Wednesday, 25 April 2018


Object Assessment Project - 
Silver Commodity Currency Bracelet

This silver bracelet was made by the largest ethnic group in north-western Nigeria: the Hausa people. According to the records it was made from silver Maria Theresa Dollars and the accession number designates it as body decoration and currency.


Fig. 1 two views of the silver bracelet (outer and inner views)


The C shaped bracelet It is decorated with geometrical patterns at both ends; these consist of several rows of circular motifs, showing pairs of concentric rings flanked at both ends by rows of parallel lines. At each end of the bracelet there are triangular marks which could indicate the manufacturer's mark. The manufacture technique seems to be casting and considering the sharpness of the geometrical designs on the outer surface, it is most probable that they were stamped at a later stage. There is a big fissure on the inner part of the bracelet, this could have been caused after the casting process either by bending the bracelet into shape or by clamping it to stamp the decorations; this mechanical process could have compressed the metal to the point where it would have cracked.
Fig. 2 Details of the bracelet's marks

The artefact itself could be said to be an important source of information, Silver has anti-bacterial properties and this bracelet has been polished to a high shine, even though it is not possible to establish whether it was used by a man or a woman its relative heaviness may indicate that its original owners must have considered this object quite precious since silver was and is still an expensive material.

In the West currency bracelets also known as Manillas are a tangible reminder of the Atlantic slave trade and it could be argued that this artefact had a value as currency, however this object might have also been valued for other qualities such as its aesthetics; the way it looks and shines or the particular odour of the metal. Also, it could have been worn to accentuate arm movements during tribal celebrations or to draw attention by the particular sound it made when rustling with other bracelets. In addition to being a symbol of great wealth it could also have spiritual and social significance. Jewellery such as this may have revealed peoples’ social status, their family, and their tribe.  In the context of a museum it also represents the history of a culture as well as the development of colonialism. ‘The key to all these issues is to understand that, in a modern view of material culture; objects constitute as well as reflect relationships’ (Hurcombe, 2007, p.103).


Hurcombe, L. (2007) Archaeological Artefacts as Material Culture, Routledge, New York

This post refers to coursework done for ARCLG142 (2017-18), one of the core courses of the UCL MA Principles of Conservation. As part of their assessed work for this course, students were asked to investigate objects from the UCL EthnographyCollections at the UCL Department of Anthropology. Here they present a summary of their main conclusions. We hope you enjoy our work! Comments are most welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment

My blog list