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Scrimshaw carved bone

Date made: late 18th century-19th century

Description: Piece of vertebra of large mammal upon which a face has been etched.

Found on a rafter under a ceiling in an old house in New Bond Street, where it had lain for several generations.

Scrimshaw are objects created usually by whalers from the by-product of the whale, such as bones, teeth, baleen and bones. It was first done by sailors working on whaling ships out of the coast of New England until the moratorium of commercial whaling in 1986. The origin of the word is unknown, but some people think it was derived from a Dutch nautical expression that meant to waste time. Indeed, scrimshaw did take quite a bit of time from the sailor’s idle hours as the surface had to be prepared first and designs had to be thought through. But time was something that sailors had in abundance, as trips could last several years. It is possible that this item has folklore associations, or is possibly a fisherman or other sailor's work. The Isle of Man has a long maritime history. Many thousands of Manxmen (and women) have made their living from the sea, in various capacities, as boatbuilders, fishermen or merchant sailors.

Measurements: overall: 15 x 10 x 7 cm

Materials: animal: bone

Object name: scrimshaw

Collection: Social History Collection

ID Number: 1954-0063

Subject tags : #MM100COLLECTIONS


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