8 September 2015 by Lisa
Devil’s guts and a unicorn horn? Find out about 6 curious objects you never knew were in the World Museum’s collections…
The collections at World Museum are vast. Really vast. There are 80,000 objects in the Antiquities collection alone. While searching through our online collections, I’ve discovered some very unusual objects:
What are these? A pair of earrings?
An interesting guess, but no! These balls are called ‘poi’ and they are used in Maori culture in a dance or game as a percussion instrument, by tapping them against the hands or body.
That face looks angry!
It’s certainly striking. This is a detail of a silk apron decorated with faces, skulls and thunderbolts from the Asia collection. It would be worn by Tibetan ‘black hat dancers’ whose powers included being able to make it rain.
What on earth…?
Introducing… devil’s guts! Yes really. This is a paper mâché and wood model of a destructive vegetable parasite (cuscuta trifolii) attacking a clover plant. This parasite strangles other plants in a crafty fashion and so goes by the name of ‘hellweed’ or ‘devil’s guts.’
I’m sure I’ve seen this little guy somewhere before.
If you have, then it would probably have been in New Zealand. In Maori culture this type of tiki neck pendant is worn by both men and women – they are passed down in families as heirlooms.
I wouldn’t like to find that in my back garden…
If you’re in the UK, then luckily that’s unlikely. This is an American Alligator, or to give it it’s scientific name, ‘Alligator Mississippiensis’ (try spelling that out loud!) It sounds pretty formidable, as it has strong armour and sharp claws.
Did you say this was a unicorn horn?
Yes, but it’s not really! This is a tusk of a narwhal, an Arctic whale, carved in England in the 12th century AD and used as a candlestick in religious processions. The natural shape of the narwhal’s tusk resembles that of the legendary unicorn – in the past narwhal tusks were sold as genuine unicorn horns.
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