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Collection Tier:
Tier 3

Oceanian ➔ Necklace

This necklace is made of an assortment of cowrie shells of cream, white, and brown. Necklaces such as these are common in Oceania.

Seashells like these have functioned as a form of exchange currency in Asia, Africa, Oceania, and North America for many hundreds of years. The cowrie shell was a form of currency primarily used in West Africa during the transatlantic slave trade between 1600-1900. They are durable, small, and light to carry as well as unique, making them difficult to create a fake copy. Men, women, and children collected the shells for trade by placing woven mats made of coconut tree branches on the surface of the water. Baby mollusks would gather on the mats and later the mats would be removed from the water. After drying, the shells were polished and exported.
18.5" h 2.25" w 1.5" d
Current Location Status:
Education Program
Museum Collection

Discovery Kit: Jewelry (October 14 2019)

Discovery Kits include a variety of artifacts and specimens from the Museum’s Collection that allow students to investigate global and local objects. The Collections support the Museum’s mission of inspiring curiosity and discovery around science, history, and culture. Each kit includes objects from the Museums archives, helpful resources and suggested activities. Discovery Kits are a great way for teachers to incorporate primary source and object-based learning into the classroom or as a way to prepare for or extend a Museum visit.