On Friday I gave you a bit of a respite from skulls, in the form of this rather beautiful object:
Dave Godfrey immediately recognised that the two halves of this egg-shaped object fold down and likely contained something inside. What the two halves were made from was hinted at by Raymond Ho and Steven D. Garber, PhD (who recognised that it was derived from molluscs) and was explicitly identified by by Dave Godfrey as being mother-of-pearl (or nacre as it’s also known). Jonpaulkaiser went a step further and identified that the nacre came from the shells of Nautilus pompilius Linnaeus, 1758 (which Dave Godfrey seconded). This is the best identification I can come up with as well, since it fits with the nature of the nacre (or I should say osmena) – it’s too ‘pearly’ and not iridescent enough to be from an Abalone (Haliotis sp.), it also lacks the respiratory holes (as noticed by Zigg).
The size and shape are the real give-away though, as it’s squarish unlike other bivalves or gastropods with a nacreous rather than a porcellaneous inner shell. This fits with it being made from a section through the main chamber of two large Nautilus, which have been peeled, polished and mounted together.
So we got the species, but no-one managed to work out what was stored inside. This photo will make that much easier:
The thimble really gives it away as being a sewing kit (or general purpose Victorian Ladies household kit), although to be fair this style of casket was used for lots of different things, like cigars as spotted by Joe Sullivan.
I thought I’d worked out that the base was horn of some sort, but I didn’t look at it properly and I will have to reassess the next time I get a chance – apologies to all.