Unknown artifact ID help
October 12, 2018 10:20 AM   Subscribe

My museum has been contacted by someone looking for help identifying something they purchased at a flea market in a Western state in the U.S.. You can see photos of it here. It does not seem to be Native North American, and people have doubted it was from Europe or the Middle East. Some have thought it might be from South America. (It is also not from Easter Island apparently.) If anyone has any ideas, I would appreciate it (contemporary art object or fake are also ok answers :-)
posted by gudrun to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Inuit? Is it hollow? Do you know what the material is?
posted by catatethebird at 10:26 AM on October 12, 2018

Bulgaria,Romania, Anatolia possibly Hungary would be my guess.
posted by 15L06 at 10:40 AM on October 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's a small cylinder, stone I believe (could also be ceramic), and not Inuit (per some staff experts.) Think "napkin ring"-ish in size and shape.
posted by gudrun at 10:40 AM on October 12, 2018

Looks to me like a grain measure. I can't link as I am on my phone but if you do a google image search you will see some similarities.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 10:48 AM on October 12, 2018

The creature vaguely reminds me of a gharial, which would suggest parts of South Asia, but that's a pretty wild guess.
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:02 AM on October 12, 2018

Could it be a decorative stone or ceramic bead, possibly for braided or decorating hair (human or horse)?
posted by RhysPenbras at 11:42 AM on October 12, 2018

Grain measures aren’t usually 3 inches tall.
Bactrian Intaglio Stone Bead search on eBay.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:57 AM on October 12, 2018

It seems Native Alaskan or Canadian First Peoples to me.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:25 PM on October 12, 2018

The shape if it lacks a bottom makes me think of a hair accent for a braid. Something worn as a charm or simple decorative cuff.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 1:57 PM on October 12, 2018

Coming back to add, it is definitely not Native Alaskan, Inuit, Canadian First Peoples; not from Native North America. We've got experts on that who have weighed in already. South America is the current leading contender, and may be spindle related (and may be a reproduction, rather than original).
posted by gudrun at 3:03 PM on October 12, 2018

Yes, the bird reminds me of things I've seen in Central/South American art.
posted by stillmoving at 4:44 PM on October 12, 2018

It looks like a rolling intaglio signet bead— apparently they were more common in North Africa & the Middle East, if you have access to specialists who might be able to vet that.
posted by spunweb at 4:22 PM on October 13, 2018

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