What Could This Be?
November 23, 2020 4:29 PM   Subscribe

I found this in a coffee can of seashells in the basement of my new house. It's about three inches long, and an inch and a half wide. It has a somewhat rough texture. The house is in Illinois about 7 miles from the Mississippi. Anyone have any ideas? Photo here
posted by Westlake71 to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Pyrometric cones
posted by drdanger at 4:44 PM on November 23, 2020 [8 favorites]

I may be way off base but what it reminds me of is "cone tests" for ceramic firing using pyrometric cones: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrometric_cone
posted by The otter lady at 4:44 PM on November 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Yep, porcelain pyrometric cones inserted into a cushion of clay. These melt at a certain temperature in a kiln and signal that the kiln has reached a desired temperature that matures the porcelain that is being fired. No idea why anyone kept them, but they are not shells. Perhaps the former owner was a potter.
posted by citygirl at 4:50 PM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

(There's like, vent holes in the side of the kiln you put these by so you can peek at them. If you open the kiln while it's hot to check, everything will crack and break from the rapid temperature change.)
posted by sexyrobot at 4:59 PM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yep, just nthing, they're pyrometric cones! I grew up with these all over the place, potter's kid.
posted by limeonaire at 7:24 PM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yep, those are firing cones.
If the shells were oysters, they also could have been used during firing as an organic way to prop up some ceramic pieces.
posted by annsunny at 10:59 PM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

....perhaps the beachcomber found it washed up and had the same question (unresolved) so it remained with the shells as a lingering unknown....
posted by mightshould at 2:49 AM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

It's amazing what you can learn from MetaFilter. I had no idea those things existed.
posted by james33 at 7:37 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

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