In keeping with his regular benevolent service, Aydin Örstan of Snail’s Tales has posted the latest issue of “The Archaeo+Malacology Group Newsletter.” And as usual, the newsletter contains a couple of notes that are relevant to the archaeology of the southern Levant. For me, the most abnormally interesting is Henk K. Mienis’ “A look behind the scenes at how an ivory fragment turned into part of a Spider Conch,” 8-9.
Among the small finds from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud is a small rectangular object originally identified by Shlomo Hellwing as an ivory fragment. However, it seems that it is actually a fragment of the shell of a sea mollusc. Here is part of what Mienis says about it,
However, the so-called ivory object was examined again by Horwitz, who reached the conclusion that it was certainly not made of ivory or bone but more likely of shell.
My own study of the object confirmed her assumption: it is a fragment of a very thick mollusc of recent origin. The slightly curved object has a more or less rectangular measurements are 56.31 x 24.34 mm (length x height) and it is 12.34 mm thick. The natural texture of both the upper- and underside is highly polished; the slightly concave shows two faint rims. A cross section of the fragment reveals five layers: thin upper layers, i.e. the polished layer on both sides, and three thick layers in which the orientated in a different direction in each layer. The whole fragment is of a cream not a natural broken part of a shell, but one which has been manipulated by man.
Mienis believes that this shell fragment came from a Seba’s Spider Conch, Lambis truncata sebae, that lived in the Red Sea and it was “manipulated by man.” But he just couldn’t help teasing us a little, “Although the origin of the material has now been solved, one mystery still remains: what was the possible purpose of this shell artifact?” Yep and how did it get to Kuntillet ‘Ajrud?