could be eligible for an Antiques derrogation – which means it doesn’t need a certificate. However, this is only true for material that has been “worked” before 1947, so it this case it may or may not need a certificate depending on whether a polished section is counted as “working” (which I expect does count as working since it has been transformed from its natural state by human craft). That’s why it’s important to identify even weird stuff like this, since by not attempting to do so, you could be breaking the law.

Without documentation this object would be very difficult to identify, since the diseased ivory lacks the developmental structure that is normally associated with ivory – the Schreger lines:  This is just one example of why documentation is important, but there are many others…

So well done to everyone – some great lateral thinking there and lots of people got aspects of what it was. This week’s object may be a little less challenging, but we shall see…

4 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #34 answer

  1. Yes, I thought the second picture in particular looked like section through a piece of ginger! It very quickly became clear though from your responses to comments that it was not…
    Thanks, an interesting object.

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