Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Object Research and Condition Assessment-Necklace J.0072

Object J.0072 (Figure 1) is part of the Ethnographic Collections at UCL. This is a teaching collection of the department of Anthropology at UCL and includes objects from Africa, Asia and the Americas. Object J.0072 is a wire necklace measuring 43.5 cm in length with a diameter of approximately 13 cm. The object weighs 17.86 cm and is composed of 15 coils. The object’s label indicates that it was ‘copied by Chaco Indians from Paraguay troops’.

 Figure 1. Object J.0072-Wire necklace

The necklace was given to the Ethnographic Collection by C.W. Gibbons. Gibbons was part of the South American Missionary Society and spent five years in the Paraguayan Chaco with them during the beginning of the 20th century (D. Mercier, pers. comm., 2018). Unfortunately, there is no record of the date of acquisition nor of the name of the particular indigenous group that manufactured the necklace.

It can be estimated that the necklace was crafted by the indigenous groups that had the most contact with the Mission. These were the Lengua, Angaité and Sanapaná (Henriksen 1888). The indigenous people of Chaco adorned themselves with necklaces made from shells, glass beads, seeds, bird feathers and bone (Escobar 1993). The wire necklace is a unique example, since the indigenous groups of this area rarely employed metal in their crafts. It is possible that the necklace was crafted some time during or after the Chaco War of 1932, as this would have exposed the natives to the Paraguayan troops.
Necklaces were considered a status symbol and represented different ethnic groups (Escobar 1993). This necklace also had economic value, particularly due to its material. Wrought iron was scarce in the 19th century and became valuable (Plá 1976). It was concluded that the metal was ferrous in composition when it reacted to a magnet. The object is stable, however there is corrosion on several of its components (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Detail of corrosion on object J.0072.

The object is also broken and potentially missing parts (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Detail of broken part of object.

It is advisable to store the object in a proper mount and packaging. This will allow for a controlled environment and will hinder the corrosion process that is currently accelerated by the fluctuations in relative humidity.


UCL Ethnographic Collections’ Catalogue, 2018. Available from World Wide Web:
Escobar, T., 1993. La Belleza de los Otros: Arte Indígena del Paraguay. Asunción: Editora Litocolor S.R.L.
Henriksen, A., 1888. The following is the report of Mr. Henriksen on his expedition to the Indians of Paraguay. The South American Missionary Magazine XXII, 11-14. London: Spottiswoode and Co.
Plá, J., 1976. The British in Paraguay: 1850-1870. Translated by Brian Charles MacDermot. Richmond: The Richmond Publishing Co. Ltd.

Photos by C. Russo.

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.

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