Friday mystery object #207

This week I have a difficult mystery object for you to have a go at identifying. It was found in a crate of stray teeth and bones that recently came to light and I’m afraid it’s not in the best condition. Any idea what this incomplete run of teeth may have come from?


Click for a bigger image

As usual you can put your comments, questions and suggestions below and I’ll do my best to respond as quickly as possible. Good luck!

Oddjects No.1

I’ve been running my mystery object for over three years now and I’ve decided to add another kind of post in order to share some of the odd and interesting objects that I come across as I work in the collections of the Horniman Museum.

To share these specimens I’ve chosen the name ‘Oddjects’ as a portmanteau of ‘Odd’ and ‘Objects’. Here’s the first:


This happens to be a Wolffish (Anarhichas sp.) specimen that was a mystery object back in 2010, but here I just want to use the specimen to capture the imagination and spark discussion rather than provide much in-depth interpretation.

What does this make you think of?

I hope you enjoy the Oddjects I plan to share – if you do I would heartily recommend also checking out the Twitter and Tumblr feeds for the Horniman’s collections review projects as they also share some great objects.

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 #58 answer

On Friday I gave you this skull as a mystery object, dredged as it was from the memory card of my severely concussed camera:

This was a slightly sneaky object, because I had a feeling that quite a few of you would make the same mistake as I did when I first saw this skull, by assuming that it’s from a large rodent. The large front teeth (the incisors) support this, since enlarged first incisors are a feature of the rodents.

Rodents also have a large gap behind those incisors called a ‘diastema’ – which this skull has for the lower jaw (or mandible), but you may notice that the upper jaw has three incisors in the pre-maxilla (that’s bone in the front bit of the upper jaw) before the diastema. This is easier to see in a side (or lateral) view:

You might notice that there’s a small tooth behind the third incisor in the upper jaw – that’s a canine. You might also notice the faint wiggly line in the bone of the jaw just above the canine – that’s the junction (or suture) between the maxilla and the pre-maxilla bones. The canine is the first tooth in the maxilla and all the incisors are in the pre-maxilla (this is the same for all mammal teeth).

Rodents only have two teeth in the pre-maxilla, not six. They also have no canine teeth in the maxilla. That means this mystery object cannot be a rodent. Here’s what a rodent’s diastema looks like (the suture between maxilla and pre-maxilla is really clear in this photo):

Lagomorphs (rabbits and hares) have teeth similar to rodents, except they have an extra pair of incisors behind the front pair in the maxilla – these are called ‘peg teeth’ (image to follow… once an alternative camera has been acquired).

Clearly the mystery object has more incisors than this, plus those canines, so it can’t be a lagomorph either.

So what beastie has six upper and two lower incisors? Several of you worked out that this was a marsupial from the dentition (namely Cromercrox, jonpaulkaiser, David Craven and Zigg), but only Prancing Papio and Jamie Revell managed to get it to species, namely the  Continue reading