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Full text of "Shells as evidence of the migration of early culture by J. Wilfrid Jackson.."

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PUBLICATIONS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER 



ETHNOLOGICAL SERIES 
No. II. 



SHELLS AS EVIDENCE OF THE MIGRATIONS 
OF EARLY CULTURE 



PUBLISHED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER 

AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 

(H. M. MCKECHNIE, SECRETARY) 

12 lime grove, oxford road, manchester 

longmans, green and co. 

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and thirtieth street 

chicago: praikie avenue 

and twenty-fifth street 

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Purple-Shells. 




(1) Murex trunculus, L. \. 

(2) Purpura hcemastoma. Lam. \. 

(3) Murex branderis, L. J (after Reeve). 

(4) Triton tritonis, L. \, showing blow-hole on side, of spire. 

(5) Turbinella pyrum, L. (the Chank), J, showing blow-hole at apex of spire. 

(Front drawings by Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson . ) 



SHELLS As EVIDENCE OP 

THE MIGRATIONS OF 

EARLY CULTURE 



yJ 



BY 



J. WILFRID JACKSON, F.G.S. 

Assistant Keeper Manchester Museum 
Honorary Librarian of the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland 



MANCHESTER 

AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 

12 LIME GROVE, OXFORD ROAD 

LONGMANS, GREEN & CO. 

LONDON, NEW YORK, BOMBAY, &-c. 
I917 

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CJ3 

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PUBLICATIONS OF 
THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER 

No. CXI I. 






DEDICATED 

TO 
MY FATHER-IN-LAW, 

ROBERT STANDEN, 

WHOSE VALUED FRIENDSHIP AND 

LEARNED GUIDANCE 

THE AUTHOR 

HAS ENJOYED FOR MANY YEARS 



CONTENTS. 



Preface ... - 

Introduction 

Chaptbr I. — The Geographical Distribution of the Shell- 
Purple Industry ... 

Chapter II. — Shell-Trumpets and their Distribution in the 
Old and New World 

Chapter III. — The Geographical Distribution of the use of 
Pearls and Pearl-Shell 

Chapter IV. — The use of Cowry-Shells for the Purposes of 
Currency, Amulets, and Charms ... 



Appendix I. 
Appendix II. .. 
Bibliography .. 
{NDE5f ... 



Page 
ix 



30 
70- 

123 
195 
207 
209 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 

Page 

I. Purple-Shells and Trumpet-Shells Frontispiece 

II. Map showing the Distribution of the Shell-Purple Industry ... 2 

III. Map showing the Distribution of Shell-Trumpets 31 

IV. Aztec Picture Writings facing 52 

V. Maya Sculpture and Picture Writings ... ... , , S^ 

VI. Incarnations of Indian and Japanese Gods ... ... ,, 62 

VII. Map showing the Distribution of the use of Pearls and Pearl- 

Shells 71 

VIII. Map showing the recorded range of Cy/?-«fl ?«(7«e/a and a««»/«j 124 

IX. Map showing the Distribution of the use of Cowries ., . ... 125 

X. Cowries used for Currency, etc ... ... 156 

XI. Strings of Cowries used for Symbolic Messages, etc 162 

XII. Chinese Hieroglyphs for Cowry and Tortoise ... ... ... 180 

XIII. Qvula (Calf urnus) verrucosa, "L .,. ... ... 191 



PREFACE. 

In the course of my preliminary studies of " The 
Migrations of Early Culture,"^ I was struck with the 
remarkable cultural uses to which shells were put in 
widely separated parts of the world : but it was not 
until Mr. W. J. Perry wrote his memoir upon " The Geo- 
graphical Distribution of Megalithic Monuments and 
Ancient Mines"" that I came to realise what an impor- 
tant part the search for shells had played in the diffusion 
of the elements of culture and in the upbuilding of civili- 
zation. 

Thus it became clear that a serious attempt must be 
made to collect the conchological evidence. In considera- 
tion of the pitfalls into which archjEoIogists and numis- 
matists had fallen in the past through the failure correctly 
to identify the shells with which they had to deal, it was 
equally clear that the necessary preliminary work should 
be done, not by an ethnographer, but by someone with a 
thorough knowledge of the systematic zoology of the 
Mollusca. 

In Mr. Robert Standen and Mr. Wilfrid Jackson 
the Manchester Museum is fortunate in possessing two 
acknowledged experts in systematic conchology. After 
discussing the question with them, Mr. Jackson undertook 
the task of collecting the ethnographical evidence relating 
to the cultural use of shells and of determining the specific 
identity of the latter. The first fruits of this preliminary 
survey rivalled the products of "Father O'Flynn's" intel- 
lectual achievements — 

" Down from mythology into thayology, 
Troth ! and conchology, if he'd the call." 

' Manchester University Press, 1915. 

^ Manchester Memoirs (Lit. and Phil. Soc.J, November 24tli, 1915. 



X Preface. 

Mr. Jacicson submitted a series of six reports* upon 
his work to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical 
Society and these were published in its Proceedings. The 
Council of the Society has courteously given him per- 
mission to republish the four more important of these 
contributions, with certain additions. 

This book represents nothing more than the informa- 
tion garnered in this preliminary survey ; and no one 
recognises its incompleteness more than its author. But 
I have urged Mr. Jackson to make these results more 
generally accessible by collecting them into a book, because 
they reveal the richness and the importance of this branch 
of ethnography. It is hoped that by appealing to the 
interest of conchologists and ethnologists it will stimulate 
some of them to join in the search for further evidence 
and assist in collecting and sifting the material for an 
exhaustive treatise. 

The numerous letters which Mr. Jackson has received 
from all parts of the world since he began the publication 
of his reports suggests that the interest in this line of 
investigation is real and widespread and that the wider 
distribution of this collection of essays will achieve the 
end he has in view, 

Mr. Jackson has already received help from so many 

correspondents that it would be a difficult task to thank 

them all individually. But the fact that Mr. Robert 

Standen's help has always been given him is a sufficient 

guarantee of the reliability of his identification of the 

shells. 

G. Elliot Smith. 

The University, 
Manchester, 
30 April, 191 7. 

* For a list of these, see page 210 of this book. 



INTRODUCTION. 

In most places where shells are used it is not their 
decorative or aesthetic value to which primary importance 
is attached. Some arbitrary meaning that, in the course 
of ages, has come to be attached to or associated with 
certain shells determined the value assigned to them and 
impelled men to search for them far and wide and often 
at great peril. The cowry is widely believed to confer 
fertility on women and to help in the process of parturition. 
They are, therefore, worn on girdles by maidens, presented 
to them as bridal offerings, and used by sterile or preg- 
nant women to attain these respective benefits. They are 
also put into' graves to confer vitalising power and ensure 
the continuance of the deceased's existence, i.e., not merely 
life but also resurrection. They have been used as arti- 
ficial eyes for mummies, and also as charms against the 
evil eye, and to bring good luck. Hence they are used 
for games of chance. They were probably the earliest form 
of currency. 

Many of these attributes of the cowry were also trans- 
ferred to the snail shell. Like the cowry it also was the 
source of life, the parent of mankind, the dwelling place 
of the. deity who conferred the blessings of fertility, not 
only to mankind, but also to his crops. The murmur of 
the shell was the voice of the god, and the trumpet made 
of a shell became an important instrument in initiation 
ceremonies and in temple worship. In the search for these 
shells special significance probably first came to be attached 
to pearls, which, however, had been known for many ages 
before then to the oyster-eating makers of kitchen-middens ; 



xii Introduction. 

and some of the magital powers associated with shells 
were also transferred to pearls. 

Pearl-like bodies are obtained from a considerable 
number of shells in addition to those of the pearl oyster ; 
and it is significant that a special cultural importance 
came to be attached to most, if not all of them. 

Of these the Abalone {Halietis), the classical designa- 
tion of which is " Ear of Venus," is used for ornament and 
currency. Its resemblance to a human ear and the serial 
arrangement of the perforations near its margin suggest 
the possibility that the custom of piercing the helix in a 
linear series may have some connexion with this likeness. 

It is all the more suggestive when this method of 
perforation is found in association with the use of an ear- 
pendant made of Haliotis shell.^ Strombus gigas (the 
common conch), which is used as a ceremonial trumpet, 
produces pink pearls ; and Turbinella pyrum (the Indian 
chank), which is the trumpet and libation-vessel of India, 
Thibet and China, has pink and pale red pearls. Another 
of this series is Tridacna gigas (Giant Clam), which is 
used in Oceania as well as in the West Indies for 
making axes and other tools, and in certain Christian 
churches in Europe as receptacles for ' holy water.' Venus 
viercenaria (Quahog or Hard Clam) is used for making 
shell money " Wampum " in North America. Nmitilus 
fompilius is cut up and used for ornament and as eyes 
for Torres Straits mummies. It is also u.sed as a drinking 
vessel in India and elsewhere. 

If one asks the question how did these remarkable 
qualities come to be attributed to certain shells, the answer 
is plainly given by the collection of data brought together 
by Mr. Jackson. 

The whole of the complex shell-cult seems to have 

1 " Handbook of American Indians," Vol. I, p. 17. 



Introduction. xiii 

sprung out of the fanciful resemblance which a particular 
group of primitive men imagined they could detect between 
the cowry and the female organs of reproduction. 

In his remarkable work " D'Amboinsche Rariteit- 
kamer," published in Amsterdam in 1741, Rumphius 
informs his readers that the cowry was referred to by 
Ennius under the name "matriculus "; and he explains the 
meaning of this expression thus : — " Apud utorsque nomen 
accepterunt a similitudine pudendi muliebris, quod Grseci 
Chaeron, Latini porcum et porculum vocant, cujus aliquam 
similitudinem refert hujus Conchaerina " (II Boek, p. 113). 
Twenty-one years later Adanson, in his " Histoire natur- 
elle du Senegal," '^ referring to the use of the terms 
"Pucelage" and "Concha Venerea," says: — "Concha 
Venerea sic dicta quia partem foemineam quodam modo 
repraesentat : externe quidem per labiorum fissuram, 
interne vero propter cavitatem uterum mentientem. . . . 
Sunto igitur dictae Porcellanae (id est Venereae) ob 
aliquam cum puderido muliebri similitudinem." Aldrov. 
Exang., p. 552. These ideas are still current in Japan at 
the present day.' 

That such fancied resemblances were really regarded 
so seriously in ancient times as to confer vital powers 
upon the simulating object has just been claimed for the 
mandrake by Dr. Rendel Harris.* He refers the origin 
of this association to- Cyprus, which also gave the cowry 
its scientific name, Cypraea ; and in attributing the origin 
of the cult of Aphrodite to the magical fertilising property 
of the anthropoid mandrake (when worn against the flesh 

2 " Coquillages," p. 65— Paris, 1762. 

^ W. L. Hildbiirgh, "Some Japanese Charms connected with the 
making of Clothing," Man, Feb., 1917, p. 28. (See the Appendix of this 
book, p. 205), 

« " The Origin of the Cult of Aphrodite," Manchester, 1916, republished 
in his "Ascent of Olympus," 1917. 



xiv Introduction. 

as a girdle) he emphasises precisely the same features in 
the development of this belief as the history of the cultural 
use of the cowry also reveals. In both cases a fancied 
likeness to the organs of reproduction was supposed to 
confer upon the object — whether it was the cowr\- or the 
mandrake — the magical power of conferring fertility. In 
both cases this influence was supposed to be exerted upon 
women, if they wore the amulets upon their girdle. The 
link of both practices with Cyprus suggests the influence 
of one belief in originating the other. 

But though Dr. Rendel Harris has demonstrated that 
Aphrodite was a personification of the mandrake, this is 
by no means the whole of the stor}-. It affords no 
explanation why Aphrodite was female, and onl}- the 
slightest and somewhat fanciful reasons for the personifi- 
cation or the magical potency of the goddess. Xor has 
Dr. Rendel Harris given any reasons for the remarkable 
belief that it is necessary to tie a dog to the plant " to 
pull it up, which will give a great shreeke at the digging 
up : otherwise if a man should do it, he should surely die 
in short space after." = 

If it be assumed that Aphrodite was born of the sea 
foam ; and reached C3'prus as a cowry, which, for the 
reasons that this book aims at expounding, was alreadv 
the symbol of womanhood, the source of fertilit}'-, the 
giver of life and resurrection, the whole of the wonder- 
ful story told by Dr. Rendel Harris assumes a new 
meaning. The cowry-beliefs were planted in C\prus ; 
and there, under the influence of those horticultural ideas 
which, according to him, were current in the Eastern 
Mediterranean, the plant that also presents grotesque 
likenesses to the reproductive organs was regarded as the 
impersonation of those powers which, for similar reasons 
had been assigned to the cowr)'. 
» Op. cit.. p. 6. 



Introdiutiou. xv 

That the cowry shell was consecrated to V^enus 
and that the beliefs associated with it had long been 
current in the Mediterranean is clear from the writings 
of Pliny (Bk. IX., chap. 41). In the Defence made by 
Apuleius against the charge of sorcery these ideas con- 
cerning the cowry's magical properties are discussed." 

Later on I shall explain how the properties of cowries 
became transferred in some part to pearls. In the notes 
on Pliny's Natural History (Bohn's Edition, 1S55), Dr. 
Bostock and Mr. H. T. Riley (\''ol. II., p. 433) refer to 
the habits of dog-fishes ("Canes marini"), and quote 
from Procopius (De Bell. Pers. B. i, c. 4) the following 
*' wonderful story in relation to this subject " : — " sea-dogs 
are wonderful admirers of the pearl-fish, and follow them 
out to sea. ... .A certain fisherman, having watched for 
the moment when the shell-fish was deprived of the pro- 
tection of its attendant sea-dog, . . . seized the shell-fish 
and made for the shore. The sea-dog, however, was soon 
aware of the theft, and making straight for the fisherman, 
seized him. Finding himself thus caught, he made a last 
effort, and threw the pearl-fish on shore, immediately on 
which he was torn to pieces b\- its protector." 

This legend is linked by numerous bonds of connexion 
with the stories of dragon-protectors of pearls and also 
with those relating to dolphins. It would take me too 
far afield to discuss its genesis here, but tliere can be little 
doubt that it is a garbled version of the dangers from 
sharks incurred by divers for pearls and conch shells in 
the Indian Ocean (see /cj^/ev?, p. 88). In the Far East the 
shark is replaced by the dragon (see postea, p. 103). I 
have referred to this matter only because I believe it will 

" •' .Apvlei .\pologia," with Introduction and Commentary by Professor 
II. E. Butler, and A. S. Owen, Oxford, 1914, §33 and 34, and especially the 
notes upon them. 



xvi Introduction. 

prove to be the source of the remarkable account of the 
necessity for obtaining the dog's help to root up a man- 
drake, and the explanation of the danger of this operation 
to man. It is, in fact, yet one more link between the 
beliefs associated with shells and dragons and the birth of 
Aphrodite. 

In the appendix Mr. Jackson has collected some 
curious information relating to the association of a dog 
with the discovery of purple. Certain of the associated 
legends suggest that this may be another link in the com- 
plex chain of connexions between the beliefs regarding 
shells and those relating to the origin of Venus. 

Another factor which may have played some part in 
the development of this belief was the Southern Arabian 
legend that trees might be personified, usually as women, 
and that it was dangerous to touch them.' It is probable 
that, when the use of the cowry and pearls spread from 
the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, the elements out of 
which the wonderful Cypriote legends were compounded 
travelled with them. 

The earliest conception of a deity arose out of these 
beliefs connected with the cowry. The first deities were 
personifications of the female principle and power of re- 
production. These ideas found expression in the most 
primitive theologies of Egypt and Babylonia, and later in 
those of Dravidian India and the Mediterranean. Hathor, 
Istar, the village deities of Southern India, and Aphrodite 
were probably sprung from a common ancestry. 

Elsewhere I have discussed" the events that created 

''See on this Schoffs " Commentary on the Periplus of the Erythrtean 
Sea," pp. 130-131. 

* "The Relationship of the Practice of Mumraiticalion to the Develop- 
ment of Civilisation," to appear in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 
and separately under the title " Incense and Libations " (Manchester 
University Press). 



Introduction. xvii 

the intellectual atmosphere necessary for the serious 
adoption of beliefs such as these, which, in spite of their 
persistence in folklore, seem so puerile to us moderns. 

It was the time when the serious attention of mankind 
probably first became rivetted on the problems of the 
nature of life and death. The realisation of the fact that 
sometimes the bodies of the dead did not undergo a pro- 
cess of dissolution when buried seems to have given 
support to the vague longings for a continued existence 
after death, with which no doubt imagination may often 
have played before then, and set men thinking of the 
elements of which death had robbed the once living body. 
The outcome of these enquiries was the development of 
ritual procedures which aimed at restoring to the corpse 
the breath of life (by the ceremony of opening the mouth), 
the waters of life (by the offering of libations), and the 
odour and sweat of life (by the burning of incense). But 
for us in this enquiry, the more important result was the 
body of beliefs which grew up in association with these 
ritual observances as the definite formulation of a coherent 
sj'stem of primitive biological and psychological con- 
ceptions. 

The idea of the heart and the blood as the vehicles 
of knowledge and the will was probably much older than 
this, and already had probably prompted such ceremonial 
procedures as the drawing of blood, whether by incision 
or circumcision, by ear-piercing or by skin-gashing, many 
centuries before the first real scientific attack upon the 
problems of vitalism, to which I have been referring ; but 
incidentally it helped to give more definite shape and 
precision to these early conceptions of the vascular system. 
So also the belief in the vitalising power of water was 
definitely more ancient ; for it came to be vaguely recog- 
nised as soon as the art of agriculture first was put into 



xviii Inttoduction. 

practice. But it also became drawn into the scheme ot 
the new body of doctrine when the possibility of water 
also vitalising the human body was admitted. 

As a result of this new trend of thought, the belief 
gradually took shape, for reasons which I have explained 
in detail elsewhere,^ that a statue made in imitation of a 
hum,an being or an animal, or in fact any part of such a 
living creature, or any article of food or furniture which 
the deceased needed, could be animated by means of such 
ritual observances as I have enumerated. These ideas 
added definiteness to the further conception that any object 
reproducing the form of a part of the body could magically 
influence the structure which it mimicked. 

At a time when such beliefs represented the ortho- 
doxy of religion no less than the latest teaching of science, 
for then the two were identical, some humble children of 
nature who worshipped at this dual shrine were impressed 
with the likeness to the female pudenda of cowry-shells, 
picked up no doubt on the shores of the Red Sea ; and 
with the analogy between the process by which the 
mollusc extruded itself from its shell to the act of parturi- 
tion. In strict accordance with the teaching of the time 
this discovery naturally made the cowry an amulet for 
insuring in women fertility and easy delivery in labour. 
Thus these shells became appropriate offerings to be made 
to girls on reaching maturity, or on the occasion of their 
marriage. They were also worn to cure sterility and to 
avert danger in parturition. These ideas spread until 
they encircled the world. 

But the idea of encouraging the bringing to life or 
the conception of offspring became extended to include 
the power of vitalising or animating a corpse. This is an 

" "The Relationship of the Practice of Mummification, etc.," op. cit. 
sitpra. 



Introduction. xix 

integral part of the primitive train of reasoning I liave 
been trying to reconstruct and interpret. Hence it became 
the custom in many places to put cowries in the grave 
for the purpose of insuring to the dead a continuation of 
existence. The fact that cowries, from their resemblance 
to semi-closed eyelids, were often inserted into the orbits 
of mummies to represent the eyes, may possibly have 
played some part in giving definiteness to the ancient 
conception of the fertilising power of the eyes, and to the 
-crop of beliefs concerning the evil eye and the power of 
bringing good or bad luck, which are so intimately 
associated not only with a glance of the eye but also with 
cowry shells. These shells are commonly used for games 
of chance, as well as for averting the evil eye. 

The development of the beliefs concerning the fertilis- 
ing and animating powers of the eye and the influence 
of the evil eye is a very complex story, which has not yet 
been fully analysed and elucidated. But it seems probable 
that the potency of the cowry as a charm against the evil 
eye is to be attributed in part to the belief in its fertilising 
and vitalising powers and especially in its therapeutic 
efficacy. For as the vehicle of "soul substance" it was 
supposed to be able to remedy troubles due to the with- 
drawal of this essential element of healthy vitality. But 
due importance must be assigned to the fact that the 
assimilation of the virtues assigned to the cowry and the 
Egyptian eye-amulet respectively may in part be due to 
the fact that the cowry was actually used as a substitute 
for the eye. 

But the use of cowries for bridal offerings and for 
burial ceremonies led in some places to the offering of 
very large collections of the shells, so as to increase the 
beneficent influence expected of them. Among the 
Baganda, for example, as many as two thousand five 



XX Introdnction. 

hundred cowries were given as a bridal dowrj'. To meet 
such exorbitant demands, especially in places where these 
shells could not be obtained locally, but had to be im- 
ported, the most valuable possessions of the people, cows, 
sheep and goats, were given in exchange for cowries in 
order to secure the social and magical advantages they 
were believed to bring. This was, I believe, the origin of 
the use of cowries as currency, and also incidentally how 
sheep and cattle came to occupy so definite a significance 
in early currencies. It may perhaps be suggestive of the 
original magical value of cowries that, according to tradi" 
tion, when these shells were first introduced among the 
Baganda, two of them were given in exchange for a 
woman. At a later period two thousand five hundred of 
them were obtained in exchange for a cow to make the 
dowry, offered to the bride. 

As a further illustration from Baganda of the signifi- 
cance attached to this shell as an animating force, cowries 
were placed along with the deceased king's jaw and 
umbilical cord." Cowries were also offered to twins ; and 
if one of them died, a "double" was made for it, and 
supplied with these vitalising shells. Not only in East 
Africa, but also in many other places the cowry was thus 
brought into intimate relationship with the peculiar beliefs 
connected with " heavenly twins " and " doubles," with 
the placenta and the soul. 

It also played a part in a variet}' of blood-letting 
ceremonies, such as circumcision and ear-piercing. 

In my essay on " Ships as Evidence of the Migrations 
of Earl>- Culture " " I called attention to the fact that the 
early Egyptians believed in the possibility of animating 

1° In ancient times the operculum of tlie shell Turbo was called 
Umbilicus Veneris. 

1^ Manchester University Press, 1917, p. 29. 



Introduction. xxi 

their ships and converting them into living beings. They 
painted representations of eyes upon the bows of their 
ships so that, as living things, they might be able to see 
their way. It is possible that the ship-builders of the 
Arabian littoral, the Far East, and Oceania, may have 
had in mind this double association (as an animating 
power and as eyes) when they adopted the custom of 
attaching cowries, or other shells, to the bows of their 
ships. 

Although Egypt has provided almost the earliest 
evidence^- of the cultural use of the money-cowry, shells 
never played any prominent part in the lower Nile Valley. 
It is worthy of note, however, that the earliest gold 
jewelry," included a necklace of gold models of snail- 
shells. 

So far as the evidence at present available justifies 
the expression of an opinion, it seems probable that the 
Red Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean constitute the 
original home of the world-wide cult of shells. The former 
probably supplied the cowries and pearls and the latter 
the invention of the shell-trumpet and the purple d}e. 
But there are reasons for supposing that these varied uses 
of shells were intimately related genetically the one with 
the other. The sanctity of the trumpet was probably 
derived in some measure from the beliefs that had grown 
up around the cowry. The preparation of trumpets for 
temple service may have played some part in the discovery 
of the purple dye, for one of the purple shells is a bticcinuin. 
The association of the shells which produce pearls and 

^- The earliest cases of the use of the cowry may be those found in 
the graves at La Madelaine, Laugerie-Basse and Mentone. But I have 
suggested that although the.se graves are usually called " palseolithic " they 
may not be any older than Predynastic Egyptian graves. (See pp. 134-138). 

'» G. A. Rei.sner, " Early Dynastic Cemeteries of Naga-ed-Der," Vol. 
I., 1908, Plates 6 and 7. 



xxii Introdiution. 

those used for trumpets, often in the same beds ; the fact 
that some of the trumpet-shells yield pearl-like bodies 
which are put to cultural uses ; and the transference to 
pearls of some of the magical attributes of the cowry — all 
of these considerations suggest the intimate genetic rela- 
tions of all of these special appreciations of the value of 
shells. Moreover the two areas were linked together at a 
very remote historical period. At least as early as the 
Third Dynasty Egyptian sailors were engaged in mari- 
time trafficking both in the Red Sea and the Eastern 
Mediterranean, and beliefs in the magical properties of 
shells no doubt were constantly being exchanged between 
the inhabitants of the shores of the two seas. Pliny men- 
tions a legend of the relationship of the Minaeans and 
Rhadamseans of Southern Arabia to Minos of Crete and 
his brother Rhadamanthus. When the intimate relations 
between the shell- cults of the Red Sea and of Crete are 
recalled one is inclined to attach some significance to 
Pliny's story, even though he himself was sceptical of it. 

Cyprus is intimately linked with the cult of the 
cowry as well as with the working of copper — an associa- 
tion to which I shall refer later. 

Crete, so far as is known, was the original home of 
the conch-shell trumpet and the manufacture of purple 
dye. The Phoenicians, with whom these things are often 
associated, were no more than the chief agents for dis- 
tributing them abroad. 

In studying the geographical distribution of the use 
of conch-shell trumpets, of the purple dye and of a special 
appreciation of pearls, one cannot fail to be struck with 
their associations. 

Mr. W. J. Perry has called attention to the remarkable 
identity of the" geographical distribution of megalithic 

1* Manchester ^Memoirs (Lit. and Phil. Soc.), November 24, 1915. 



Introduction. xxiii 

monuments on the one hand and the sites of ancient gold 
and copper mines and pearl beds on the other — a fact 
which is proving- of supreme value and importance in the 
interpretation of the early history of civilisation. He 
made use of the Iberian Peninsula and India as demon- 
strations of his argument. But it applies also to the 
whole world, with the possible exception of Australia. 
De Morgan has called attention to the remarkable co- 
incidence of the sites of megalithic monuments in the 
Caucasus (and on the shores of the Black and Caspian 
Seas) and those of old gold and copper mines." Baelz has 
made a similar observation with reference to Japan and 
Corea.^" Perry and I have found the same association 
around the head-waters of the Yenesei and along two 
lines leading from it respectively to the Iranian area and 
along the Amur to the Pacific. The same remarkable 
coincidences are found in the Philippines, in Celebes, and 
in fact throughout Indonesia. 

But the same people who settled in these isolated 
spots to work the gold and copper, and incidentally to 
erect megalithic tombs and temples, were also searching 
for pearls and making use of shell-trumpets. When 
Mr. Perry has published the results of his investigations 
it will be seen that in the Indonesian area and New 
Guinea the explanation of the remarkable fact that the 
megalithic culture took root in some strips of coast and 
not in others was due to the fact that pearls were to be 
obtained only in those places where the evidence of these 
western influences is found. 

In Mexico, Central America and Peru, " Tyrian " 
purple was used in the same localities as the shell-trumpet 
and where there is evidence of a special appreciation of 

'° " Les Premieres Civilizations," p. 404 ; also " Mission an Caucase," 
lome I. 

1" Zeitsch.fiii- Ethnologie, Bd. 42, 1910, p. 776. 



xxiv Introduction. 

pearls. It is a remarkable fact that, according to Mrs. 
/Zelia Nuttall, the people who make use of purple in 
Mexico are also famed for their gold-work, an association 
which has probably survived for twenty centuries. In 
Ireland also the king who is reputed to have first smelted 
gold in that island is also said to have introduced the art 
of making purple. Both in the Old and New Worlds 
purple was not only made and used in the same way for 
staining threads for weaving, but it was also employee} 
for colouring precious manuscripts and as a cosmetic. If 
it be argued that purple was invented independently in 
the New World it must be remembered that the method 
of its production is a complex and difficult process, which 
in itself is sufficient to raise a doubt as to the likelihood 
of such a discovery being made more than once. 

There are reasons for believing that all these special 
uses of shells were spread abroad along with the complex 
mixture of arts, customs and beliefs associated with the 
building of megalithic monuments. 

The earliest use of the conch-shell trumpet was in the 
Minoan worship in Crete. Thence it spread far and wide, 
until it came to play a part in religious services, Christian 
and Jewish, Brahman and Buddhist, Shinto and Shaman- 
istic, in widely different parts of the world — in the Medi- 
terranean, in India, in Central Asia, in Indonesia and 
Japan, in Oceania and America. In many of these places 
it was supposed to have the definite ritual object of 
summoning the deity. In the New Testament the sound 
of the trumpet is the signal for the resurrection. Like 
the cowry it was used in marriage and funeral ceremonies, 
in connexion with harvest rites and circumcision, in the 
ritual of initiation into secret societies, in the ceremonials 
before sacred images, in the rites of drinking (such as 
soma-worship and kava) and of head-hunting. 



Introduction. xxv 

It was also used in India as the receptacle for libations, 
which, as I have already mentioned, was one of the essen- 
tial ritual procedures for animating the dead, and in course 
of time for performing the same devotional act for the 
deity. 

Thus it was intimately interwoven into' the very 
texture of the remarkable culture-complex of which these 
practices represent a few of the ingredients 

Mrs. Zelia Nuttall has published a remarkable scene 
from an unpublished manuscript of Sahagun's, now at 
Florence, representing the ancient Mexicans' act of homage 
to the sun. Two priests offer blood by piercing their 
ears, two others burn incense in a characteristically Egyp- 
tian fashion, and another pair blow conch-shell trumpets." 
The use of the shell trumpet in a similar ceremonial for 
sun-worship in Indonesia indicates one stage in the route 
from Crete to America. One might multiply such illus- 
trations almost without limit to demonstrate the reality 
of the cultural bonds between these shell-elements and 
the rest of the sun-cult both in the New World and in 
the Old. 

One of the most remarkable proofs of the derivation 
of the civilisation of America from the Old World is 
afforded by the representation in Maya and Aztec docu- 
ments of unmistakably Indian religious scenes, often with 
a Far Eastern tinge. The late Sir Edward Tylor called 
attention to a clear example of such transference." 

Humboldt, Stolberg and Tschudi have cited others." 

17 "^ Penitential Rite of the Ancient Mexicans," ArchEeclogical and 
Ethnological Papers of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Vol. I, 
No. 7, 1904. 

^* "On the Diffusion of Mythical Beliefs as Evidence in the History 
of Culture," Report British Association, 1894, p. 774. 

1° See Bancroft "The Native Races of the Pacific States <j<' North 
America," Vol. V. , p. 40 et set/. 



xxvi Introduction. 

The exploits of the American " long-nosed god," 
{Chac of the Mayas ; Tlaloc of the Aztecs) as depicted in 
the ancient codices, clearly reveal that this elephant- 
headed deity is none other than Indra, the famous Vedic 
deity of India, confused with Ganesa in the process of 
transmission, and modified in certain respects by Cambo- 
dian and Indonesian influences.-" In this book Mr. Jackson 
has called attention to other equally definite examples of 
late Hindu influence in America, in which certain of the 
avatnis o^ V\sh.nu reappear in America in unmistakable 
form. 

The episodes to which he has called attention are 
complexly interwoven with the early mythology not only 
of India but also of Babylonia and Egypt. For they are 
part of the story of the creation and of the deluge, and 
intimately related to the early history of the dragon and 
of the Naga kings, whose palace of treasures was at the 
bottom of the ocean. The genesis of this remarkable 
story is closely connected not only with the use of the 
conch-shell trumpet, but also with the search for pearls. 
Something of the symbolism of the cowry is attached to 
these " pearls that grant every desire."-' 

I have already referred to the custom, in various parts 
of Africa and elsewhere, of placing cowries in the grave 
or with the king's relics to secure the continued existence 
of the dead. Sometimes the cowries were placed in the 
mouth. The two-fold significance of the cowry — the 
belief in its vitalising powers and its use as currency — led 
to a confusion between these two properties, and was 
responsible for the origin of a remarkable custom. The 

-'» " I'te-Columbkn Representations of llie Elephant in America," 
Nature, Dec. i6, 1 915. 

•-"•'Comiiare M. W. de Visser, " The Dragon in China and Japan," 
Amsterdam, 1913. 



IntrcdiiclioH. xxvii 

cowry was placed in the mouth because it was supposed 
to be able to animate the dead : but when it came to 
have a new value as currency this practice lost its original 
significance and the use of the shell — or the actual metallic 
coin that superseded it — for this purpose was rationalised 
into the belief that it represented Charon's fare for ferry- 
ing the deceased to the other world. 

In India, China and America the vitalising powers of 
the cowry were transferred to the pearl, which with rice 
(in America the so-called "native rice") was put into the 
mouth of the dead to insure its continued welfare. The 
rice had a significance analogous to that of the cowry or 
pearl — it was endowed with " soul substance," which was 
necessary to attain a future existence. 

It was an early theory of pathology that all illnesses, 
and even death itself, were due to the abstraction of 
"soul substance" from the living. Thus pearls, as the 
bearers of vitality, were quite logically the appropriate 
panacea for almost every ailment. Hence pearls, and in 
fact all of the shells discussed in this book, occupied a 
very prominent place in early pharmacopoeias. 

In his great treatise on "The Religious System of 
China" (Vol. IV., Book II., p. 331) De Groot says :— 
" Clear reasons for pearls being considered as depositories 
and distributors of vital force we have found in no book, 
nor have we received any by word of mouth from Chinese 
acquaintances. Perhaps the matter must be put to the 
account of nothing else than Koh Hung's inventive genius 
... we must plead incompetency to solve this question." 
According to the old Chinese writer Koh Hung, pearls 
are rich in " soul-substance," in virtue of which they are 
not only life-conferring, but also facilitate parturition, and 
prevent the putrefaction of the dead body. The full 
information given by De Groot of ancient Chinese ideas 



xxviii Introduction. 

concerning pearls proves quite conclusively that they share 
all the virtues of cowries. This provides the answer to 
the questions which the distinguished Dutch scholar con- 
fessed his " incompetency to solve." 

In attempting to form some conception of the mode 
of the easterly spread of these cultural developments 
which originated in the Eastern Mediterranean and the 
Red Sea it is important to remember that it was the 
pearl-fishers themselves who played the chief part in the 
wanderings. The obtrusive role played in India by all 
the elements of the cult of shells ; the conception of the 
Naga kings' home at the bottom of the sea ; the stories 
of dragons guarding the treasure houses rich in gold, 
pearls and precious stones ; the pearls which are found 
under the dragon's tongue, or in the heads of serpents and 
elephants ; and the sanctity of shell trumpets, their use 
in religious ceremonial, and the reverence for and adora- 
tion of them as the attribute of some deity (Vishnu ; and 
in the Mediterranean, Triton, Neptune and Venus) or 
even as its dwelling or its parent — all these facts are so 
many testimonies of the intimacy of the connexions 
which have linked these beliefs concerning shells with the 
deepest emotions and the most earnest strivings of the 
human spirit for assurance and consolation. 

G. Elliot Smith. 



Chapter I. 

The Geographical Distribution of the Shell-Purple 
Industry. 

Among the many curious and ornamental uses to 
which shell-fish have been applied, one of the most striking 
and interesting is undoubtedly their employment for the 
production of the famous dye known as " Tyrian purple." 

Much has been written concerning this d) e and the 
subject has been discussed in its economical and philo- 
sophical aspects by numerous writers. 

By far the best and most comprehensive summary of 
the various contributions to our knowledge of the subject 
is the article on Purpura by Maurice Besnier, in Daremberg 
and Saglio's " Dictionnaire des Antiquit^s." ^ The biblio- 
graphy quoted by this author is astonishing and serves to 
show how extensively the subject has been treated by 
writers of different nationalities. 

But Besnier, and the authors he quotes, deal only with 
the classical area of the Mediterranean. The aim of the 
present chapter is to trace out, as far as it is possible to 
do so, the geographical distribution of this interesting 
industry ; not only in the Old, but also in the New World. 

Many data relating to the use of this shell-purple are 
to be found in the historical records, but in some cases its 
former presence in a particular area can only be inferred 
from the finding of broken and crushed shells, which serve 
equally definitely to distinguish certain ancient stations for 
the extraction of the purple. 

From the works of ancient writers, especially Aristotle 

1 Vol. IV.— I., Paris. 




^.r3 -rT^-^ *= 



Geographical Distribution of the Shell-Purple Industry. 3 

and Pliny, we learn that this famous colouring matter was 
in great demand among the people of the Mediterranean 
region. It was this purple dye, in fact, which was largely 
responsible for giving to the textile fabrics of the 
Phoenicians their world-wide reputation. 

Both Aristotle and Pliny give the details of the process 
Ijy which it was procured from the shell-fish. They tell us 
that the precious liquid was obtained from a transparent 
branching vessel behind the neck of the animal and that 
at first the material was of the colour and consistency of 
thick cream. When the shells were small, many of them 
were bruised together in a mortar ; but when large, the 
animal was taken out entire, usually by breaking a hole in 
the side of the shell, and the sac containing the colour- 
ing matter was taken out, either while the animal was still 
alive, or as soon as possible after death, as otherwise the 
■quality of the dye was impaired. This was mixed with a 
quantity of salt, about 20 ozs. to every 100 pounds of juice, 
to keep it from putrefying. Three days, and no more, were 
allowed for the steeping process, and the liquid was then 
set to boil in vessels of tin or lead. The vessel was placed 
at the end of a long funnel, which communicated with the 
furnace, and while boiling the liquid was frequently 
skimmed to remove impurities. The proportions were 
about 500 pounds of material to every hundred amphorae 
•of water. About the tenth day, as a rule, the whole con- 
tents of the cauldron were in a liquified condition, and a 
fleece, freed from all grease, was then plunged in by way 
of a trial ; but until such time as the colour was found to 
be satisfactory, the liquid was still kept on the boil. The 
wool was left to soak for five hours, and then after being 
carded, was thrown in again, until it had fully imbibed 



the colour.^ 



Pliny, " Nat. Hist.," ix., ch. 62. 



4 Shells as evidence of tlie Migraiiems. 

A ven- curious fact concerning this dye, which was 
noted also to some extent by the ancients, is the trans- 
formation through which it passes on exposure to 
sunlight. The fluid is at first colourless, but on exposure 
to the action of the sun it becomes of a bright yellow, 
speedily turns to a pale green, and continues to change 
imperceptibly until it assumes a bluish cast and then a 
purple red. These changes of colour, which are faster or 
slower according to the intensitj' of the sun's light, are 
accompanied by the production of a disagreeable foetid 
odour, similar to that of essence of garlic. 

This peculiarity was well known to the ancients and 
is referred to by Pliny. It was probably the cause of the 
extravagant use of perfumes bj- the wearers of " the 
purple " in classical times. 



The Sources of the Puri'lk. 

The vague descriptions of the Greek and Latin writers 
has led to much discussion as to the exact species of 
shell-fish used in the manufacture of the dye. 

Pliny speaks of two kinds that produce the purple 
colour. The smaller "fish," he tells us, was called the 
"buccinum," from its resemblance to the conch by which 
the sound of the buccinus or trumpet is produced ; the 
other " fish " was known as the " purpura," or purple, and 
was studded with points up to the very apex, differing in 
this respect from the first kind. 

'The earliest attempt to discover the source of the 
ancient purple seems to have been made by William Cole 
of Bristol, in i686,» who conducted experiments on shell- 
fish [Purpura lapillus) found on the shores of Somerset- 

'Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc, T.oud., xv., pp. 278—86, and plate. 



Geographical Distribution of tJie Shell-Purple Industry- 5 

shire, South Wales, and Ireland, in the course of which he 
discovered the curious photogenetic properties of the 
colour. These experiments were continued by other 
observers, including Reaumur/ du Hamel,'' Deshayes," and 
Lacaze-Duthiers.' The general concensus of opinion on 
the question is that the ' purpura ' of Pliny is the Murex 
trunculus, or the M. branderis, of modern conchologists, 
while the ' buccinum ' of the Roman naturalist is probably 
the Purpicra hcemastoma, all three species being common 
to the Mediterranean shores. The Purpura lapillus., so 
abundant on the shores of Europe generally, is also likely 
to have been employed in the production of the inferior 
sort of purple. 

The Jfurex-sheW is almost constantly in evidence as 
a design upon Tyrian coins from A.D. II2 onwards. The 
shell here is quite distinct from the so-called "Murex" of 
pre-Alexandrine coins {circa 450-400 B.C.). The latter is 
not a Murex at all, but is more like a Triton, or trumpet- 
shell ; and the same shell appears on the coins of Byblus 
{c. 350 B.C.) and of Tarentum (c. 400-330 B.C.). The 
Murex of the imperial coins of Tyre (A.D. 112 on) is 
distinctly like Murex branderis, one of the chief purple- 
yielding shells. 

Whether the design of the Murex (and so-called 
Murex) on these coins had primarily any connection with 
the purple-trade of Tyre is doubtful, though this has befen 
suggested by leading authorities. 

*' A'Uiii. ik t Acad, des Sciences, 171 1, pp. 168-199 (Keaumur also 
accidentally discovered that the egg-capsules of Ptt7pura afforded the dye 
in greater abundance, and with less trouble, than the animal itself). 

° loid. 1736, pp. 49-68. 

" " MoUusques de la Mediterranee," in " L' Exped. Scient. de Moree, 
Section des Sciences physiques," iii., Paris, 1832, pp. 189-192. 

•' Proc. Roy. Soc. Land., x. , i860, pp. 579-584; also .inn. des Sci. 
Nat, Zool., xii., 1859, pp. 5-84, and plate. 



6 Shei/s ns evidence of tlie Migrations. 

Judging from the associated symbols, particularly 
those of the serpent, palm-tree, " mundane egg," etc, it 
seems to have a greater affinit)- with serpent and phallic 
worship. 

At least two species of Mitre.v, and one of Purpura, 
appear to have been employed b\- the Phoenicians in the 
manufacture of Tyrian purple. Lortet records that in the 
vicinity of Sidon, great banks, a hundred 3'ards long and 
.several yards thick, occur composed entirely of broken 
shells of Murex trunculiis^ while at T)'re, according to 
Tristram," large quantities of crushed and broken shells of 
Murex braiuieris, have been met with. Tyre, which i.s 
reputed to have produced the best purple in Asia, is 
referred to b\- Strabo'" as unpleasant, as a place of 
residence, owinc: to the "reat number of its dyeworks. 

The T)'rian method of dyeing differed slighth' froni 
that narrated by Pliny, for the dj'ers merely made a bath 
of the liquid in which the wool to be treated was steeped 
for a certain time. It was then taken out and thrown 
into another boiler, which contained an extract from the 
Ruceiiitini. or Trumpet-fish, only. This process — the 
so-called "purpurea dibapha" — gave to the stuffs a richer 
and more vivid hue. Wool submitted to this double 
process was so highly esteemed that, in the reign of 
Augustus, each pound sold for one thousand Roman 
denarii, or about thn-ty-six pounds sterling. We need 
not wonder at this enormous price, considering the tedious 
nature of the process and the small amount of dye pro- 
duced from each shell-fish. For fifty pounds of wool, the 
ancients used no less than two hundred pounds of the 

^ L. Lorlel, " La Syrie d'aujourd'hui," Paris, 1MS3, p. 102. 

» H. B. Tristram, "The Land of Israel," 1882,11.48. See also Besiiior, 
op. ciL, p. 770, for other references, and the use of Piiit<iiia h„fnasloiii,u 
' " .Sirabm. xvi., c. n. p. 756. 



Geographical Distribution of the Shell-Purple Industry. 7 

liquid of the Buccinum and one hundred pounds of that 
of the Piirpura}^ 

The best purple was stated by the ancients to be 
exceedingly durable ; and when Alexander took posses- 
sion of Susa, he found among the treasures of Darius, 5,000 
talents in weight of purple cloth, from Hermione in the 
Peloponnesus, which had been laid up there for 180 years, 
and yet retained all its freshness and brilliance of colour.'' 

The purple-bordered prajtextse of Servius Tullius, 
with which the statue of Fortune dedicated by him, was 
covered, lasted until the death of Sejanus ; and it is a 
remarkable fact, that, during a period of 560 years, they 
had never changed colour.'" ' 

The real Tyrian purple and purple-stuffs were essen- 
tially articles of luxury, varying in price according to 
times and quality. ' 

'They were always costly and vied in value even with 
gold itself Consequently we find them reserved for the 
hangings of temples, or employed for the robes of priests 
and kings. Moses, it is recorded, used purple stuffs for 
the works of the tabernacle, as well as for the habits of 
the high priest; and among the presents which the 
Israelites made to Gideon the Scriptures mention purple 
raiment that belonged to the kings of Midian.''* The 
Babylonians are said to have devoted this purple to the 
dress of their idols, and Tertullian speaks of its use among 
the ancient kings of Egypt and Babylonia."' It was con- 
sidered a noble and sacred colour by the ancients and 
emblematic of the power of the gods, an idea which is 
explained by Beanier by the resemblance of the purple to 

' ' Mary Roberts, " A Popular History of the MoUusca," 1851, p. 120. 

' ' Plutarch, Alex., p. 36. 

" Pliny, "N. H.," viii., ch. 74. 

'* "Judges," 8, 26. 

'» TertuU, De idol, p. i8. 



8 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

the colour of blood, the principle of life.i« The true reason 
for the belief in its vital power is suggested in the Intro- 
duction to this volume. 

The mere price of the purple made the use of it a 
privilege of kings and priests. 

By the Greeks and Romans purple was regarded as 
the peculiar insignia of royalty or of official distinction, 
such as magistrates, military officials, priests, etc. It also 
played an important role in certain of their legends. 

Its use was forbidden to the common people, and laws 
were made inflicting severe penalties, and even death itself, 
upon all under the dignity of an emperor who should 
presume to wear it. 

Though the Tyrian purple served principally as a dye 
for cloth, generally of wool, but sometimes of silk, it was 
also employed as a paint for the parchments of precious 
books written in letters of gold, and as a colour for inks. •' 
It had a prominent place also among the toilet requisites 
of the Romans and was applied in place of rouge to the 
cheeks and lips.'" 

Attention might also be called here to the use of the 
purple 9n the sails of vessels in the earliest times. These 
sails were of rich colours, with floral and other designs, 
and were in early use in Egypt, and seem to have been 
bought by the Tyrians.^' The hem or border of these sails 
was coloured according to the rank or station of the owner. 
It is mentioned by Atticus that the sails of the large ship 
of Ptolemy Philopater were of fine linen, ornamented with 
a purple border. And we find the ship of Antony and 

' " Besnier, op. cit. , p. 777. 

'' Ih'd. p. 778. 

IS Athenseus, xiii., ch. 8, p. 604. See also Besnier, op. at., p. 778, for 
other references. 

»» Ezekiel, 27, 7 . . . " Fine linen, with embroidered work from Egypt, 
was that which thou spreadesl forth to be thy sails." 



Geogfaplikal Distribution of tin: Shell-Purple Industry, g 

Cleopatra at the battle of Actium, distinguished from the 
r-ost of the fieet by having purple sails — a distinction which 
is said to hfive been at that time the peculiar privilege of 
the admiral's vessel."" 



The Ckntres ok Production and Distribution 
OF THE Purple Industry. 

The Phcfinicians have been accredited with the inven- 
tion of this famous pui'ple as well as with that of glass, but 
modern investigators are depriving these 'maritime pedlars' 
of much of their former prestige. Glass has been .shown 
to have been first made by the Early Egyptians many 
centuries before the probable date of the Phcenician occu- 
pation of the Mediterranean coast, "and the credit of the 
invention of shell-purple has now been transferred to the 
Minoans of Crete. R. C. Rosanquet, in his note on " An 
Early Purple-fishery "-'^ tells us that " I.euke, the 'White 
Isle' (modern Kouphonisi), off the south-east coast of 
Crete, was an important fishing-station in antiquity. The 
tithes levied on the catch of fish and of purple-shell men- 
tioned in an inscription of about 350 is.C, must have 
been very profitable, for the possession of the island was 
the subject of a long and bitter dispute among three neigh- 
bouring cities." 

This island was explored in 1903 b)' C. T. Currelly 
and R. C. Bosanquet, and ^among sand-hills on the north 
shore they found a bank of shells, some whole but mostly 
crushed, ol Murex trmiculiiSjwXiXcYi is known to have been 
used in the manufacture of the purple dye." ' 

" Scattered through the heap were fragments of 
pottery, and of a stratile bowl which marked it as not 
only pr£E-Hellenic but prae-Phoenician. Further digging 

''" J. Napier, " .Manufacturing Ails in Ancient Times," 1874, pp. 2S7 — 8. 
= • Brit. Ass. Reft., 1903, p. 817. 



lO Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

within a few yards of the heap brought to light character- 
istic Cretan vases of the Kamares type, and the foundations 
of a house." 

i'" The evidence shows that the extraction of the purple- 
juice was practised in Crete at least as early as 1600 B.C."^ 

Though the Phoenicians were not the original dis- 
coverers of the famous dye, they were largely instrumental 
in spreading the knowledge of the art among the people 
with whom the}' traded. Their two great centres of manu- 
facture were Sidon and Tyre and the large quantities of 
broken shells around these cities testify to the importance 
and extent of the industry. 

The purple of Tyre was greatly estimated and con- 
sidered the best in Asia." The dyeworks of this city 
endured for many centuries until the end of the Roman 
Empire. The imperial manufacture of purple at Tyre is 
mentioned in the reign of Diocletian before 300 A.D.,-* 
and in 383 A.D. the fabrication of purple of superior quality 
became a state monopoly."' 

Among other towns of Fhcenicia cited as manufactories 
of purple stuffs are Sarepta, Caesarea, Neapolis, Lydda, 
and the port of Doros.'-" The inhabitants of the island of 
Cyprus also carried on this industry. The Phoenicians 
likewise introduced the knowledge into Egypt and a 
private manufactory is said to have existed in the town of 
This, near Abydos, in the 7th cent. A.D. But it is not 
clear how the purple could have been made so far from 
the sea.^ . 

-- Bosanquet, op. cil. 

"-•'■ Pliny, "N.H.'' i.x., cli. 60. 

'-* Besnier, quoting Euseb, Jli'si. £c\/is.. vii. , p. 32. 

-* /did. quoting Cod. Jiist.^ iv., 40, p. 1. 

-" Besnier, op. cit., p. 774. Being unable lo obtain access to many 
of the works quoted by Besnier, I give these and other references on his 
authoritv. 



Geographical Distiibution of the Shell-Purple Industry. 1 1 

The search for the purple-bearing shell-fish seems to 
•have been one of the motives which lead the Phoenicians 
to explore areas further afield than their own immediate 
shores. The yEgean and the shores of Asia Minor were 
visited by these ancient mariners, and important fisheries 
were established at several places both here and elsewhere 
around the Mediterranean. 

Many of their stations are made known to us by 
ancient writers, but the evidence of the existence of 
others rests upon the discoveries of heaps of broken 
shells. 

In Asia Minor fisheries for purple-shells are cited by 
Aristotle " on the coasts of Caria, and the Edict of 
Diocletian mentions the purple cloths, of Miletus."' There 
were purple dyeworks also at Phocaaa in Lydia,^" and at 
Hierapolis in Phrygia.^" In Troas shells were fished at 
Lectum and at Sigeum,'^ and_ one of the islands of the 
Propontis (Sea of Marmora) was known as Porphyrione."' 
Vitruvius mentions the purple of Pontus."" In the ^gean 
Sea the islands noted for purple were Rhodes,^' Nisyros 
(formerly Porphyris),'^ Coos, Amorgos and Chios.''" 
According to Herodotus, Itanus, at the eastern extremity 

-'' Aristotle, Hist. An., v., 15, 3. In ilie lime of Homer tlie women 
of Caria trafficked in purple {//. iv., 141). 

'-^ Edict. Diocl., 24, 6 (S: 7. 

-" Ovid, Met., vi., 9. Thyatira in Lydia was celebrated for\its purple- 
dyeing (cf. Homer, //. iv., 141) ; at Philippi a seller of purple from Thyatira 
was convened by St. Paul {yhts, 16, 14). 

"° cf. Besnier, op. cit., p. 775. 

"' Aristotle, op. cit. 

""- Pliny, "N. H.,'' v., cb. 44. 

^" Vitruvius, vii., 13. 

»* Ibid. 

■■■''■ Pliny, "N. H.," v., ch. 36. 

■■" cf. Besnier, op. cit., p. 775. (At Coos, cloths were probably dyed 
with Kermes-coccus). 



1 2 SheUs as evidence of the Migrations., 

t'of Crete, was also an ancient Phcenician station and 
probably a factory for the purple trade."*' ' 

In Thessalia purple was manufactured at MelibcEa, 
and a purple-establishment existed at Thessalonica in 
Macedonia.'- 

In Greece proper the two most important centres of 
the industry were the coast of Laconia and the Gulf of 
Corinth. The purple of Laconia was considered the best 
in Europe.''" Large heaps o'i Murex branderis are reported 
by Tristram on this coast." From the island of Cythera 
the Phoenicians despatched to the east and the west the 
celebrated " Laconian purples." ■" On the north shore of 
the Gulf of Corinth, in I'hocis, the purple-shells were so 
abundant that half the population of Bulis was occupied 
solely in their capture.''" 

Among other Grecian places famous for the purple 
industr}', may be mentioned the coast of Argolis, with the 
port of Hermione, where the purple stuffs of Darius were 
prepared ; *' the east coast of Eubsea ; Eretria and Styra 
in the same island ; and Anthedon in Bceotia.''^ 

In the western Mediterranean, Tarentum, the modern 
Otranto, was a most important station for purple from an 
early date. Hardouin tells us that in his time there were 
still to be seen the remains of ancient dyeing-houses, and 
that vast heaps of the shells of Murex had been discovered 
there.*" Aufrere, in 17S9, describes a hill called Monte 

"' llertjd, iv.. p. 151. 

■■"' if. Kesnier, op. cil., p. 775. 

" Pliny, '-N. H.," ix., ch. 60. 

'" H. H. Tristram, op. dt.^ p. 48 footnoie. 

*' if. liesnier, of. cit.. p. 775. 

" /bid. 

■" Plutarch, .Ilex., 36. 

** cf. Besiiier, op, cit., p. 775. 

■""• (/. footnote in Bostock it Riley's " Pliny, N. 11." (vol. ii., p. 447). 



Geographical Distribution of the Skell-Purpk Industry. 1 3 

Testaceo, behind the Alcaiitarine Convent at Tarento, 
consisting chiefly of the shells of Murex branderis^ 

The purple of the Adriatic port of Ancona is cited by 
Silius Italicus. Dalmatia, Istria, Venetia and Sicily, Baia; 
and Aquinum on the west coast of Italy, were also centres 
of the industry in Roman times/' Fischer, in his " Manuel 
de Conchyliologie," * refers to the discovery at Pompeii of 
heaps oi Purpura in the neighbourhood of many dyeworks. 

I.iguria provides us with interesting evidence of an 
eai'ly search for purple. In two caves in this region, the 
cave of Follera and Caverna delle Arene Candide, both 
said to be of Neolithic age, Don Morelli found the broken 
shells of Purpura hcEinastoma. Mosso,* in referring to 
these discoveries, overlooks their true significance, and 
states that this mollusc has never been found in Italy, but 
is very common along the West African shore. On this 
account he suggests that the cave shells represent objects 
brought by early mariners returning from Africa as votive 
offerings for escape from the dangers of the sea. Regard- 
ing the distribution of the species in question, Mosso is 
somewhat at fault ; it is very widely distributed in the 
Mediterranean, occurring on the coasts of Provence, 
Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, and elsewhere. There is no 
reason, therefore, to assume that the cave shells came from 
any great distance. That they had been collected locally 
for the extraction of the purple dye seems evident from 
their broken condition, and in this connection it is of 
interest also to note that in the same caves Triton shells 
were found which had every appearance of having been 

*' Lovell, "Edible British .^^olusca," 1884, p. 205, quoting Aufrete's 
" Travels." 

■" cf. Besnier, op. ctl., p. 775. 

"» 1887, p. 14. 

-" Mosso, " Dawn of .Mediterranean Civilisation," 1910, p. 269. 



14 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

used as trumpets.* The importance of this fact cannot be 
overlooked when one considers the intimate relationship 
in Crete, and other places, between the use of shell-purple 
for dyeing and the employment of conch-shells for 
trumpets. A further point is worthy of mention here, and 
that is the discovery of a pearl-shell (Meleagrina 
margaritifera), a native of Eastern Seas, on hut found- 
ations near Reggio Emilia, N. Italy.^ The coincidence 
of the occurrence of all three objects — shell-purple, conch- 
shell trumpets, and pearl-shell— in North Italy, is most 
remarkable, and seems to indicate definite contact with 
the' advanced cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean. 

'Regarding the geographical distribution of the purple 
industry further west, we find that Vitruvius makes allu- 
sion to the purple of Gaul,''- while Strabo refers to that of 
southern Spain, (Turdetania, near Carteia),^ and to the 
introduction of purple to the Balearic Islands by the 
Phoenicians."^ In these islands Purpura hcemasioma is 
still used by the fishermen of Minorca to mark their 
linen ; Murex trunculus is also known to them as yielding 
a fixed and permanent colour.^ 

With regard to the purple of Spain, Duckworth, in his 
" Cave Explorations at Gibraltar,"^ mentions the discovery 
of specimens of Purpura hcBtnastoma with ' the apical 
portion fractured in a curious mannerT^nd suggests, on 

= » Mosso, op. cit., p. 363, quoting Morelli, " Resti organic! rinvenuti 
nella Cavernadelle Arene Candide," Geneva, 1901, p. iii. 

«» Mosso, op. cit., p. 269, quoting Colini, Atti della Society romana 
d' Antropologia, x., 1904. 

'- Vitruvius, vii., p. 13. 

'= Strabo, iii., 145. Carteia lay east of Gades (Cadiz) and was a 
colony planted by the Tyrians about e.g. 1130, cf. Kawlinson, "History of 
Phoenicia," 1889, p. 419. 

'* Strabo, iii., 167, cf. Besnier, op. cit., p. 775. 

" Lacaze-Duthiers, Proc. Roy. Soc, x., i860, p. 583. 

" /ourn. Roy. Anthrop. Inst., xli., 1911, p. 363, and pi. xl. fig. 3. 



Geographical Distribution of the Shell-Purple Industry. 1 5 

the authority of the Rev. A. H. Cooke, that the mollusc 
was used for the preparation of its distinctive product, 
the " Tyrian Purple." 

In Africa, the island of Meninx (now Jerba) in the 
Gulf of Cabes, was famed for its purple, as well as parts 
of Gsetulia that border on the ocean.^ The port of Zuchis, 
on the mainland, close to Meninx, also contained factories 
for purple dyeing. ** Juba II., King of Mauritania, is said 
to have established a manufactory of this dye, known as 
" Gaetulian Purple " in the Purpuraris, or " Purple Islands " 
(probably the Madeira group).''" 

^n the British Isles the art of purple dyeing from shell- 
fish seems to have been known from very early timesP 
That it dates from pre-historic times in Ireland seems 
evident from the discoveries made in 1895 by R. Standen 
and his co-workers of " Purpura-mounds " associated with 
"Kitchen-middens" o{ P atella vulgata, Littorina littorea, 
etc., at Portnafeadog (or Dogs Bay), Connemara, West of 
Ireland. 

In his paper on the subject"" the author states that 
the shells of Purpura lapillus in the " Purpura-mounds " 
had all been broken in a peculiar manner. ' In each case 
the apical whorls were smashed, leaving the lower whorl 
with mouth intact, and in some cases portions of the 
second and third whorls remaining along with the 
columella. The broken Purpura shells were present in 
enormous quantities and one large heap measured 55 
yards in length, 15 yards across the broad end, and 3 
yards across the narrow end. Two hundred specimens 
were picked up from one square foot. 

Heaps of the shells of the same species in a broken 

" Pliny, "N.H.,"ix., ch. 60. 

" Strabo, xvii., 835. 

" Pliny, "N.H.," vi.,ch. 36. 

0° Journal of Conchology , viii., 1896, p. :87. 



1 6 Shells as evidence of tlu Migrations. 

condition and associated with otlier edible kinds, bones 
of animals, stone implements, and flint flakes, have since 
been noticed by several observers round the Donegal coast 
in sites similar to those at Dogs Ba}-. 

Regarding the Dogs Bay discovery, F. J. Bigger, one 
of the 1895 party, writes :"' " Shells of this species, either 
whole or broken, had seldom been observed among other 
remains in sandhills, and certainly never in any quantity ; 
but here there was a large heap, all broken, which seemed 
to have the same connection with the sites as the shells of 
the other species." 

Enquires were made in the neighbourhood as to 
whether the Purpura was now used for any purpose, but 
not even the oldest inhabitant could recollect hearing of 
its being used as food, or bait, or in any way whatever. 

Large quantities of broken shells of Purpura lapillus, 
together with rounded pebbles of quartz, large enough 
to break them, have also been found by the Rev. R. 
Ashingtoii liullen in " Kitchen-middens," close to the 
Late-Celtic cemetery, at Harlj'n Baj', North Cornwall. "- 

These discoveries of broken Purpura shells in the 
British Isles have led to much discussion as to the possi- 
bility of their use as food like the other associated species. 
This question, however, has been ably dealt with by 
Standen and Bigger, who point out the unsuitability of 
this species either for food or bait, \\hereas the associated 
species, Patella and Littoriua, may be used for either 
purpose. They suggest, therefore, that the Purpura shells 
may have been broken in order to extract the animal for 
the rich purple it affords. A similar suggestion is put 
forward by the Rev. R. Ashington Bullen,'® 

'■' Proc. Roy. Iiis/i AcLulemy, 3id Ser., v.. 1899, p. 437. 
■■■- Prot. Malac. Siv., v., 1902, p. 185, and Trans. S. Emtern Union 
of Sii. Soc, 1903. 
■ ^-^ Ibid. 



Geographical Distribution of the Shell-Purple Industry. 17 

Apart from the evidence afforded by the Mediter- 
ranean instances of broken shells, this interpretation 
•receives strong support from the interesting statement 
made by Lenormant and Chevallier in deahng with the 
purple industry of the ancients. According to these 
authors the Phoenicians " also procured from the British 
Isles a dark shade, called ' black purple,' but it has not 
yet been ascertained with certainty what species produced 

Further evidence of the antiquity of purple in Ireland 
is furnished by Wood-Martin in his " Lake Dwellings of 
Ireland.'"^' On p. 104 of this work the author tells us 
that the MS. Book of Ballymote contains an ancient 
Irish poem, which states : " It was Tigearnmas who first 
established in Ireland the art of dyeing cloth of purple, 
and many colours." 

This King — variously given as Tighernmas and 

Tiernmas — is alleged to have reigned about looo B.C., 

and " was the first that smelted gold in Ireland." ^ 
i 
"We have many instances of the survival of this purple 

industry in the British Isles. Johnston" tells us that the 
Venerable Bede, who wrote in the eighth century, men- 
tions the art as known in his time, and he was familiar 
with the beauty and permanency of the colour.** The 
same fact is mentioned by Richard of Cirencester,'^" and 
also in a translation of Higden's " Folichronicon " made 
in the year 1387.'" 

Purple shell-fish were largely employed from the i6th 

"* " Manual of Ancient History of the East," London, 1870, ii., p. 214. 

'^ Dublin and London, 1886. 

'"' Kinahan, " Geology of Ireland," 1878, p. 340. 

°' Johnston, "Introduction to Conchology," 1850, p. 72. 

""^ " Hist. Eccles. Gent. Ang.," lib. i., c. 1. 

«» "Desc. of Britain," 28. 

■» Book i., ch. 38 of "Bretayn." 



1 8 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

to 1 8th centuries for marking linen in Somersetshire, 
Cornwall and other parts of England, as well as in Scot- 
land, France, Norway and other parts of EuropeJ' 

Purple robes were in frequent use in Ireland during 
ancient times. In the tale of Eithne and King Cormac, 
quoted by Whitley Stokes in his introduction to the Irish 
" Tripartite Life of St. Patrick," i., p. xxxviii., fifty maidens 
in purple mantles are mentioned. In the " Book of 
Rights," p. 65, cloaks trimmed with purple are noticed ; 
at p. 87, the King of Ara is said to be entitled to six 
purple mantles frofti the King of Erie ; at p. 147, the 
stipend of the King of Ui Breasail includes three purple 
cloaks. We are told that Medb presented Ferdiad with 
a girsat cocra or purple waist scarf to induce him to fight 
Cuchulaind.'^ 

Apart from its use in the dyeing of fabrics, we find, 
in Miss Roberts' work,'' some interesting particulars as to 
the employment of Tyrian purple, in Britain and else- 
where, in dyeing parchments, or vellum. This was done 
for the purpose of rendering still more splendid the 
manuscripts, which were adorned with gold and silver 
letters. This magnificent and expensive style of writing 
on purple vellum was appropriated to Biblical manu- 
scripts, and the libraries of princes. As examples of this 
class of work we have the book of the Gospels, which 
Louis the Pious gave to the monastery of St. Medard, at 
Soissons, now in the royal library of France, and the 
Book of Prayers, bound in ivory, and studded with gems, 
formerly belonging to Charles the Bald, but now in the 
celebrated Colbertine Library. 

Similar manuscripts were also occasionally made in 

'''^ See papers by Cole, Reaumur, du Hamel, Deshayes, and Lacaze- 
Duthiers, 1. c. 

'= F.J. Bigger, Proc. Roy. Irish Acad., 3rd ser., iii., 1896, p. 730. 
" Roberts, op. cit.^ pp. 123-4. 



Geographical Distribution of the Shell-Purple Industry. 19 

England. The famous Wilfred ordered a copy of the 
four Gospels- to be written for the church of Ripon, in 
letters of the purest gold, upon leaves of parchment, 
purpled in the ground, and variously coloured on the 
surface. 

The Gregorian Bible, presented b)'- a monkish mis- 
sionary and his companions to the first Christian church 
erected at Canterbury, was also of a similar description. 

Eastward of the Mediterranean we find several indi- 
cations and curious survivals of this ancient purple 
industry. 

According to Johnston," the Chinese make use of a 
similar dye. The extreme conservatism of Chinese tastes 
suggests that the art is no recent importation amongst 
them. Bancroft'" also gives an interesting quotation 
regarding the use of shell-purple by the Chinese settlers 
in the Malay region. He tells us that '' Mr. John Nicuhoff 
relates that ' abundance of purple snails are found in the 
islands over against Batavia. They are boiled and eaten 
by the Chinese, who have a way of polishing the shells, 
and prick out of the middle of the snail a certain purple- 
coloured substance which they use in colouring and 
making red ink.' " 

That the purple was appreciated and sought for by 
the ancient inhabitants of Japan is implied from the 
discovery of certain broken shells in their " Kitchen- 
middens." Professor Edward S. Morse, in his paper on 
"Shell Mounds of Omori,"'^ tells us that along with such 
species as Fusus inconstans, Heniifusus tuba, Eburna 
japonica, etc., the shells ol Rapanabezoar were exceedingly 
abundant in the mounds and of large size with massive 

'* Johnston, op. cit., p. 74. 

'^ Bancroft, "Philosophy of Permanent Colours," i., 1794, pp. 93 — 4. 
'" Memoirs of the Science Dept., Univ. of Tokio, Japan, vol. i., pt. i.. 
No. 2539, 1879. 



20 SIiclls as evidence of the Migrations. 

shell. Many of the specimens of this species had a 
portion of the body whorl broken away "as if for the 
purpose of more convenienth- extracting the animal." 
The same species is recorded from the Okadaira Shell 
Mound at Hitachi by J. Jijima and C. Sasaki," who also 
call attention to the fact of the specimens having almost 
'^always an irregular opening in their body whorl as if 
made for facilitating the extraction of the animal. 

Why the shells of this particular species should be 
broken and not the others is remarkable. The idea that 
such a procedure was solely to facilitate the extraction of 
the animal for food purposes does not appear to be con- 
clusive. A far greater significance is attached to such an 
occurrence when one considers that Rapnna be^ar belongs 
to the purple-bearing famih', Miiricidce, and is closeh- 
allied to Purpura. It is not improbable, therefore, that 
the object in breaking the shells was to obtain purple for 
dyeing purposes. That these ancient people were not 
wholly ignorant of textiles is evidenced by the occurrence 
of spindle-whorls associated with the pottery and shells 
of the mounds. 

'In the New World we have ample evidence of the 
practice of this ancient industry at several places in Cen- 
tral America, especially in the 17th and i8th centuries. 
Here the species employed is Purpura patiila, which is 
plentiful in the West Indies, and on rocks between high 
and low tide levels on both the Atlantic and Pacific 
coasts of Central America. It resembles the Purpura 
hieinastoina of the Mediterranean, one of the species used 
by the ancient Tyrian dyers, and which, as previously 
mentioned, is still used by the Minorcan fishermen to 
mark their linen.™ "^ 

■ " Ibid., Appendix : No. 2542, 1882. 

"*' See Lacaze-Dutliiers, "Nat. Hist, of Purple of Ancients,'' Prec. Roy. 
Soi. Lotuioji, X , i860, p. 583. 



Geographical Distribution of the Shell-Purple Industry. 2 1 

D'Argenville, in his " Conchyliologie (1742, p. 181), 
states that the " Conque Persique" is made use of both in 
Panama and Guatemala for dyeing purposes and, on that 
account, is called " Poupre de Panama." The "Conque 
Persique " [Purpura persica) inhabits the Indian Ocean, 
and was distinguished from the Purpura patula of the 
Pacific coast by Brugiere in 1789 and Lamarck in 1803. 

In 1744, Don Antonio de Ulloa saw at S. Elena, in 
what is now Ecuador, and also at Nicoya (Costa Rica), 
purple colour produced from sea-shells. He describes the 
process in his " Physical and Historical Account of 
Southern and North-Eastern America " as follows : " On 
the coasts belonging to the province of Guayaquil the 
finest purple is found. The animals from which it is 
derived are contained in shells, about the size of walnuts, 
and live on rocks washed by the sea. They contain a 
juice or humour, which is taken out, and yields the true 

purple Cotton, thread, and other delicate materials 

are dyed with it. It gives a lively and durable colour, 
which does not lose its lustre by frequent washings, but 
is rather improved thereby, and does not fade through 
long-continued use and exposure. Near the port of 
Nicoya in the province of Guatemala the same kind of 

shell-fish is found, and is used for dyeing cotton 

Various processes are employed for extracting the juice 
or humour. Some kill the animal. They take it out of 
its shell, and, having laid it on the back of the hand, press 
and squeeze it with a knife from the head to the tail, and 
then separate the expressed juice, the rest of the animal 
matter being thrown away. They treat in this way a 
number of animals until they have a sufficient quantity 
of juice. They then draw through the thread which they 

wish to dye, and no more is required Others 

express the juice without killing the animal. They do 



22 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

not take it entirely out of the shell, but only press it so as 
to cause a certain quantity to be ejected, with which the 
threads are dyed. The shells are then laid again on the 
stones from which they were taken. They recover, and 
after some time give a fresh quantity of juice, but not so 
much as the first time." '" 

Thomas Gage,'* an earlier observer, gives an account 
as follows : " About Chira, Golfo de Salinas, and Nicoya, 
there are some farms of Spaniards, few and very small 
Indian Townes, who are all like slaves employed by the 
Alcalde Maior, to make him a kind of thred called Pita 
[agave fibre], which is a verj' rich commodity in Spain, 
especially of that colour wherewith it is dyed in these 
parts of Nicoya, which is a purple colour ; for the which 
the Indians are here much charged to work about the 
Sea shore, and there to finde out certain shels wherewith 
they make this purple dj-e." 

Of the process of purple dyeing a.s practised in more 
recent times by the natives of Nicaragua, Squier" gives us 
the following account : " Some of the cotton fabrics manu- 
factured by the Indians are very durable and woven in 
tasteful figures of various colours. The colour most 
valued is the T}'rian purple, obtained from the murex 
shell-fish, which is found upon the Pacific Coast of 
Nicaragua. This colour is produced of any desirable 
depth and tone, and is permanent ; unaffected alike by 
exposure to the sun and to the action of alkalies. The 
process of dyeing the thread illustrates the patient assi- 

''■' Translation quoted by Dr. E. Schunck in "' Notes on the Purple of 
the Ancients, "y««-H, Chen. Sor., xxxvii., 1880, Trans., pp. 613-614. 

*" '"The English-American, his Travail by Sea and Land ; etc.,' 
London, 1648 (quoted by MacCurdy, JSIem. Conn. Acad. A?ti &- Sciences, 
iii.. New Haven, March, 191 1, p. 160). 

^' "Nicaragua, its People, Scenery, Monuments, etc.,' 1852, vol. i., ' 
p. 286. 



Geographical Distribution of the Shell-Purple Industry. 23 

duity of the Indians. It is taken to the sea-side, when a 
sufficient number of shells are collected, which being 
dried from the sea water, the work is commenced. Each 
shell is taken up singly, and a slight pressure upon the 
valve which closes its mouth [operculum] forces out a 
few drops of the colouring fluid, which is then almost 
destitute of colour. In this each thread is dipped singly, 
and after absorbing enough of the precious fluid, is care- 
fully drawn out between the thumb and finger, and laid 
aside to dry. Whole days and nights are spent in this 
tedious process, until the work is completed. At first the 
thread is of a dull blue colour, but upon exposure to the 
atmosphere acquires the desired tint. The fish is not 
destroyed by the operation but is returned to the sea, 
when it lays in a new stock of colouring matter for a 
future occasion." 

In connection with the Nicoya industry, the observa- 
tions of C. V. Hartman'" are interesting. On one of his 
recent expeditions to the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, he 
visited Guanacosta, where he saw an Indian woman from 
Chiriqui wading in the water in search of Purpura. She 
would put the shell to her mouth and blow into it, causing 
the snail to discharge a greenish yellow fluid, which she 
applied to white cotton thread. The fluid in drying turns 
to purple. 

An even more interesting account of the existence of 
purple dyeing in the New World is that recently published 
by Zelia Nuttall, viz., "A curious survival in Mexico of 
the use of the Purpura shell-fish for dyeing."*" In this 
paper an excellent description is given of the dyeing of 
cotton thread for the manufacture of purple skirts worn 
by the women of Tehuantepec. In the spring the cotton 

'■• See MacCiiidy, op. cil., p. 160, quoting Hartman. 
'■' r^utnam Anniversary Volume, 1909, pp. 368-384. 



24 Shells as evidence of the Mignitions. 

skeins are taken in boats by the fishermen along the coast 
northward, where suitable habitats of the caracol or sea- 
snail are visited. " Slipping a skein over his left wrist, 
the fisherman wrenches one sea-snail after another from 
the wet rocks, blows on it, causing it to exude the dye- 
stuff, which resembles a milky froth, and then dabs the 
cotton thread with numerous shells in succession, until it 
is thoroughly saturated. When each shell had yielded its 
small supply of liquid dye, some fisherman pressed it to 
the rock and waited until it adhered thereto, but others 
laid the shell in a pool. When treated thus the same 
shells yielded a second, though diminished supply, when 
the rocks were visited on the return journey" (pp. 
369-370). 

The late Professor von Martens, in a paper read 
before the Berlin Anthropological Society on October 
22nd, 1898,*'' deals very thoroughly with the subject of 
purple dyeing in Central America. In this valuable con- 
tribution he discusses the evidence as to whether the 
employment of the shell-fish for dyeing purposes was an 
independent and precolumbian invention of the Indians, 
or was introduced by the Spaniards. He rightly con- 
cludes that it was practised in America in pre-historic 
times. 

Through Professor Edward Seler, Professor von Mar- 
tens obtained information of the Tehuantepec industry, 
and was shown not only a purple skirt, which the Zapote- 
can women wear only on special occasions and which but 
few can afford, but also kerchiefs with purple stripes such 
as are worn by the Huave Indians, to the south-west of 
Tehuantepec. 

Professor von Martens found, on examining some of 

»* Verhand. Berliner Gesell. fur Anthrop. Ethnol. 11. Urgesch., 1S98, 
pp. 482-6. 



Geographical Distribution of the Shell-Purple Industry. 25 

the only precolumbian textiles in existence, those of Peru, 
preserved in the Royal Ethnographical Museum in Berlin, 
a g-arment and some bands with narrow stripes, the colour 
of which is identical with that of the Huave kerchiefs. 
He also noticed the same in textiles from Chimbote, 
Peru (Bolivar collection)."' 

In further support of his conclusion that the dye of 
the Purpura shell was used in America in precolumbian 
times, Professor von Martens refers to the use, alongside 
of each other and in the New and Old World alike, of 
two other shell products, viz., the conch-shell trumpets 
and pearls. The interesting data concerning these two 
products, and the evidence they afford in the spread of 
certain elements of culture, will be dealt with in later 
chapters. It will be sufficient here to point out that 
Professor von Martens' conclusion is strikingly confirmed 
by the further evidence produced by Mrs. Nuttall.*' She 
tells us that in the ancient Mexican Codex named after 
her, a beautiful purple paint is profusely used. This 
Codex " contains pictures of no fewer than thirteen women 
of rank wearing purple skirts, and five with capes and 
jackets of the same colour. In addition, forty-six chieftains 
are figured with short, fringed, rounded purple waist- 
cloths, and there are also three examples of the use of a 
close-fitting purple Cap." Priests and other personages 
are also represented whose bodies, and sometimes faces, 
are painted purple, and throughout the Codex the same 
colour appears in combination with others in ornamental 
dfesigns and figures. 

Mrs. Nuttall points out further that "the shade of the 
purple paint used is identical with that of the purpura 
dye, and until it is demonstrated to us that the native 

"■> Von Martens, op. cit., p. 485. 
" Nuttall, of. cil., pp. 380-1. 



26 Shells CIS evidence of the Migrations. 

artists obtained this colour from some now unknown 
mineral or vegetal dye, it may be assumed that they also 
used the purpura dye in preparing their paint and in 
depicting personages with body paint and garments dyed 
by means of the same shell-fish."*' 

The employment of purple paint in ancient Mexican 
manuscripts is decidedly interesting and recalls the use 
made of this famous colour for dyeing the ecclesiastical 
parchments in Europe during early times. In like manner 
the purple facial-painting of the Aztecs, as demonstrated 
by their manuscripts, is a curious parallel to the em- 
ployment of purple for the cheeks and lips in Roman 
times. 

Some further important evidence of the use of shell- 
fish in dyeing in precolumbian times has lately been 
furnished by the discovery of broken Purpura shells in 
Inca graves in North Chile. L. E. Adams, in his " Con- 
chological Notes from Chile and Brazil,'"* mentions the 
occurrence of broken shells of Purpura in a " kitchen 
midden " on the steep mountain-side at Pisagua. These 
were discovered, along with other marine shells, in the 
course of road improvements, the road in question being 
found to traverse an Inca burying ground. Adams states : 
" Several human skeletons were lying on or just below 
the surface, all in the characteristic doubied-up attitude ; 
they had been buried wrapped up in a coarse grass 
matting. None of the skulls were perfect, the upper and 
lower jaws were all missing, as if the excavators had taken 
them to study the dentition." 

" In addition to human remains, were skulls (jf some 
large species of dolphin, skulls of sea-lions (? Otaria 
jnbata), the rib of a small whale, and dogs both large and 

"' Xuttall, op. ci/., p. 381. 

^^ J&ttrii. of ConcJiohgy^ xi\. , J9IS, p. 349. 



Geogi'apliical Distribution of the Shell-Pttrple Industry. 27 

small ; to one of the latter, which was enveloped in mat- 
ting, the reddish hair was adhering." 

It is suggested by Adams, and by H. B. Preston who 
identified the various shells, that the Purpura were the 
refuse of food, the shells having probably been split open 
to obtain the animal whole. The breaking of the Purpura, 
however, seems to me to possess a greater significance. 

Judging from the occurrence in the Old World of 
similar heaps of shells broken in the same peculiar manner 
in order to obtain the purple product, it is not at all 
unreasonable to assume that here we have an indication 
that the Incaswere cognizant of the art of purple dyeing 
by means of shell-fish. This discovery, therefore, is most 
valuable, as it at once disposes of any further doubt 
concerning the precolumbian use of shell-fish for dyeing 
purposes, and,, moreover, provides us with interesting 
information as to the precise source of the purple colour 
in the beautifully preserved textiles of Peru. 

As already pointed out, this purple industry is closely 
associated, both in the Old and in the New World, with 
the appreciation of pearls and the use of the artificially 
devised conch-shell trumpet. Each of these cultural 
elements had their origin in the Eastern Mediterranean. 
Stations for the purple industry, as we have seen, were 
established by the early Mediterranean mariners in several 
places in the Old World. In addition, we find that an 
intimate relationship existed between this art and skill in 
weaving, as well as the mining, working and trafScking in 
metals, such as gold, silver and copper. 

In the New World the purple industry is associated 
with similar pursuits. 

As Mrs. Nuttall points out, " we find that, in pre- 
Columbian times, the Zapotecs, whose descendants still 
use the purpura, were famed as miners, as workers in 



28 S/iells as evidence of the ifigraiions. 

copper, gold and silver, as weavers, and as enterprising 
traders who travelled far and wide, trafficking with these 
products and the cocoa-bean." "" 

Similarly, the ancient Chiriquians of the Fanamic 
region, whose descendants, the Guaymis, still go in search 
of the Purpura shells, were metal workers in gold, copper 
and their alloys. 

That all the foregoing, in addition to other associated 
elements of culture, could have developed independently 
in the Old and in the New World is inconceivable. In 
Mexico, Central and South 'America, the aborigines un- 
animously disclaim their independent discovery of all arts 
and industries and assign their introduction to strangers 
of superior culture from distant and unknown parts."" 

As Mrs. Nuttall justly concludes, " it seems almost 
easier to believe that certain elements of an ancient 
European culture were at one time, and perhaps once only, 
actually transmitted by the traditional small band of . . . 
Mediterranean sea-farers, than to explain how, under 
totally different conditions of race and climate, the identical 
ideas and customs should have arisen." "^ 

The peculiar and distinctive character of the shell- 
purple industry is in itself sufficient justification for this 
conclusion, as it is altogether Unlikely that different people 
could have adopted so remarkable a custom, along with 
identical methods of extracting the precious purple matter 
from shell-fish. 

In glancing over the facts quoted in this chapter it will 
be at once apparent that many gaps exist in the 
geographical distribution of this remarkable industry. 
These lacunae, however, are probably more apparent than 

■•" Nutlall, op. iit., p. 381. 
"" Ibid, pp. 382-3. 
■'1 Ibid. pp. 383-4. 



Geographical Distribution of ike SJiell-Purple Inditstry. 29 

real, and are due rather to lack of precise information, 
than to an entire absence of the art in certain places. 

I have been unable so far to trace any indication of 
this industry in the numerous islands of the Pacific. '" 

Judging from the presence in these islands of other 
associated elements of culture, such as shell-trumpets and 
pearls, acquired by direct or indirect contact with the 
Eastern Mediterranean, it seems possible that the art of 
dyeing by means of shell-fish also spread in this direction. 
Various circumstances, however, may have prevented the 
adoption of so curious a custom. 

'It must be remembered that particular kinds of shell- 
fish were necessarx' for the production of the purple, and 
much would depend on the presence of one or other of 
these forms in the seas round the islands of the Pacific. 
Mnrex and Purpura certainl)' occur in their neighbour- 
hood, but they are totally unlike the purple-yielding shell- 
fish of the Mediterranean — a fact that may have led to 
their being disregarded by the bearers of the particular 
culture. It is only when we reach the American coast 

that we find a form of shell-fish analogous to that used by 

— \ 
Tyrian dyers of ancient times. 

°- Tlie reference to its use in New Zealand", given in Manrh. JMnn., 
Vol. 60, 1915, No. I, \). 36, is founded on a misunderstanding. 



Chapter II. 

Shell-Trumpets and their Distribution in the 
Old and New World. 

The wide-spread use of shells as horns or trumpets is 
of very ancient origin. 

The Latin word Buccina, or Buccmum, a trumpet, 
was indiscriminately applied by the ancients to almost 
every kind of spiral univalve shell. Amongst the Greeks 
the large Triton nodiferus, Lam., was the trumpet used 
in land- and sea-fights, as well as for setting the watch 
and calling together assemblies of the people.' 

Triton, Neptune's trumpeter, is generally depicted 
with a large conch shell in his hand, with which it is fabled 
he convened the river deities around their monarch. It 
is wreathed, like those called Sikanos, or Sea-horn, 
common to India, Africa, and the Mediterranean, and still 
used as trumpets for blowing alarms or giving signals.'' 

Itanian coins {circa 200-67 B.C.) have the figure of a 
sea-god or triton carrying a trident and blowing a conch- 
shell.' 

Triton holding a conch with both hands and blowing 
into it is also seen on the coins of Agrigentum, Sicily 
(before B.C. 406.)" 

Pliny tells us that a deputation of persons from 
Olisipo [Lisbon], that had been sent for the purpose, 
brought word to the Emperor Tiberius that a triton had 

^ Jeffreys, "Brit. Conch.," iv., 1867, p. 284. 

- Mary Roberts, "Popular History of the Mollusca," 1851, p. 97. 

" B.V. Head, "Hist. Numorum," 1887, p. 398. 

* Ibid. p. 106; and " B.M. Cat. Greelc Coins: Sicily," 1876, p. 15. 



32 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

been both seen and heard in a certain cavern, blowing a 
conch-shell, and of the form under which they are usually 
represented.^ And one of the Scholiasts on Homer says, 
that before the discovery of the brazen trumpet by the 
Tyrrhenians, the conch-shell was in general use for that 
purpose.'^ 

The larger species of Buccinuni is still used by 
Italian herdsmen in directing their cattle. It is also 
common in North Wales, Staffordshire, Lithuania, and 
Muscovy, where they are also applied to pastoral pur- 
poses.' At Casamicciola, in the Island of Ischia, conch 
shell trumpets are sounded to scare away thieves and 
birds from the vineyards and gardens." Sicilian fishermen 
use Tritoti nodiferus as a trumpet, and Verany tells us 
that at Nice this shell, with a hole at the top, serves as a 
trumpet for the fishermen and country people, and that 
the braying noise produced by it renders this unmusical 
instrument indispensible for the old-fashioned charivari, 
which he describes as a deafening serenade to signalize 
the marriages of widows and ill-assorted couples." A. 
Mosso relates that the Triton is still sounded in church 
at Piedmont, and that during the services in Holy Week 
at Chieri, when the choir was singiftg the psalms, and a 
table was struck with sticks during the so-called tenebrae 
of the sepulchre, the sacristan gave him a Triton shell to 
sound.^° Issel also relates that during the services of 

" riiny, "Nat. Hist," ix., ch. 4. (Bolin's Ed., vol. ii., p. 362). 

" Ihid. (footnote by Bostock & Riley). 

" Roberts, op. cit., p. 97, and Lovell, " Edible Brit. Moll," 1884, p. 
194. 

* Lovell, op. cii., p. 194, quoting Dr. Wm. Russell, "Memories of 
Ischia," Nineteenth Century, .Sept., 1883. 

'■■ Jeffreys, of. dl., iv., 1867, p. 303. 

'" Mosso, "The Dawn of Mediterranean Civilization," 1910, p. 365. 



Shell-Trumpets and their Distribution. 33 

Holy Week in the Cathedral of Genoa, the Triton nodiferits 
used to be sounded." 

In his paper on "Purple Dyeing in Central America,"" 
Professor von Martens refers to the survival of the use of 
shell-trumpets at the present day in certain localities in 
southern France, Elba, Corsica, and Sicily, for the sum- 
moning of fishermen and field labourers. 

In the 1 8th century the Corsican militia, under Paoli, 
employed them instead of drums and trumpets.'" 

Triton shells are still in common use in Crete, 
especially among the village guards, as a means of raising 
an alarm or calling for help." 

As in the case of Shell-purple,'° the island of Crete 
figures very prominently in the early use of shell-trumpets. 

Mariani has published a Minoan seal on which a 
woman is sounding the shell of a Triton before the sacred 
horns of an altar."* This seal, which was found in the 
Idaean cave, is also described and figured by A. J. Evans 
in his " Mycenaean Tree and Pillar Cult."" " Here," he 
tells us, " a female votary is seen blowing a conch-shell 
or triton before an altar of the usual Mycenaean shape. 
Above the altar is seen a group of three trees, apparently 
cypresses, and immediately in front of them the ' horns of 
consecration.' To the right of the altar is a rayed symbol, 
to the left is apparently another altar base, with a conical 

^ ' IbiJ. p. 365, quoting' A. Issel, ' ' Revista Ligure di Scienze, 
Letlere ed Aiti," Geneva, 1908, p. 19. 

' '^ Verhand, Berlin. Cess. Anthrop. Ethnol. und Urges., 1898, p. 485. 

^' Von Martens, op. cit., p. 485, quoting Boswell, "Description of 
Corsica," 1768, p. 183. 

^* A. J. 'Ev3.m,/ourn. Hellenic Studies, xxi., 1901, p. 142. 

' ' See chapter i . 

"■■ L. Mariani, " Monuminti Aniici," vi., 1895, p. 178, f. 12. 

'' A.J. Evans, op. cil., p. 142, f. 25. 



34 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

excrescence, and behind the votary another tree. From 
this gem it appears that the conch-shell trumpet per- 
formed a ritual function in summoning the divinity." 

At Palaikastro, and elsewhere, real Triton shells were 
found which had been used for purposes of cult.'* 

R. C. Bosanquet points out in his " Excavations at 
Palaikastro, I." that " the Triton-^€i\ occurs as frequently 
in early deposits in Crete as it does in Mycenaean orna- 
ment — for the so-called Murex on the later pottery is only 
a degradation of the Triton."^^ 

A. J. Evans, in his account of the Knossos Excava- 
tions, 1903,^ illustrates a Minoan clay seal impression, on 
which two Triton-sheWs are represented. He also records 
the discovery of an alabaster vase in the shape of a Triton- 
shell.^' Miniature clay models of the same conch-shell, 
with remains of a little terra-cotta Sanctuary, were also 
found in an early basement on the East side of the 
Palace.^^ 

This Early Minoan rite spread in the Mediterranean 
region, for eighteen unbroken specimens of the same 
shell, Triton nodiferus, were found by Don Morelli in 
the Caverna delle Arene Candide, besides two hundred 
broken ones ; and as they all had the apex removed it 
can be concluded that they were sounded like trumpets.^ 
Other Triton shells were found in the Caverna dei Balzi 
Rosso, in the Cave of Galuzzo and the Cave of Pollera.^ 

1* .hill. Bril. Sch. Athens, viii., (1901-2), pp. 32, 89, 244, 296, 
305, 308 ; ix., (1902-3), pp. 275, 291, 312, and 335 ; x., (1903-4), pp. 197, 
and 202. 

1" Ibid, viii., (1901-2), p. 296. 

^^ Ibid, ix., (1902-3), p. 56, f. 34. 

= 1 Ibid, ix., (1902-3), p. 36. 

= 2 Ibid, viii., {1901-2), p. 32. 

-» N. Morelli, " Resti organici rinvenuti nella Caverna delle Arene 
Candide," Geneva, 1901, p. xii. 

" Mosso, op. cit., 1910, p. 363. 



Shell-Trumpets and their Distribution. 35 

In another Ligurian cave, the Grotta di Bergeggi, a 
Mu7'ex trunculus pierced at the apex was found.'" 

In excavating the Minoan Sanctuary of Cannatello, 
near Girgenti, Mosso also found pieces of the Triton?^ 

In speaking of the Triton shells found in the neolithic 
caves of Liguria (see above), Mosso states that they are 
too numerous for them to have been used for signals, but 
"the fact that they are found associated with human 
bones gives reason to suppose that even in neolithic times 
these shells were sounded with a religious signification, 
as we see on the Minoan seals of Crete." "" 

Amongst the various species of shells used as trumpets, 
the chank-shell {Turbinella pyruni) is of special interest 
from its intimate connection with the religion of Hindus 
and Buddhists. 

In a brief paper on " The Aztec Moon-cult and its 
relation to the Chank-cult of India," "''^ I have already 
referred to the association of the chank with the Hindu 
god, Vishnu, and his many incarnations. 

The whole subject of Hindu chank-cult has been 
recently treated in a most admirable manner by James 
Hornell in " The Sacred Chank of India," ^° and much 
of the following information is derived from his excellent 
work. 

In Hindu temple worship, Hornell tells us, " the 
chank fulfils important service. The ordinary and sinis- 
tral forms are both employed whenever the temple 
possesses them. The former- is used in the menial duty 
of summoning the god's attention, announcing the com- 
mencement of the principal rites, as well as in calling the 

-" T. E. Peet, " The Stone and Bronze Ages in Italy," 1909, p. 54. 

^^ Mosso, op. cit., 1910, p. 364. 

-•< Ibid. p. 363. 

^' Manch. Memoirs (Lit. and Phil. Soc), vol, 60, pt. ii., 1916. 

-' Madras Fisheries Publication, No. 7, 1914. 



36 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

devout to worship ; such are among the general explana- 
tions given for its employment, but some ethnologists hold 
that the innate and primitive significance of the use of the 
blowing chank in temple worship is to scare away hostile 
and evil-working spirits. This is a reasonable belief as 
there is little or no doubt that the chank was used origin- 
ally as a horn or trumpet by tribes holding animistic 
beliefs prior to the development of the Brahman religion, 
which appears to have adopted the use of the chank in 
religious ceremonies together with many other rites from 
the devil-fearing tribes who gradually came into the fold 
of the new and higher religious belief." '" 

In Bengal it is customary to keep blowing-chanks in 
the houses of the better class people for use in family 
worship, and during eclipses and earthquakes these shells 
are blown continuously till the eclipse or earthquake is 
"over."" 

Unlike the sinistral shells, which are usually mounted 
in handsomely decorated golden settings, the temple 
conchs are usually without any ornamentation, but the 
Udipi temple owns one very beautifully mounted in brass, 
and this is sounded whenever the god (Krishna) is carried 
in procession in the temple car."'^ 

Chanks used as wind instruments are chosen of as 
large size as possible, and the only preparation they 
require is to have the apex knocked off. 

Apart from their actual use in temple ritual, chank- 
trumpets are employed in connection with harvest rites, 
marriage and funeral ceremonies, and in various other 
ways in different parts of India. It is an essential part 
of the professional paraphernalia used by certain castes 
of religious medicants. " The Dasari," Hornell tells us, " is 

'" Hornell, op. cil., pp. 134-5. 

'■' Tbid. p. 135. 

'•- Ibid. pi. xvii,, fig. i. 



Shdl-Tmmpets and their Distribution. 37 

often seen in North Arcot and the Southern Deccan, 
announcing his arrival in a village by blasts on the chank 
shell." 

In Malabar, at the ceremony of the bringing in of the 
first fruits, the priest comes forth from the local temple, 
preceded by a man blowing a conch. 

Similarly in Siam, conch-shell music is employed at 
religious ceremonies connected with the ploughing festival. 
The principal figure at these ceremonies is the Minister of 
Agriculture, who is borne in a palanquin to the field with 
an escort of priests blowing loud blasts on chank shells."' 

At weddings, among all Hindu non-Brahman castes 
in the districts of the south of India, the chank is blown 
by the barber (ambattan) particularly at or immediately 
after the tying of the tali or marriage badge round the 
bride's neck. In Bengal this custom of chank-blowing 
during weddings is even more general. 

Though men are usually engaged to blow the chank 
at weddings, the- women of the family or of the particular 
caste sometimes perform this duty. 

A further interesting use of chank-trumpets is in con- 
nection with the rite of circumcision which survives among 
the Puramali nadu Kalians. This rite is carried out in a 
grove or plain outside the village, and the chank is blown 
at frequent intervals en route and throughout the cere- 
mony.^^ 

Throughout the Tamil country all non-Brahman castes 
which observe Hindu rites have the chank sounded at 
death ceremonies. The chank sometimes has a place in 
the death ceremonies of castes which are not Hinduised, 
as the Cherumans of Malabar and Cochin. Here the 
chank-trumpet is used for devil-driving.'" 

'° Hornell, op. cii., p. 144. 
'* /bid. pp. 144-5. 
"'^ Ibid. pp. 14S-9. 



38 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

The chank is frequently employed upon native-owned 
plantations in South India and Ceylon to summon the 
workpeople to their duties. 

In the Laccadive Islands it is used to call the people 
together in cases of emergenc\' and public requirements.'"' 

In addition to the use of the chank, Turbinella pynim, 
as a trumpet in India, T. Wilson, in his " Prehistoric 
Art,"-'' mentions other trumpets made from Cassis, or 
helmet shell (called Gomukha) and from Pterocera (called 
Barataka). 

Speaking of the use 'of shell-trumpets in Ceylon, 
LovelP* states, "According to the most ancient annals 
of the Cingalese, the chank-shell is sounded in one of the 
superior heavens of the demigods (similar to the conch- 
blowing tritons of Grecian mythology) in honour of 
Buddha, as often as the latter wanders abroad on the 
earth.'' HornelP" also says, " In the purer Buddhism of 
Ceylon the chank cult also finds place, and figures promi- 
nently among the musical instruments employed to lend 
eclat to the periodic procession (pcrahei^a') of the tooth- 
relic at Kandy." 

In Thibet, according" to the writings of, travellers in 
that country, the call of the chank is amongst the most 
familiar sounds to be heard in the monasteries and 
temples of the Lamaistic faith. It is also the custom to 
sound the chank as the body of a deceased monk or nun 
is being conveyed from the place where death occurred."" 

Chank-shells, especially sinistral specimeris, are held 
in special veneration by the Chinese, and are kept in the 
Pagodas by the priests for use on special occasions. 

■" Ibid. p. 172. 

•" Rept. U.S. Nat. Uus. for 1S96 (1898), p. 555. 

"' Lovell, op. cii., p. 195. 

''■' Hornel), op. cii., p. 137. 

■"' Ibid. pp. 137 and 149. 



Shell- Trumpets and their Distribution. 39 

They are also blown to still the waves and ensure 
safe voyages. The Chinese, likewise, use a large shell, a 
species of Fiisus, for their fog-horns." 

Both Huish*" and Rein,*' in their works on Japan, 
mention the use of 7>/V(7«-horns in that country. Rein 
tells us that shells of Triton tritonis (Japan, Hora-gai) 
" were formerly employed as signal horns and provided 
with a brass mouthpiece to replace the tips. According 
to Pinto, in blowing them, riot was indicated by one blast, 
fire by two blasts, robbery by three, treachery by four, 
though they also played a part as signal horns in war, and 
were therefore also called Jin-gai, war mussel shells or 
camp snails. Their blowers were the Hora-fiu, or Hora- 
wo-fuku. Both these expressions for blowers of the 
Triton's horn have become in Japan the common desig- 
nation for a person who is fond of boasting : ' Ano hito 
wa hora wo fuku,' he blows the Triton's horn, i.e., he is 
bragging." 

In the East Indian Archipelago and the Pacific 
Islands, we find many instances of the use of shells as 
trumpets. 

In describing the wind instruments used by the tribes 
of Borneo, Shelford" relates that some Brunei Malays 
recently informed him that a trumpet, made by merely 
knocking off the top whorl of the large helmet-shell Cassis 
tuberosum, was used by them for calling their buifaloes 
together ; their name for the trumpet was " buyong." He 
could hear of no other people in Borneo who employ a 
similar instrument. 

♦^ A. H. Cooke, " MoUusks/' Camb. Nat. Hist, 1895, PP- 101-2. 

*- Huish, "Japan and its Art," 1893, pp. 146-7. 

" J. J. Rein, -'Japan," 1884, p. 207. 

** R. .Shelford, " Illus. Cat. Ethnog. Coll. Sarawak Museum: Pt. i., 
Musical Instruments.'' Joitrn. Straits Branch Roy. Asiatic Soc, No. 40, 
June, 1904, p. 20. 



40 Shells as evidence of the Mignrlions. 

Von Martens refers to the use of shell -trumpets in 
the Philippine Islands, in the island of Halmaheira (or 
Gilolo)*^ and by the Alfurs of Ceram."" 

A fine specimen of a trumpet made from a large 
Triton tritonis has recently been shown me by Professor 
S. J. Hickson. It was obtained by him in the Celebes, 
and is perforated on the side of one of the upper whorls. 
It was used by the boatman who carried round the mails, 
and may have originally come up from the south. 

In Papua, or New Guinea, Cassis cornuia, Triton 
tritonis, and Ranella lampas, are used as trumpets, having 
a hole drilled as a mouthpiece in pne of the upper whorls.^' 
In addition to the Triton, Moseley* tells that a large 
conical Strombus, perforated at the apex, not on the side, 
as in Triton, is used by the natives of Humboldt Bay. 
Among the musical instruments used by the natives of 
the Admiralty Islands are conch-.shells perforated on the 
side as usual.* 

The only instrument of the trumpet kind used by the 
Torres Straits Islanders is a giant Fusus \F. proboscidiferus, 
Lam.*"], or occasionally a large Triton. The Fusus is 
universally employed, and, according to Haddon,"^ the 
mouth-hole is always lateral. It was employed for con- 
veying signals, but now at all events is most frequently 
blown when the natives are sailing, especially when going 
fast or racing. 

*° Zcits.fiir Ethnol., iv., 1872, p. 34, fide Schmeltz, " Schnecken und 
Muscheln im leben der volker Indonesiens und Oceaniens," Leiden, 1894. 

*° Verhand. der Berl. Anthro. Cess., 1898, p. 485. 

*' A. H. Cooke, »/. cii., p. 99. 

•>" Moseley, "Notes by a Naturalist on H.M..S. ' Challenger'," 1892, 
p. 378. 

■" Moseley, op. cit., p. 407, also Jour. Anihrop. Inst., 6, 1876-7, 
p. 411. 

° ' Probably Megalatrachus ariianus (L). 

°' "Anthrop. Exped. to Torres Straits," Cambridge, iv., 1912, p. 283, 
and fig. 248. 



Sliell-Trnrnpets and their Distribution. 41 

There is a 7"rz'/<?«-trumpet in the British Museum from 
the moutli of the Fly River, ]3ritish New Guinea, which, 
according to Chahners, is used for calling to arms and for 
frightening away the evil spirits of sickness from the 
village.'- 

W. H. R. Rivers, in his work on " The History of 
Melanesian Society " °^ tells us that the conch-shell is one 
of the objects used in Banks Islands, in the ritual of 
initiation into the Sii/cwe. On the initiation of a candi- 
date into Kwatagiav, the conch-shell is blown five times, 
three long continuous blasts and two interrupted blasts. 
It is also used at initiation into the Tamate liwoa. In 
Torres Islands the conch is blown at ceremonies of kava 
drinking." 

From the same authority we learn that " the conch- 
shell exists in two forms in Melanesia, one blown by means 
of a circular hole in the side, and the other blown at 
the end. The former is that u.sed at the Sukwe and 
in most parts of Melanesia, and this form is also in 
general use in Polynesia. Its occurrence in Polynesia 
points to its ascription either to the kava-people or 
to the people who interred their dead in the sitting 
position, and there is reason to suppose that it was of 
especial importance in connection with the chiefs. It may 
also be noted that, in Malikolo, it is used at the funerals 
of chiefs. This connection with chiefs both in Polynesia 
and southern Melanesia, suggests that it was the kava- 
people who brought with them the use of the conch, a 
conclusion in harmony with its prominence in the ritual 
of the Sukwe. 

" In the Solomons, however, the conch is of especial 
importance in connection with head-hunting. It is used 

^- Haddoii, op.cit., p. 2S3. 

"° 2 vols., Cambridge, 1914. 

'■> Rivers, op. fit., i., pp. 64, 98, 1S6. 



42 Shells as evidence of the M titrations. 

as a signal, especially in the ceremonies which acconripany 
the return from a successful expedition, and this suggests 
either that it is an element of culture common to the 
kava- and betel-peoples, or that it was taken over b\- the 
betel-people from the earlier inhabitants. 

" The only place in Melanesia where we know of the 
existence of the conch-shell blown at the end is Efate 
[New Hebrides], and its association here with a special 
form of totemism suggests that it is connected with a 
special development of the kava-culture which has been 
responsible for the form of totemism found in this 
region." '" 

In discussing the material culture of the inhabitants 
of the Bismarck Archipelago, Rivers further relates that 
" the conch made of the shell of the Triton is not only 
definitely present in New Britain and New Ireland, but it 
has that place in the ritual of the secret organisations 
which we should expect if it were introduced by the 
kava-people. U'hen the members of the Ingiet take one 
of their stone images from one place to another, its 
approach is heralded by the sound of the conch which 
warns all uninitiated persons to get out of the way. 
When an uniniiiated person hears the conch, he says, 
' Here comes an image from Nakanai,' thus associating 
the instrument with one of the more sacred images. 
Another indication of the importance of the conch in the 
Ingiet is that it may be shown to an initiate in place of a 
stone image if one of these is not available, thus suggesting 
that the conch may once have formed one of the mysteries 
of the society, comparable with the werezvei-e or meretang 
of the Banks Islands or the bullroarer of the Matamhala 
and Ruknik!' ■'" 

"■"' Ibid, ii., p. 459. 
■"■ Jhid. ii., p. 535. 



SIiell-T-mmpets and their Distribution. 43 

Zembsch, in his " Katalog No. I verzeichniss einer 
ethnographischen Sammlung aiis der Siidsee,"'" gives a 
photo of a clay figure of a god from Malikolo with a 
Ti'iton-tvnm'pet tied to each hand. The trumpets are 
perforated on the side of the spire. 

In the Solomon Islands, Guppy* tells lis that the shell- 
tiumpets are made of large examples of both Triton and 
Cassis, with a hole pierced on the side of the spire. 

In the island of Tanna, in the New Hebrides, shell- 
trumpets are blown as signals to the disease-makers, or 
sorcerers,, to entreat them to stop plaguing their victims. 
"These disease-makers collected any nahak, or rubbish, 
that had belonged to anyone, such as the skin of a banana 
he had eaten, wrapped it in a leaf like a cigar, and burned 
it slowly at one end. As it burnt, the owner's illness 
increased ; and if it was burnt to the end, he died ; there- 
fore, as soon as a man fell ill, feeling sure that some sorcerer 
was burning his rubbish, shell-trumpets, which can be 
heard for miles, are blown as a signal for the sorcerers to 
stop, and wait for the presents which should be sent in the 
morning. When a disease-maker fell ill himself, he too 
believed that some one was burning his rubbish, and had 
his shells blown for mercy."'" 

Hedley, in his " Ethnology of Funafuti,""" tells us 
that the Ellice Islanders are called together to a trial or 
other public ceremony by the blowing of a shell trumpet 
made from the large Cassis cornuta. 

The conch-shell also ranges among the musical instru- 

°" Ethnographische Ableilung der Buclilmndlung und Druckerei vor- 
mals, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1897, p). iii. 

"* Guppy, "The Solomon Islands, and their nalive.s," 1S87, p. 143. 

°" Lovell, a/. «■/., 18S4, p. 195, quoting Turner's " Polynesia, "' and 
Taylor's " History of Mankind," p. 12S. See also G. Turner's " Samoa," 
etc., 1884, pp. 320-21. 

"° /I/t'w. Aiist. Mils., iii., pt. 4, 1897, p. 299. 



44 Shells as evidence of the Migraliviis. 

meats of the Fijians, and of the ]\Iaories of New Zea- 
land." 

When Captain Wilson visited Tongataboo, in the 
Friendly Islands, in 1797, four large conch- shells were 
found on the floor of a large house sacred to the god of 
Bretane. These were used to alarm the country in times 
of danger. In these islands conch-shells were also blown 
at the interment of chiefs."'" 

Shell-trumpets, made from Triton tritonis and other 
large shells, enter largely into the religious ceremonies of 
the Samoans. 

In his description of the religion of these people. 
Turner®* relates that " in their temples they had generally 
something for the eye to rest upon with superstitious 
reveration. In one might be seen a conch shell, suspended 
from the roof in a basket made of cinnet network ; and 
this the god was supposed to blow when he wished the 
people to rise to w ar." 

The Samoans have a host of imaginary deities, and 
these gods are supposed to be incarnate in some visible 
object, the particular thing in which the god appears being 
an object of veneration. 

Faamalu (shade), one of the village gods, was repre- 
sented b}^ a trumpet-shell, and at the annual worship of 
this god all the people met in the place of public gatherings 
with heaps of cooked food. Another local god was called 
Tapaai (Beckoning) and was a war god of a family on 
Tutuila. He was supposed to be present in a trumpet- 
shell. When the people were about to go to war the shell 
was blown by the priest, and all listened. If it blew rough 

" Lubbock, "Prehistoric Times," 1865, pp. 358 and 369. Captain 
Cook also mentions tlie " Triton's trumpet" as one of the sonorous instru- 
ments of the New Zealanders. 

'■- G. A. Cooke, "Sy.siem of Universal Geography," London, i., 
iSoi, pp. 77 and 97. 

'^' G. Turner, "'Samoa, etc.," London, 18S4, p. 19. 



Shell-Tmnipets mid their Distribution. 45 

and hollow it was a bad sign ; but if clear and euphonic 
all were cheered, and went off joyfully under the good 
omen. In the island of Savaii a village god named Titi 
usi (Glittering leaf girdle) was worshipped at the new 
moon, and after prayer and feasting a man went about 
blowing a shell-trumpet as a sign that the ceremonies 
were over, and that the usual routine of village and family 
life might be resumed."^ A further use of shell-trumpets 
noted by Turner in Samoa was to herald the approach of 
some important personage. A chief of importance must 
have one, or perhaps two, large shells in his canoe, to 
answer the purpose. of trumpets, to blow now and then as 
the canoe passed along."' 

In Manahiki, or Humphrey's Island, Turner states 
that when the constellation Pleiades was seen there was 
unusual joy expressed by singing, dancing, and blowing 
shell-trumpets." 

In the Society Is. large shells of Triton trito7tis,'L. 
are used as trumpets, and these are blown when proces- 
sions walk to the temple, or warriors march to battle, at 
the inauguration of the king, during the worship at the 
temple, or when a tabu, or restriction is imposed in the 
name of the gods. EllLs"' tells us that large shells were 
selected for this purpose, and these were sometimes above 
a foot in length, and seven or eight inches in diameter at 
the mouth. In order to facilitate the blowing of the 
trumpet, a perforation, about an inch in diameter, was 
made near the apex of the shell. Into this a bamboo 
cane, some three feet in length, was inserted, and secured 
to the shell with fine braid. The outside of the aperture 
was rendered air-tight by a resinous gum from the bread- 

"* Turner, op. cit., pp. 27, 54, 60. 

" Ibid. pp. 165-6. 

'■•' Ibid. p. 279. 

f.7 "Polynesian Researches," i., 1836, pp. 196-7. 



46 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

fruit tree. These trumpets are also used by the herald, 
and on board the native fleets. 

Captain Cook also speaks of the natives of Toobouai 
Island blowing large conch-shells in a long tone witho.ut 
any variation ; but what it portended he could not ascer- 
tain."' 

Hutchinson"" gives a casual reference to the shell- 
trumpets of the Jilarquesas Islands, saying that they differ 
from that known as "Bosina" in Peru (see below). 

In Micronesia, shell-trumpets are recorded as in use 
at Ponape (Ascension Is), Caroline Islands, and in the 
Marshall Archipelago.'" Of their use in the Pelew Islands, 
Captain Wilson tells us"'" that in 1783, as a preliminary 
to an attack on a neighbouring enemy, the king, Abba 
Thulle, ordered the conch to be sounded as a signal for 
forming the line of battle. Captain King also refers to 
the blowing of the conch as a signal of defiance and 
warning in the Sandwich Islands."' 

In the New World we have several instances of the 
use of shells as trumpets. A species of Triton was used 
formerly by the Indians of South America as a trumpet, 
and a specimen was dug up at Canete, in Peru. The 
shell was called " Bosina," on account of the sound pro- 
duced by blowing into it resembling the roar of a bull, 
and it was used to announce the approach of any great 
man into a town. It was ornamented with tassels of 
human hair, and a leather strap of exquisite workmanship.'- 

"s G. A. Cooke, op. cii., i., p. 65. 

*' Journ. Anthrop. Inst., iv., 1874, p. 13. 

'" O. Finsch, " Ethnologische Erfahrungen und Belegstiicke aus der 
Siidsee," Animl. cUs K. K. nalhist. Hof museums , Wien, 1888 — 93, fide 
Schmeltz, op. cit. 

roo " An account of the Pelew Islands," London, 1789, p. 150. 

"' G. A. Cooke, op. cit., i., pp. 306 and 353. 

'= Lovell, op. cit., p. 196, quoting Hutchinson's " Two Years in Peru," 
vol. i., p. 134- 



Shell- Trumpets and their Distribution. 47 

An interesting survival of this practise in Central 
America is recorded by Theobert Maler in his " Researches 
in the Central Portion of the Usumatsintla Valley.""" On 
p. 33 of his paper he relates how his arrival at the Indian 
settlements at Pethd was greeted by the blowing of conch- 
shell trumpets made from Strombus gigas. 

According to Pinart," the musical instruments of the 
present natives (Guaymis) of the Chiriquian region of 
Panama are limited chiefly to the bone-flute and the 
marine conch-shell. He describes one of their ceremonies, 
the balza, in which the conch-shell plays an important 
role. When a village has decided to give a balzaria and 
the date has been fixed upon, notice is given to other 
villages inviting the inhabitants to attend. Everyone is 
invited, men and women, young and old. According to 
the distance away, each family group sets out in time to 
arrive at the place of meeting two days before the com- 
mencement of the ceremonies. During the journey, the 
invited guests blow from time to time on large conch- 
shells in order to make known to all persons living near 
the line of route their passage and the purpose of their 
journey. 

Pinart believes the Guaymis to be the descendants 
of the race that constructed the ancient huacals from 
which so many Chiriquian antiquities have come. This 
ancient race has left behind them numerous examples of 
wind-instruments of clay, modelled in the form of animals 
and birds. One of these figurines serving as a whistle 
represents a mythical form holding something resembling 
a fish or conch-shell a little distance from the mouth.'^ 

'^^ ATetnoirs Peabody Aluseiun, ii., no. i., 1901. 

'* Alphonse Pinart, " Les Indiens de I'Etat de Panama," Rev. cCeihnog., 
vi., 1887, pp. 33, 117, (quoted by Mac Curdy, "A Study of Chiriquian 
Antiquities," Memoirs Conn. Acad. Arts and Sciences , iii., 1911, pp. 169-170). 

'= Mac Curdy, op. cit.. p. 185, fig. 315. 



48 Shells lis evidence of the JMigrations. 

An analogous idea is expressed in a beautiful Chiriquian 
gold casting of two human figures with elbows touching 
and holding to their mouths something that resembles a 
conch-shell or a fish.''' 

Robert Brown relates that the descendants of the 
Incas, in Peru, under the rule of Francesco de Toledo, in 
1568, held periodical festivals in memory of their beloved 
sovereigns, when plays were enacted and mournful music 
produced from the national instruments, drums, trumpets, 
clarions, a.r)d piitalns, or sea shells." 

According to von Martens," the Jesuit priest Arriaga, 
at the beginning of the i/th century, also describes the 
use of shell-trumpets in Peru, and in the Bolivar collection 
of the Berlin Ethnographical Museum there is a pre- 
Columbian trumpet made of Strombus galeatus. 

The Portuguese writer, Suarez de Sousa, in 1589, and 
Marcgrave, about 1640, report on the use of trumpets in 
Brazil, made probably of Strombus goliath?' 

In a paper on the ruins in Casa Grande, in Southern 
Arizona,^ J.W. Fewkes states: "Among the more numerous 
marine shells which were found in Compound B of the 
Casa Grande group of ruins are many large conchs, the 
points of the spires of nearly all of which were ground off 
and perforated as if for trumpets. Judging from known 
ceremonies of the Hopi, it is highly probable that these 
trumpets were used in dramatic celebrations in which 
effigies of the great serpent were introduced, the priest 
using the instruments to imitate the supposed roar of this 
animal. More than a dozen complete specimens, and 
many fragments of conch shells that may have been parts 

"° Il'ic/. pp. 185, 209, and pi. xlix., fig. A. 

"" "Races of Mankind,'' i., N.D., p. 316. 

"* Von Martens, of. <il., p. 485. 

■'■' Hut p. 485. 

"" 28lh Ann. Rept. Bureau of .-Simy. Elhnclogy, 1912, pp. 144 — 5. 



Shell- Trumpets and their Distribution. 49 

of trumpets, were found in the course of the excavations 
at Casa Grande, the greater number being obtained on 
the west side of Compound B. All these shells came 
originally from the Pacific coast." 

G. H. Pepper, in his paper on " The Exploration of a 
burial-room in Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico,""^ also records 
the discovery of a shell trumpet, made from Strombus 
galeaius. It had evidently been cracked in use and showed 
signs of repair. Associated with it was a human skeleton ; 
also Haliotis shells, and 26 perfect shell bracelets and 15 
fragments. The bracelets, he adds, averaged 8'5 c/m. in 
diameter, and are probably made from Pectunculus shells. 
In other parts of the room were further shell bracelets, 
pendants, and beads, of Olivella shells ; also ornaments of 
turquoise and shell mosaic.''- 

Carl Lumholtz, in an interesting paper on " Sym- 
bolism of the Huichol Indians," "" gives us details of the 
use of a species of Murex as a trumpet at ceremonies and 
feasts. After describing various other objects used at the 
feast of taiuales de mairj crudo, he states (p. 185) : " At the 
same feast, but only on the eastern side of the river, sea- 
shells are employed as a kind of musical instrument. 
When the heap of taniales is dedicated to the gods by the 
shamans, some of the people are appointed to blow into 
such shells five times in the daytime and five times at 
night. This is done as a signal to all the gods. After 
the feast the shells are carried to Mesa del Nayarit, where 
they remain through the wet season, to be afterwards 
brought back again for the next feast of the same kind. 
They are kept in Mesa del Nayarit in a god-house. 
According to tradition, the Chichimecas brought them 
first from that part of the coast where San Bias is to-day." 

"^ Putnam Anniversary Volume 1909, p. 226. 

'= This mosaic recalls the beautiful Haliotis in\a.y of Japanese artisls. 

'' Mem. Anier. Mus. Nat. Hist., iii. ; Anthropology, ii., 1900. 



50 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

Lumholtz was unable to procure any shell that had 
actually been used at the feast, but he found one in the 
god-house of the Sun (Tayau') in Teaka'ta, which, 
according to his informants, was smaller than those used. 
The species is Murex {Phyllonotus) radix Gmelin, from 
the South Pacific Ocean, west coast of America. In 
Huichol it is called Ku'ra. Much difficulty was ex- 
perienced in buying the specimen ; the man who had 
deposited it, and who was one of Lumholtz' party, at first 
absolutely refused to part with it. Although left some 
years ago, it still remained to him a valuable prayer for 
life. Through the acquirement of this specimen, which 
was the only one seen in the god-houses, Lumholtz 
learned of the interesting custom of blowing into shells 
just related. The natural markings on this shell sym- 
bolize to the Huichols grains of corn and water. 

Probably the most remarkable occurrence of the use 
of shell-trumpets in the New World is afforded by 
Mexico. Von Martens'^ refers to the finding, by Seler, of 
prehistoric trumpets made from Fasciolaria gigas^ and 
Turbinella scolymus from the Caribbean Sea, and Fascio- 
laria princeps from the Pacific Ocean, in several parts of 

Mexico. 

From ancient Mexican manuscripts we learn that 

conch-shell trumpets entered largely into the religious 

ceremonial of the Aztecs. 

In Seler's description of Codex Vaticanus, No. 3,773, 

reference is made to the blowing of shell-horns in the 

temples at midnight, as a signal for the priests to arise 

and mortify themselves, to sing, and then go in procession 

to the bath.^" 

^* Von JIartens, of. cit., p. 485. 

^° Probably F. gigantea is meant here. 

*"= Edward Seler, "Codex Vaticanus, No. 3,773 (Codex Vaticanus B), 
an old Mexican pictorial manuscript in the Vatican Library," Berlin and 
London, 1902-3, English translation by A. H. Keane. 



Shell- Trumpets and their Distribution. 5 1 

In the same work and elsewhere mocauani, the Fasting 
Man, Ruler of the Nineteenth 'Da.y-count quiauitl, "Rain," 
is figured blowing a conch-shell and associated with Tona- 
tiuh, the Sun God.*^ 

According to Sahagun and other authorities the 
ancient Mexicans held a special festival once or twice a 
year, on the day Nahui Ollin, in honor of Tescatlipoca 
Lord of the Night, etc. At noon on each of the four days 
preceding this festival, conch-shells were blown by the 
priests, whereupon everybody, great and small, old and 
young, gashed their tongues and ears, and presented the 
the blood to the Sun — " doubtless," says Seler, " with the 
intention thereby to give it strength to resume its course 
in the usual way."°° The linking together of ear-piercing 
and the use of shell-trumpets in this ceremony is of con- 
siderable significance. 

It is important to note, also, the remarkable resem- 
blance to the Minoan use of the conch-shell trumpet in sum- 
moning the divinity. (See p. 33). An even more striking 
parallel is found in the Babar Is. (Malay Archipelago), 
where the sun-god is called down to accept offerings by 
means of a YVzVow-shell.''^ 

In the Mexican pictorial manuscript — Codex Maglia- 
becchiano — in the Florentine Biblioteca Naztonale is an 
illustration showing Xochipilli, called by Seler the God 
of Flowers and Food Supplies, being carried in procession 
preceded by a priest blowing a conch-shell trumpet.'" 
(See Fig. 6 on plate facing p. 52.) 

^' Seler, 0/. di., p. 1S5, fig. 393, and sheets 28 and 94. The shell is 
probably Fasciolaria gigantea. 

«» Seler, op. cit., p. i86. Zelia Nuttall, "A Penitential Rite of the 
Ancient Mexicans." Arch. Sd' Ethnol. Papers of Peabody Mus., vol. i.. No. 
7, 1904, p. 4. 

s" I am indebted to Mr. W. J. Perry for this information. 

''° Seler, op. cit., p. 162, fig. 363. The shell looks like a reversed Cassis 
cornuta. This species is common to the West Indies, Pacific Islands, etc., 
and is used as a trumpet in Papua and other Pacific Islands. 



52 SJieUs as cvidi-iia- of the ]\[:grations. 

Further illustrations of the use of the shell-trumpet b)- 
the Aztecs are seen in Codex Borgia 14, where TepeyoUotli, 
the Heart of the Mountains, God of the Caves, is figured 
blowing the shell-horn, and in Codex Vaticanus, No. 3,773, 
sheet 22, where the same god wears the shell-horn as a 
breast ornament and a second horn lies before him at the 
threshold of the temple." 

In the Codex \^aticanus and elsewhere the Mexican 
Moon God, Tecciztecatl, is represented in association with 
a large conch-shell as its symbol. This appears either on 
the brow of the god or at the back of the neck. i\s the 
emblem of the moon the shell also appears with the 
figure of a man holding in his hand a blood-stained agave- 
leaf spike, or merel)' a hand holding a bone dagger and 
agave-leaf spike, emerging from the mouth — the God in 
the shell — which might have reference to the waters being 
pent up, or possibly to different phases of the moon. The 
Rain God, Tla/oc, is thus seen at the mouth of the shell, 
or emerging from it, holding lightning in both hands. 
(See Figs. 2 — 5 on plate facing.) 

The snail-shell was also brought into association by 
the Aztecs with conception, pregnane)' and birth ; for, as 
the interpreter of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis says : 
" asi como sale del hueso el caracol, asi sale el hombre del 
vicntre de su madre." 

The Moon God is thought b)' Seler to bear this name 
" perhaps on the one hand because he has his phases, at 
times withdrawing half or altogether into his shell.". But 
on the other hand — and this is what the interpreters 
lay stress upon— it seems as if he owed this name to the 
relation in which the moon stands towards women, to the 
influence which it exercises on the bodies of women. In 

'•'' Seler, op. fit., p. 103, fig.';. 295, and p. 105, sheet 22. Here the shell 
is like that of the Fasting-man, i.e., Fiiscio/di ia ^igaiiten . 



XTOIJCV^ i iC A U iVE-- VT l\i 1 li-«VJO 



(AFTER SeLER). 









(1) Conch-shell with apex replaced by snake's head. Codex Vatuanus B66. 

(2) The God shut in the House. Codex Vaticanus No. 3773. 

(3) The Rain God shut in the ShelL Codex Bologna 8. 

(4) The God concealed in the Shell. Codex Borgia 8. 
(c) The God enclosed in the Shell. Codex Bologna 4. 

(6) Aztec priest blowing the Shell-trumpet. Codex MagliabeccHano xni., 3, t. 35 



Shell- Trumpets and their Distribution. 53 

fact the bond of connexion between the moon and these 
shells is the ancient association of both with women 
which grew up in the Old World somewhere in the region 
of the Red Sea. 

The remarkable identity in the Hindu and Mexican 
use of shell-trumpets in temple worship and harvest rites, 
and the association of the conch-shell with the God of the 
Moon, has been pointed out in a previous article."" 

The Chank (see Frontispiece, jpz^'. 5) is one of the two 
important symbols associated by Hindus with Vishnu 
and his many avatars or incarnations. Siva, also, is 
sometimes represented holding the chank. Such an 
association is of peculiar interest when one considers the 
worship of the chank in the daily liturgy ofthe Brahmans. 
Taking the shell in his hand, the Brahman recites the 
following prayer : — 

" At the mouth of this shell is the God of the Moon, 
on its sides is Varuna, on its back Frajapati, and on its 
apex, the Ganges, the Sarasvati, and all the other sacred 
rivers of the three worlds in which they make ablutions 
according to the command of Vasudeva."^ In this chank 
is the chief of the Brahmans (Brahmendra or Brahmana- 
spati). This is why we worship the sacred chank. Glory 
to thee, sacred shell, blessed by all the gods, born in the 
sea, and formerly held by Vishnu in his hand. We adore 
the sacred chailk and meditate upon it. May we be filled 
with joy ! 

" I offer (to the chank) everything needful for wor- 
ship — perfumes, rice and flowers." °'' 

In India the moon is believed to preside over the 

growth of crops and produce, and in certain places, as 

32 Jackson, "The Azlec Moon-cult and its relation to the Chank-cult 
of India." Munch. Memoirs {Lit. and Phil. Soc), vol. 60, pt. ii., 191$. 
3' One of the names of Krishna. 
»*Hornell, "The Sacred Chank of India," 1914. 



54 Shells as evidence of the Mtgmtions. 

alread)- stated in previous pages, chank-trumpets are 
employed in connection with harvest rites. 

In the above prayer, and in the harvest rites, are 
thus embodied the very elements which make up the 
moon-cult of the Aztecs. .Associated with the chank we 
have {(i), the God of the Moon, and {lA, Varuna, the Hindu 
god of the waters and of the west quarter, wiio is 
worshipped as one of the guardian deities of the earth, 
and in times of drought and famine. He is represented 
in paintings as a white man seated on Makara, a mythical 
crocodile. This god recalls Tlaloc, the Mexican Rain 
God, who is sometimes associated with the crocodile, and, 
as previousl}' mentioned, is depicted as emerging from 
the conch-shell, (c), Prajapati, " the father of all creatures," 
a personification of the sun, is emblematical of creation 
and birth. The snail or conch-shell, as we have seen, 
was also associated with conception and birth by the 
Mexicans. 

The offerings made to the chank of the fruits of the 
earth ; the harvest rites accompanied by conch-shell 
music ; and the use of shell-trumpets in Hindu temple 
worship, have their counterparts in Mexican manuscripts 
in the figure of the God of Flowers and Food Supplies 
being carried in procession preceded by a priest blowing 
a conch-shell trumpet, and in references to the blowing 
of conchs in the temples at midnight as a signal for the 
priests to arise and mortify themselves, to sing, and then 
to go in procession to the bath. 

In India both the ordinary and the rare and highly 
prized sinistral forms of the chank are employed in 
temple-worship, and it is not a little curious to find that 
in the Mexican pictures both forms are also shown. It is 
quite possible that here, as in India, the sinistral form 
may have had a special significance. 



Shell- Trumpets and their Distribution. 5 5 

It is altogether inconceivable that people so far apart 
as India and Mexico could have independently associated 
the conch-shell with the moon and adopted it as the 
symbol of their Moon God, in addition to using it as a 
trumpet, and one may justly conclude that we have here 
definite proof of the transmission of an element of culture 
from the Old to the New World. 

If any further evidence is needed regarding the simi- 
larity in the moon-cult of these two people, it is provided 
by the fact that the ancient Mexicans, like the Hindus, 
regarded what we call the " Man in the Moon " as a rabbit, 
and explained the present fainter brightness of the moon 
by the myth that the gods flung a rabbit in the face of 
the moon, which originally shone as brilliantly as the sun. 
Strangely enough Dr. Seler points out this fact in his 
description of the Codex Vaticanus, but makes no further 
comment. 

In Aztec picture-writings the moon is figured — usually 
as a nasal crescent of bone with a rabbit seated in a watery 
field — beside the so-called " Goddess of Filth " — the old 
Huaxtec Earth Goddess. 

The "God in the Shell" idea, ?'.«., the curious belief in the 
presence of gods, spirits, or human beings, indwelling in 
shells is remarkable for its wide-spread occurrence. Forste- 
mann, in his discussion of the " Tortoise and Snail in 
Maya Literature""" ventures to connect the snail with the 
winter solstice ; the tortoise with the summer solstice. In 
the Dresden Maya manuscript, he informs us " the sea 
snail appears very curiously in page 37;^. Here it lies in 
the water and appears to be in the act of giving birth to a 
tiny person (female ?)." This seems to bear some relation 
tb the ancient myth that Venus was born bf the froth of 
the sea, within a shell, which transported her to Cyprus. 

^'* Bureait of American Ethnolog)\ Bttll. 28, 1904, pp. 423-430. 



56 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

The Dresden Codex also shows the snail associated with 
the gods of birth, and of the moon (the god D, of 
Schellas), of death, and of the sun, and in the month Mol, 
the eighth of the Maya year. It is widely acknowledged 
that the snail is the symbol of birth among the Central 
American people.*^ 

According to Spinden,"" " the snail, so-called, is repre- 
sented in combination with the human form much more 
often than the tortoise, and occurs not only on the build- 
ings at Chitchen Itza . . but also in the codices and on 
objects of minor art such as pottery. The word " snail " 
is commonly used, but there are no means of telling 
whether the shell represented belongs to the snail or to 
some other mollusc. According to Tozzer and Allen the 
shell is probably that of Fasciolaria giganica, which is the 
largest known American shell and is found along the coast 
of Yucatan." This writer gives a series of representations 
of anthropomorphic figures, consisting of the human form 
combined with a shell, taken both from Aztec and Maya 
manuscripts. One of these, from the Peresianus Codex, 
shows a personage called by Schellas, God N, the God 
of the End of the Year. Another authorit)', Dr. Seler, 
however, refers to him as the Old Bald-headed God, and 
suggests that he governed the moon. " He is probably 
related," says Spinden, " to God D, the principal Roman- 
nosed God. Usuall)', but not; always, this God N wears a 
large shell from which the upper part of his body seems 
to emerge." It will be recalled that Teccir:tecatl, the Moon 
God of the Mexicans, is represented in the Codex Vati- 
canus No. 3,773, with a conch-shell on his brow ; in the 
Codex Telleriano Remensis the shell appears at the back 

"'■ Forstemann, op. cil., pp. 428-429. 

°'' "A Study of Maya Art," Mem. Peabody Museum of Amer, 
Arthixol, and Rthuol.^ vol. vi., 1913, p. %'i. 



Shell-Tnunpets and their Distribution. 57 

of the neck of the same god. Dieseldorff excavated at 
Chama, Guatemala, several pieces of pottery with painted 
or incised representations of the Shell God.^^ At Chitchen 
Itza, sculptured figures on buildings often have a shell 
attached to the body. Spinden™ informs us that " in 
the lower right hand corner of the Foliated Cross at 
Talenque is a shell in which is partially concealed the 
Long-nosed God. From the hands of this god issues a 
plant amid the leaves of which is a face resembling that 
of the Maize God. The shell in this connection probably 
appears as an indication of water" (see Fig. 2 on plate 
facing p. 58). Tlaloc, the Mexican Rain God, is similarly 
represented in Aztec codices, possibly signifying the dry- 
ing up of the waters. 

Two interesting figures of the association of the Moon 
God with the conch-shell are given in the Dresden Maya 
manuscript.™ In one {Fig. I, plate facing p. 58), the 
Roman-nosed God ( = D of Schellas) emerges from 
the shell under the water, whilst the Long-nosed God 
( = B of Schellas), identified by some with Chac, the Rain 
God of the four quarters and the equivalent of Tlaloc 
of the Mexicans, is seen on the surface of the water 
holding a fish in one hand. This figure seems to show 
the close association of these two Maya gods. In 
other representations we find these gods merging 
the one into the other ; and in one case Chac, the 
Rain God, appears as the Moon God. Dr. Elliot Smith 
claims'"^ that the Maya Chac is the American form of the 

^"^ For figures see Spinden, op. ciL, p. 84, f. Io8b ; Seler, Zeit, fiiy 
Ethnol., 42, p. 284, f. 1000. 
"" Spinden, op. cit., p. 84. 

^'"' See Spinden, op. cit., p. 83, f. 108 c & d ; Forstemann, op. ciL, 
p. 428, f. 105a ; Seler, Z. fur E., 42, p. 2S4, f. 998 and 999b. 

101 " Precolumbian Representations of the Elephant in America," 
Nature, December 16, 1915. 



58 Shells as evidettce of the Migiations. 

Vedic Indi-a. He tells me that in the later Vedas Indra 
took over a number of the attributes which originally were 
associated with Soma, who in addition to being a drink- 
god, z.e., an Asiatic Dionysos, was also a moon-god. Indra 
also assumed many of the characters of Varuna\ and it 
afifords further confirmation of the identity of Indra with 
Chac or Tlnloc to find the same elements of confusion also 
in America. Each divinity is presented in Maya codices 
in numerous phases closely associated with the serpent, 
the tortoise, or the conch-shell, recalling forcibly the 
several incarnations of the popular Hindu deity, Vishnu. 
The fundamental conception is, in fact, typically Brahmani- 
cal. In order to make this quite clear let us turn to the 
points of similitude which we find in India. The avataras 
["descents"] of Vishnu are ten in number, the first of 
which, Matsya, or fish, is said to have reference to the uni- 
versal deluge from the waters of which Vishnu in this 
form recovered the Vedas, or Sacred writings of the 
Hindus.'"^ In a work published in 1731, Picart'"* gives a 
picture and the following interesting and quaint account 
of Vishnu's exploits : " He first assumed the shape of a 
fish, in order to search for the J^edam at the bottom of the 
sea, whither it had been carried by an evil Genius, who 
had forc'd it away from the Deutas. Wistnou at the urgent 
request of the Deutas, plung'd into the sea, kill'd this evil 
Genius, and return'd with the Vedam, which he found in a 
shell. The figure [see Fig. i, plate facing p. 62] represents 
Wistnou coming out of the fish, whose form he had assum'd ; 
his two right hands hold the Vedam open, and a ring ; his 
two left, a sabre, and the shell in which the Vedam was 

'»•- Birchvood, "The Industrial Arts of India," Part I, p. 57 f'JOKrt 
Kensington Mitsenni Handbook). 

10s "Religious Ceremonies and Customs of llie several Nations of the 
known World," vol. iii., 1731, p. 415, pi. loi. 





Maya Sculpture and Picture-Writings. 

(1) Conch-shell associated with Maya deities. Dresden MS 38b. (after Forstemann). 

(2) The God in the Shell. Tablet of the Foliated Cross at Palenque (after Spinden). 

(3) The Tortoise associated with Maya deities. Codex Cortes 19b (after Seler). 



Shell-TriLinpets and their Distribution. 59 

inclos'd ; the monster is seen headless at his feet." Other 
accounts relate how Vislinu, as Krishna (the eighth incar- 
nation), "went down to the infernal regions, and brought 
back his six brothers whom Kansa [Raja of the Bhojas] 
had killed ; and then he killed the demon Pancliajana who 
lived in the chank shell, which he ever afterward used as 
a war trumpet." '" 

In the " Bhagavad-Gita," a Sanskrit philosophical 
poem, we find Krishna's conch-shell trumpet called Pan- 
chajanya."" 

An embossed design on the cover of Thomson's 
translation of the " Bhagavad-Gita," illustrates one of 
the many Hindu conceptions of the fish incarnation of 
Vishnu, and shows the demon in the mouth of the shell ; 
one of Vishnu's hands is empty. In the illustration 
taken from Picart Vishmi holds the chank in one of 
his hands. The cutting off of the apex of the shell, re- 
presented in this picture by the demon's head,™ illustrates 
the method adopted in India for the manufacture of chank- 
shell trumpets, which are always blown from the end. 

The second avatar of Vishnu is the K?tnna, or tortoise. 
The gods, aware of their mortalit}-, desired to discover 
some elixir which would make them immortal. To this 
end. Mount Meru was cast into the sea, Vishnu then 
plunged in, in the form of a tortoise, and supported on his 
back the mountain, round which the Naga or snake, 
Vdsuki, was twisted, so that the gods seizing his head, and 
the demons his tail, twirled the mountain till they had 

'"■' Birdwood, op. ci.'., pp. 74-5. 

106 "The Bhagavad-Gita," translated by J. CocUburn Thomson, Hert- 
ford, 1855. 

i»" In the Coilex Vaticanus, B. 66, the conch-shell is shown with the 
head of a snake for its apex — probablj' a variant of the same idea (see Ftg: I, 
plate facing p. 52). 



6o S hells as evidence of the Migrations. 

churned the ocean,"' out of which was then produced the 
amrita, or water of life, and thirteen other gems.''^ A 
variant of this account is given by Picart {op.cit., p. 415) 
who says that "using this serpent as a cable, they lifted 
up the mountain, and afterwards let it fall again, till they 
at last forc'd this haughty element [the sea] to restore all 
the wealth which had made it so proud." (See Fig. 2, 
plate facing p. 62). 

Turning to the Dresden Maya manuscript we find, on 
P^ge 37a, a representation of the Old Bald-headed God 
(the Moon God) with the shell of the tortoise on his 
back'"" — an incarnation, in fact, of the god as a tortoise. 
But an even more striking picture is seen on p. 19b of 
the Codex Cortes. The illustration there given"" shows 
the tortoise on the top of a churn-like structure about 
which is coiled an object resembling a snake (Seler calls 
it a rope, but it appears to possess scales). On the left 
side of the central object are two dark coloured gods or 
demons holding on to the snake ; on the right side, simi- 
larly employed, stands the Long-nosed God ( = Chac, 
the Rain God), and another indefinite personage. Appa- 
rently seated on the back of the tortoise is another God 
(? Roman-nosed God) who also holds the snake. In 
describing this picture, Seler calls attention to the tortoise 
being marked with a hieroglyphic sign v\hich occurs in 
the 7a'nal-na.me ydx and yax-kin, and which perhaps 
signifies "tree " or " wood." He further states: " It [the 

""' C. F. Oldham, " The Sun and the Serpent," London, 1905, p. 58, 
regards " the churning of tlie ocean," alluded to in the '" Mahabharata" as 
" an allegorical description of seaborne commerce in its early days " (quoted 
by Dr. G. Elliot Smith, '-The Migrations of Early Culture," Manchester, 
1.915, p. 82). 

'"* Bird wood, 0/. <;<>., p. 57; Thomson, " Bhagavad-Gita," p. 147. 

'■°" Seler, Zcit. fiir Elhnol., 42, p. 51, f. 738. 

'"' Seler, Z.fiir E., 42, p. 48, f. 724. 



Shell-Truiitpeis and their Distribution. 6 1 

tortoise] figures there in the centre of a remarkable 
ceremony in which a number of gods pull a rope up and 
down to which is fastened the element Kin 'Sun.'" 
(See Fig. 3, plate facing p. 58). 

No one who carefully and conscientiously examines 
this remarkable picture can have any doubt that it repre- 
sents the tortoise incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. 

In these and other similar designs in the Maya manu- 
scripts we cannot fail to recognise the results of an infiltra- 
tion into America of somewhat confused ideas concerning 
F'w/zw?/, the popular Hindu god, who, as already pointed 
out, is intimately associated with the conch-shell trumpet 
(the sacred chank) and the tortoise, among other objects. 
It is inconceivable that ideas of so arbitrary a nature could 
have arisen independently in India and Central America. 
That the fundamental conception of the Maya pictures is 
the same as the Indian cannot be denied. They were 
certainly inspired by ideas brought from India, which 
again were probably founded upon elements of culture 
from Western Asia and the Mediterranean. As is well- 
known, one of the Babylonian myths relates how the 
people of Ancient Chaldcea received their early knowledge 
of sciences and arts of all kinds from the fish-god, Ea or 
Cannes, who rose from out of the Erythra;an Sea. But 
it is to the island of Crete we must turn for the earliest 
use of the shell-trumpet ; there it was a regular accom- 
paniment of Minoan temple-worship. 

The Maya evidence, only a part of which is dealt with 
here, thus confirms what has already been said concerning 
the ideas expressed in the Aztec picture writings, i.e, the 
use of shell-trumpets in temple-worship and the association 
of the conch-shell with the god of the moon in India and 
Central America. 

It is altogether incredible that merely by chance the 



62 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

Maya or Aztec artist could have invented such striking 
identities, without any knowledge of the fantastic designs 
invented in India. 

In the Introduction Dr. Elliot Smith has explained 
how ideas of fertility, the giving of life and resurrection 
grew up in association with the cowrie. This chapter has 
revealed how all of these attributes have been transferred 
to the shell-trumpet not onh- in Asia, but also in America. 
In the latter country such conceptions would be utterly 
meaningless unless it be admitted that they were intro- 
duced from the Old World. 

In Japan we find similar evidence of the transmission 
of the same Indian ideas, but here owing to the proximity 
of their source the confusion of the elements is not so 
pronounced. In a picture {^Fig. 3, plate facing) given by 
Picart {op. cit., vol. iv., pt. ii., 173S, pi. 138), which repre- 
sents a group in the Temple of Osacca, we see expressed 
the identical conception of the fish incarnation of Vishnu. 
Picart describes this group as follows: " Canon,"' called 
by some Travellers, the Son of Amidas, presides over the 
Waters, and the Fish. He is the Creator of the Sun and 
the Moon. This Idol, according to the Representation of 
him,"^ has four arms, like his Father, is swallowed up by a 
Fish, as far as his Middle, and is crowned with Flowers. 
He has a Sceptre in one Hand, a Flower in another, and 
a Ring in the third ; the fourth is closed, and the Arm 
extended: Over against him, there is a Figure of an 
humble Devotee, one half of whose Body lies concealed 
within a Shell. There are four other Figures at a little 
Distance on an Altar, each of them with their Hands 
closed like humble Suppliants, from whence, as from so 
many Fountains, flow Streams of Water." 

"* J. J. Rein ("Japan," 1SS4, p. 45S) refers to this well-known and " 
popular deity as Kuwanon (pronounced Kannon) the goddess of mercy. 

"- Picart bases his account on the " Embassies of the Dutch to Japan." 




(i) Fish avatar of Vishnu, India. 

(2) Tortoise avatar of Vishnu, India. 

(3) Canon, a god of Japan. 

{4) The Creator of the Universe, according to the Japanese. 



Shell- Trumpets and their Distribution. 6t^ 

On plate 140 in the same work Picart gives a repre- 
sentation of the supreme Deity who, according to the 
Japanese, created the world. The picture {Fig. 4, plate 
facing p. 62), taken from a group at Miaca, clearly 
illustrates the second incarnation of Vishnu., viz., Kurma, 
the tortoise. . As described by Picart, the Creator of 
the Universe, who is black and wears a pointed crown, 
is seated upon the top of a large tree trunk, which is fixed 
on the back of a tortoise, as in the Indian picture. He 
has four arms and hands, with a ring in one, a sceptre in 
another, a flower in a third, and in the fourth a vessel or 
little fountain of water. A serpent is coiled twice round 
the trunk. Two demons, one with the head of a dog, the 
other with the horns of a stag, are holding the serpent 
near the head, while the tail portion is held by two Kings 
of Japan, one of whom has four faces, like Brahma, and a 
Sin, or demi-god. From the water, on which the tortoise 
seems to lie, appears a Sun half risen, in the form of a 
bearded man crowned with rays. With his right hand he 
seems to goad the tortoise forwards, and holds divers 
goads in his left. 

The identity of this conception with that of India is 
patent ; but it is of interest in comparison with the Maya 
design because the elephant-headed god {Chac) of the 
latter corresponds to the stag-headed dragon in Japan."" 

One point of peculiar interest is the association of 
the Sun, which, as we have seen, is one of the chief objects 
of importance in the Maya picture. 

How and when these distinctly Indian ideas reached 
/apan is not easy to define. They may have reached there 
with Buddhism, which, it is stated,"* entered that country 

n^» G. Elliot Smith, "Dragons and Rain Gods," to be published in 
the Bulletin of the John Ry lands Library, 
11* Rein, op. cit., pp. 219 & 448. 



64 S//l//s as evidence of the Afii^raiioiis. 

in the middle of the 6th century A.D., and in due course 
took the Shinto gods into its system, just as it had already 
absorbed the numerous deities of Brahmanism. 

Returning to America we find some further evidences 
of the prevalence of the '' Shell-God " idea. Lovell"'" 
informs us that " Dr. Troost, in an account of some 
ancient remains discovered by him in Tennessee, mentions 
the finding of a large conch shell {Cassis Jlammea), with 
the interior whorls and columella removed, so that nothing 
remained but the exterior portion of the shell, which was 
open in front, and in it was placed a rudel}- shaped idol, 
in the form of a kneeling human figure, made of cla\' with 
pounded shells. It was ploughed up in the Sequatchy 
Valley." 

Long, in his " E.xpedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky 
Mountains," 1823,"'' tells us that the Omahas possessed a 
sacred shell which they transmitted from generation to 
generation. Its origin was quite unknown. A skin lodge was 
built for it, and a man appointed as guardian, who resided 
in the lodge. It was placed on a stand and never allowed 
to touch the earth, and was concealed from sight by a 
number of mats made of skins plaited. The whole formed 
a large package, from which tobacco, roots of trees, and 
other objects \\ere suspended. No one dared to open all 
these coverings in order to see the shell, for if they 
attempted to look upon it they were struck with instant 
and total loss of sight. The sacred shell was taken by 
the Indians on all their national hunts, and was also 
consulted as an oracle before any expedition was made 
against an enemj-. The medicine men seated themselves 
round the sacred lodge, the lov\'er part of which was 

• ' » Lovell, " Edible Briiish MoUusca," 1S84, pp. 198-9, quoting Trans. 
.-iiiii:r. Ethiiol. Soc, vol. i., pp. 360-1 ; vol. iii., pp. 360 & 364. 

^ ' ' As quoted in ' ■ Flint Chips," by E. T. Stevens, pp. 4<)S-449. 



SIiell-Trumpets and their Distribution. 65 

thrown up like a curtain, and the external mat was 
carefully removed from the shell, that it might have air. 
Some of the consecrated tobacco suspended from the 
coverings of the shell was taken by the medicine men 
and smoked to the " Great Medicine." During this 
ceremony everyone listened most attentively, hoping to 
hear a sound proceed from the sacred shell. At length 
someone imagined he heard a noise resembling a forced 
expiration of air from the lungs, and this was considered 
a favourable omen, and the tribe prepared for the expe- 
dition, confident of success. If, on the contrary, the shell 
obstinately remained silent, the result of the expedition 
was regarded as doubtful. 

A. P. Niblack, in his work on "The Coast Indians of 
Southern Alaska and Northern British Columbia""' gives 
some interesting details of the traditions and myths of the 
Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes of the north-west 
coast, in which are expressed many ideas concerning the 
religion and cosmogony of these people. Among the Haida, 
it was believed, the creator of all things and the bene- 
factor of man was the great raven called Ne-kil-stlas. 
This mythical personage was no ordinary bird, but had 
many human attributes, and was capable of transforming 
himself into anything in the world. The stories of his 
adventures in peopling the world are numerous. One of 
the most interesting of these stories is given by Niblack, 
as follows: "According to the Haida and Kaigani the 
first people sprang from a cockle-shell {^Cardium corbis, 
Mast.). Ne-kil-stlas became very lonely and began to look 
about him for a mate, but could find none. At last he 
took a cockle-shell from the beach, and marrying it, he 
still continued to brood and think earnestly of his wish 
for a companion. By and by he heard a faint crj' in 

'" Report U.S. Nat. Mus., 1887-8 (1890), p. 378. 



66 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

the shell, which gradually became louder till at last a little 
female child was seen, which by degrees grew to be a 
woman and married the raven. From this union came all 
the Indians of the region." 

Thus preserved in the traditions of these people is the 
identical conception which we have already observed in 
pictorial manuscripts of the Mayas — the idea of the birth 
of a female child from a sea-shell. Such a striking simi- 
larity can hardly have been the result of accident. Turn- 
ing to Ellen C. Semple's interesting book on " Influences 
of Geographic Environment" (London, 191 1, p. 39S) we 
find that these widely-separated peoples — the Haidas and 
Tlingits of British Columbia and Alaska and the Mayas 
of Yucatan — have been linked together on other cultural 
grounds. 

In the Pacific Islands, especially in Samoa, there exists 
a persistent belief in the presence of gods in conch-shell 
trumpets. Some of the information relating to this idea, 
extracted from Turner's interesting account of Samoa, 
has already been given on an earlier page, where also 
allusion has been made to the use of shell-trumpets at 
moon ceremonies. Other gods, Turner informs us, are said 
to be incarnate in the cuttle-fish, as well as in the large 
white " cowry," {Ovulum ovuni) ; while Nonia, a village god, 
was supposed to be present in the cockle-shell. Concern- 
ing the origin of man some curious ideas are expressed in 
the traditions of these people. It is believed that man is 
formed from a species of mussel and that he casts his 
skin like shell-fish ; from a man called Ariari (to appear) 
and a woman sprang the cuttle-fish and the race of men. 
Another of their traditions is that Lu had a wife, Gaogao- 
o-le-tai (expanse of sea), who had a son also called Lu 
and she next brought forth a lot of all kinds of shell-fish."' 

Codrington, in his "Melanesians" (Oxford, 1891, p. 26) 

^^* Turner, o/. «V. , pp. 8, 9, 12. etc. 



Shell- Trumpets and their Distribution. 6y 

tells that in the New Hebrides there is a tradition that 
the first woman sprang from a cowry-shell ; there is also 
a family named after the Octopus. 

Nor is this strange " Shell-God " idea confined to the 
Far East. There is the ancient legend of the birth of 
Venus from a sea-shell. The representation of shells on 
the coins of ancient nations"" affords evidence of the 
prevalence of similar ideas in the Mediterranean region. 
Even in the Christian architecture of this city the same 
curious symbolism is depicted. In an account on the 
" Misereres in Manchester Cathedral,"™ the Rev, E. F. Letts 
figures and describes a series of elaborate carvings under 
the stall seats portraying numerous fabulous animals in a 
variety of ingenious and grotesque forms. Included 
amongst them is one carving of peculiar interest from its 
bearing upon the matter under discussion. This singular 
subject is to be seen on the under-master's stall, and re- 
presents a mermaid or female child emerging from a 
conch-shell and in the act of thrusting a spear down the 
throat of a terrible horned dragon, whose agony is well 
represented in the convolutions of its tail. Letts says : 
" I find the subject of children emerging from shells and 
fighting beasts is a common one, and represents puritj- 
conquering sin." 

Another remarkable association of the conch-shell 
and the dragon is to be seen as the crest over a coat of 
arms of Robert Venables, of Antrobus, 1663 (also 1566 
and 1580); but here it is the dragon which is emerging 
from the mouth of the shell. This is figured by W. H. 
Rylands in a communication on " Some Cheshire Heraldic 
Documents, from the Ashmole Manuscripts."^'" 

^^'^ The shells on these coins undoubtedly represent sacred objects and 
the symbol a calt. 

1'° Trans. Lane. andChesh. Antiq. Soc, vol. iv., i8S6, p. 142. 

^2^ Trails. Hist. Soc. Lane, and Ches., vol. ixii. (N.S. vol. xxvi. )., 
Liverpool, 1911, p, 122. 



68 S/ieHs as evidence of the Migrations. 

In his lecture upon " l^ragons and Rain Gods," which 
is now in course of pubhcation in the Bulletin of the John 
Ry lands Library, Dr. ElHot Smith called attention to the 
fact that the American " long-nosed " or elephant-headed 
god (which represents the Indian /wflVa) has also the same 
attributes as the dragon in China and India. The "long- 
nosed " god is sometimes represented emerging from the 
shell, like the dragon of the \''enables coat of arms. 

Regarding the supposed relations between the moon 
and shells, the following remarks, given by Johnston, in 
his " Introduction to Conchology," are not without interest. 
He tells us that "among the earlier naturalists it seems to 
have been a prevalent belief, that oysters and other bi- 
valves were fat and in season at the full moon, and lean 
and out of season at the new moon." On this point, 
Cicero ("De Div.," ii. 14) states: " Ostreis et conchyliis 
omnibus contingit, ut cumluna paritercrescant, pariterque 
decrescant." Gellius tells the following story : " The poet 
Annianus, on his Falerian estate, was wont to spend the 
time of vintage in a jovial and agreeable way ; and he 
had invited me and several other friends to pass those 
days with him. When we were at supper there, a large 
quantity of o}-sters was brought from Rome ; but when 
they were set before us, the\' proved, though many, 
j'et all poor and thin. The moon (remarked Annianus) 
is now in truth waning ; and on that account the oyster, 
like other things, is lean and void of juice. We asked 
what other things waste when the moon is old ? Do not 
\-ou remember (said he) what Lucilius says ? — 

' Luna alit ostrea, et implet echinos, maribu fibras 

Et pecui addit.' 

Those verj' things which grow with the moon's increase 

pine away as it wanes ; the eyes of cats also become 

fuller or smaller according to the changes of the moon. 



Shell- Trumpets a7td their Distribution. 69 

]5iit that is still more surprising which I have read in 
Plutarch, — that the onion becomes green and flourishing 
as the moon wastes awa_\', and dries up again while the 
moon increases ; and this is the cause, say the Egyptian 
priests, why the Pelusians do not eat the onion ; because 
it alone of all ]3otherbs has its turns of diminishing and 
increasing contrary to those of the moon." (Johnston, o/>. 
cit., pp. 336-7). Kirckringius, it is stated, " knew a young 
gentlewoman whose beauty depended upon the lunar force ; 
insomuch, that at full moon she was plump and handsome, 
but in the decrease of the planet so wan and ill-favoured, 
that she was ashamed to go abroad, till the return of the 
new moon gradually gave fulness to her face, and attrac- 
tion to her charms. If this seems strange, it is indeed no 
more than an influence of the same kind with that which 
the moon has always been observed to have upon shell- 
fish, and some other living creatures." He quotes Lucilius, 
and the words of Manilius : 

" Si submersa fretis, concharum et carcere clausa. 
Ad luna; motum variant animalia corpus." 
" This opinion," says Johnston, "continued to be for long 
a part of the popular creed, and even so late as 1666 it 
had in nothing been impaired, for, in the ' Philosophical 
Transactions ' of that year, travellers to India are solicited 
to inquire, ' whether those shell-fishes that are in these 
parts plump and in season at the full moon, and lean and 
out of season at the new, are found to have contrar\- con- 
stitutions in the East Indies' — a nice question, to which 
the answer returned was, ' I find it so here, by experience 
at Batavia, in oysters and crabs.' " (Johnston, op. cit., p. 
337)- 



Cl-IAI'TliR III. 

The Geographical Distribution of the use of 
Pearls and Pearl-shell. 



For many centuries pearls have been objects of 
commerce between nations, and from their peculiar 
beauty and splendour the}' have been held in high esti- 
mation among' many peoples, civilised and barbarian. 
Superstitious reverence in one form or another has also 
bten accorded them, and they have been considered as 
symbols of purity, beauty, and nobility, besides being 
regarded as emblematical of conjugal bonds. More 
curious still is the fact that for ages pearls or pearl- 
shells have been supposed to possess valuable medicinal 
qualities, and have been used in medicine, either as a 
powder or as one of the chief ingredients of pilLs, es- 
pecially in Oriental countries. 

Regarding the origin of pearls many wild and ex- 
travagant ideas have been advanced in the past by 
different peoples, one of the most curious of these notions 
being the belief that they were formed from drops of rain 
falling into the gaping valves of the pearl-shell. This 
" congealed dew-drop " theory is remarkable for its wide 
distribution. It was current among the ancient people of 







ii 



^ (^ 



/- 



Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 



the Mediterranean, spreading from there to India, China, 
and other places, and was found by Columbus to exist 
among the inhabitants of the New World. 

In previous papers attention has been called to the 
intimate association which exists between the special 
appreciation of pearls and the sjeographical distribution 
of elements of a culture, including amongst other things, 
the use of shell-purple for dyeing, and of conch-shells for 
trumpets. The evidence concerning the spread of these 
latter cultural elements has already been given,^ and the 
object of this chapter is to present some of the facts 
connected with the distribution of the use of pearls and 
pearl-shell. 

The remarkable manner in which the sources of pearls 
and pearl-shell coincide with the distribution of megalithic 
structures has been emphasised by Mr. W. J. Perry in his 
recently published paper on " The Relationship between 
the Geographical Distribution of Megalithic Monuments 
and Ancient Mines."- Some further facts in demonstra- 
tion of this are included in the present communication. 

When the fashion for pearls and pearl-shell was first 
instituted is not known, but the available evidence 
suggests that it originated somewhere in the vicinity of 
Egypt, if not in Egypt itself From this centre the 
fashion spread to surrounding nations of antiquity, and at 
a later time, together with an extraordinary collection of 
fantastic practices and beliefs, it was carried far and wide, 
eventually reaching the Far East, Oceania, and the New 
World. Fhoenician influence was undoubtedly largely 
instrumental in the distribution of the appreciation of the 
pearl, and in the course of trade these ancient mariners 
inaugurated extensive pearl-fisheries in many of the places 

> Chapters I. & II. 

'' Manch. Memoirs (Lit. er= Phil. Soc.)y vol. k. (1915), No. I. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-sliell. 73 

they visited. Not only were the highly-prized marine 
pearls sought for, but also those from the freshwater pearl 
mussels of the family Unionidje. 

The Red Sea is probably the most ancient of, the 
known sources of pearls. Gems from this neighbourhood 
were known many centuries before the Christian era, and 
the fishery was in a flourishing condition in the time of 
the Ptolemies. These pearls are referred to by Strabo, 
^lianus, and other classical writers.^ The most inter- 
esting feature in connection with these fisheries is the fact 
that the ancient inhabitants of the shores of the Red Sea 
were acquainted with an artificial method of producing 
pearls. According to the philosopher Apollonius,'' the 
inhabitants rendered the sea smooth by flooding it with 
oil ; they then dived into the sea and halting alongside 
the pearl-oyster they induced it to open by holding out a 
case of myrrh before it as a bait. The oyster was then 
pierced with a long pin and the liquid which exuded from 
the wound was received into an iron block which was 
liollowed out in regular holes, where it petrified in regular 
shapes, just like the natural pearl. Though the details as 
to the method of procedure are scarcely credible, it is 
not improbable that the story has some sound founda- 
tion, and that attempts were really made at that early 
time to stimulate the growth of pearls. This interesting 
fact is of some importance in connection with the artificial 
production of pearls in India and China, to which atten- 
tion is called on later pages. 

From the proximity of the Red Sea to Egypt it is not 
surprising that the pearl-shell was known to the Egyptians 

" Kunz and Stevenson, "The BooU ^>f the Pearl,'* Ne^v I'ori', /cpoS, 
pp. 139 J«/- 

* Philostratus, " The Life of .VpoUgnius of Tyan.i," bk. iii., ch. Ivii. 
(Edit. Conybeare, vol. i., 1912, p. 343). 



74 S/iel/s as evidence of the Migrations. 

at a ver)- earl\' period in their histor\-. In their search 
for the Red Sea cowries, and other shells, used as 
desirable objects for placing in the graves of the dead in 
Pre-dynastic and later times, they must have soon become 
familiar with the mother-of-pearl shell." 

According to Kunz and Stevenson (op. cit., p. 6) the 
pearl-shell was in use as an ornament in ancient Egypt as 
early as the Vlth dynasty. In investigating the ruins of 
ancient Thebes, Dr. J. T. Dennis discovered several of 
these shells bearing cartouches of that period. In graves 
of the Xllth dynasty, Red Sea pearl-shells have been 
found engraved with the name of Senusert I.° These 
shells are perforated with two holes for wearing as a 
pectoral pendant, as in the Pacific Islands and elsewhere. 
In the ' pan graves 'of the same period, mother-of-pearl 
bracelets occurred made of narrow strips of shell, per- 
forated at each end and threaded together, thus forming a 
flexible band.'^ Similar discoveries have been made in 
Nubia." 

The presence of the marine pearl-shell in Egypt has 
been looked upon by some authorities as indicating an 
early trade with India. On this point Lacouperie' re- 
marks : " Commercial relations between the Kushite 
emporia of South Arabia, the West coast of India, and 

'- It is of interest to note that the use of cowries is intimately associated 
witli tliat of pearls in most of the area occupied by the megalithic culture. 

' \V. M. Flinders I'etrie, "Amulets," London, 1914, p. 27, pi. xliv,, 
fig. II2(Z. An exactly similar specimen, engraved with the same name, from 
Kifeh, 1907, is in the Manchester Museum. 

" W. M. Flinders Petrie, "Diospolis I'arva,The Cemeteries of Ahadiyeh 
and Hu, 1898-9," 1901, p. 46, pi. xl. 

■" G. A. Reisner, " The Archttological Sursey of Xubia." Report for 
1907-08, vol. i., Archaiological Report, Cairo, 1910, p. 54, pi. "job. 

" T. de Lacouperie, " Western Origin of the Early Chinese Civilisation," 
London, 1894, |ip. 97-9S. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 75 

the South as far as Ceylon, were perhaps already opened 
at the time of the Xllth dynasty of Egypt." But, he 
goes on to sa}', " the proof is not above suspicion. It 
consists of a shell of mother-of-pearl, such as those of 
Ceylon, which, inscribed with the cartouche of Usurtasen, 
was bought in Egypt in 1883 by I'rofessor Sayce. It 
ma)' have been engraved long after the reign of that 
sovereign." There is no reason, however, to doubt the 
authenticity of this specimen in the light of the .more 
recent discoveries mentioned above, but the evidence of 
its Ceylon origin is untrustworthy. As the same species 
of pearl-shell inhabits the Red Sea, it is more probable 
that this was its true source. 

In addition to the mother-of-pearl shell, pearls them- 
selves were used by the Egyptians, though from an 
examination of representations of the costumes of ancient 
Egypt, they do not appear to have been employed to any 
great extent in their decorations." They are represented 
on old Eg3'ptian monuments, and diadems of pearls have 
been found from time to time in ancient sarcophagi. 
From about 1500 B.C., Egyptian women wore earrings, 
generally simple loops of gold, from which hung pendants 
of precious stones and pearls. They, likewise, wore neck- 
laces made of alternate rows of shells (cowries, etc.), coral, 
scarabei, precious stones and pearls. One ornament worn 
by both sexes was the gorget, upon which pearls were 
embroidered in elaborate patterns." It was not, however, 
until after the Persian conquest in the fifth century B.C. 
that pearls were used extensively.'' 

The Egyptians were also familiar with their own local 

^" Kunz and SLevenson, op. cit,, p. 6. 

'I'K. W. Streeter, "Pearls and Pearling Life," London, iSS6, pp. 
33-34- 

'^- Kiinz and Stevenson, op. at., p. 6. 



76 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

freshwater pearl mussels, Aetheria (Nile o_\'ster), Uuio, etc. 
at a very early period, using their valves as receptacles for 
paints, etc., in Pre-dynastic and later times. Whether 
they obtained pearls from these is not known, but the 
pearl)- nature of the shells themselves may have led to 
their being objects of appreciation. The Aether ii.e occur 
in the Nile as high as the cataracts of Robatas in Upper 
Nubia, and are described by Cailliaud, in his " Voyage 
a Mci:oe," as being a common article of food. Their shells 
are collected by the natives in order to decorate the tombs 
of deceased relatives." Perforated discs of this shell \vere 
found in some numbers in a tomb of the xvillth dynasty 
(grave D 1 14) at Abydos," but whether they were used for 
ornamental purposes, such as necklaces or armlets, is 
difficult to decide. Judging from their size ( diam. 27 mm.) 
they would not prove suitable objects for this purpose. 
There is no evidence to suggest that they were emploj'ed 
as a form of currencj-. 

Beyond the reference by Pliny'" to pearl fisheries on 
the Mauritanian coast — probably inaugurated by the 
Phcenicians, who visited West Africa for gold — little is 
known of the use and exploitation of pearls in this part 
of Africa. 

On the east side of the African continent, pearl 
fisheries are known south of the Gulf of Aden. According 
to Kunz and Stevenson [op. cit., p. 153) " little information 
exists as to the origin of these fisheries. In a paper 
published by the Lisbon Geographical Society, January, 
1903, Senor hens Ferranz states that, according to 
tradition, in remote times the Ibo Archipelago, on the 

'" Mary Roberls, " Popular Hislory of llie Mollusca," 1851, p. 311. 

" T. Kric Peel .and \V. L. S. Loat, "The Cemeteries of Abydos," 
pt. iii., 1912-13. 35lli Mem. of Egypt E.xflor. l-'tind, 1913, p. 30,, pi. .\ii. 

>' Pliny, " N.H.," bk. ix.. ch. 56. 



Disiribulion of Pearls and Pearl-sliell. JJ 

north-east coast of Portuguese East Africa, was inhabited 
by a Semitic colony, which located there to fish for pearls, 
and these were carried through the Red Sea to King 
Solomon. He adds that there is little doubt that, after 
the great emigration which started from the Persian Gulf 
in 982 and founded Zanzibar, Kilwa, and Sofala oh the 
coast, some Arabs engaged in fishing for pearls about the 
islands near Sofala." 

The evidence of earl)- pearl fishing on the coast of 
East Africa is significant in view of the implied association 
between megalithic culture and pearls. In the map which 
illustrates Mr. Perry's paper {op. (it., p. 10), the presence of 
the pearl-shell is not indicated on the coasts of Zanzibar 
and Madagascar " two localities which are suggestive when 
the presence of megalithic monuments in Rhodesia and 
Madagascar is recalled" (p. 11). Another important link 
is afforded by the discovery of beads made from the shell 
of the common Unio or fresh-water mussel ( Unto verreauxi) 
in graves in the vicinity of l^ulawayo, Rhodesia'" 

The Persian Gulf has been famous as a source of 
pearls from ancient times. A very early origin of pearl 
fishing here seems to be indicated by a cuneiform in- 
scription on a broken obelisk, erected presumabl)' b)' a 
king of Nineveh, which has been translated by Jules 
Oppert, the eminent Assyriologist.'' The fisheries were 
well known in the time of Alexander, and are referred to 
by Pliny'" as yielding the most valuable pearls. Isidorus 
of Charace, a Greek historian, circa 300 B.C., mentions 
the pearl fishing in this neighbourhood in his account of 
the Parthian Empire, and gives a fanciful story of the 
influence of thunderstorms on the breeding of pearls.''' 

^® Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit., p. 513. 

1' Ibid., p. 85. 

'« Pliny, "N.H.," bk. i.x., ch. 54. 

1° Athenajiis, "Deipnos,' bk. iii,, cb. 46. 



7 8 Shells as n<idcnce of the Migrations. 

The inhabitants of the Island of Bahrein — the Tylos 
of Ptolemy — have been devoted to pearling from time 
immemorial, and the fishing to-day is carried on much as 
it was 2,000 years ago. This island was in touch with 
Chaldean civilization, and one of the traditional sources 
of the Phoenicians, and whence came that fish-god who — 
according to the Babylonian myth — bore the ark over the 
deluge.™ 

In Persia, pearls were almost certainly known in the 
seventh century B.C. ; they are not mentioned in the 
extant fragments of ancient literature, but pearl ornaments 
of great antiquity have been found among Persian re- 
mains. Assyrian and Persian bas-reliefs show that pearls 
were used profusely for adornment by the sovereigns and 
great personages of those countries. The portraits of 
Persian queens on coins and gems commonly show ear- 
pendants of pearls.^' Portraits of Sassanian kings show a 
pearl pendant of large size hanging from the right ear, 
and among Persian nobles it was the custom to wear in 
the right ear a golden ornament containing pearls. The 
women also wore a ring through the left nostril, upon 
which three pearls were strung, and round their heads 
was a band with pendent jewels or pearls. The kings of 
the Medes and Persians wore bracelets and necklaces of 
pearls, and these gems were employed lavishly in their 
trappings and equipages. At the present lime pearls 
play a prominent part in great festivals in Persia. -- 

Among the ancient Persians a solar origin was 
attributed to the pearl.'^ 

Babylonian dignitaries and priests, it is stated, wore 

'"> Kimz and Stevenson, op, fit., pp. 90 «</. 

-^ Ibid., pp. 5 ^nd 404- 

'-'* Slreeter, o/. cit., pp. 30-31. 

2= Ibiil., p. 48. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-sliell. jg 

strings of pearls, most of which no doubt came from the 
Persian Gulf fisheries.-* In the ruins of Babylon, however, 
no pearls have been found ; the relatively moist soil con- 
taining much saltpetre may account for their non-survival 
for so many ages."'^ 

According to Kunz and Stevenson (op. cit., p. 405J, 
one of the most interesting examples of the use of a pearl 
in ancient times is a beautiful prehistoric pearl pin from 
Paphos, on the Island of Cyprus, which is mounted with 
a large marine pearl measuring 14 mm. in diameter, and 
weighing about 70 grains. It is surmounted by a small 
fresh-water pearl 4 mm. in diameter. 

In excavations made in the Huaran district in Sj'ria, 
a number of pearls were found in a rock-cut tomb said to 
be of Roman origin. The pearls were still attached to a 
bronze wire with which they had been strung. A pearl 
pin and a single earring bearing a pearl ha\e also been 
recorded from a rock-tomb at Csesarea, in S3ria.* 

Pearls were esteemed by the Greeks in the time of 
Homer, who appears to allude to them under the name 
Tp'iyXrjva (triple drops or beads) in his description of Juno, 
in the Iliad, xiv., 183 ; and in the Odyssey, xviii., 298. 
Classical designs of Juno usually show the three pear- 
shaped pearls pendent from her ears. The pearls of the 
ancient Greeks were obtained probably through the 
medium of the Phcenicians, and during the Persian wars 
of the fifth century B.C., they doubtless extended their 
acquaintance with these beautiful gems."' 

The necklaces and earrings, on the heads of female 
divinities, goddesses, and nymphs, represented on Greek 
coins from the fifth century B.C., are considered by many 

" Ibid., p. 31. 

2' Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit., p. 5. 

" Ibid., p. 406. 

2' Ibid., p. 8. 



So S/ic/ls as i-vidcnct' of the Migrations. 

numismatists to be intended to represent pearl orna- 
ments.^ 

Theophrastus, writing about 300 H.C., mentions the 
gems, and describes them as the product of shell-fish. In 
his daj' they were valued for necklaces or bracelets. 
PJin\' also refers to other Greek writers on the subject. 
Like the Persian nobles, Grecian men of rank wore one 
pearl earring in the right ear, while the women wore one 
in each ear.'^ 

Interesting evidence of the ancient appreciation of 
pearls in the neighbourhood of the Crimea is furnished 
by the discover}' of gold earrings with pearl centres, 
probably of the first half of the third century .-v.D., in a 
tomb close to the site of the ancient town of Chersonesus, 
and of earrings and pins set with pearls, from the 
neighbourhood of Tiflis. An earring, of fourth centui)' 
date made of gold wire, on which seven pearls are 
threaded, said to have been found on the site of the 
ancient Greek colon)' of Olbia, is of special interest in 
\iew of the fact that the pearls are drilled. Another 
interesting find, also of the 4th century A.U., is that of a 
brass dress pin with a sphere of amber, surmounted b)' a 
pearl, found near the village of Mzchet Caucasus.™ 

The custom of wearing a ring, ornamented with 
corals, pearls or precious stones, was prevalent among the 
fashionable Tartar ladies of Astrakhan, in the 1 8th cen- 
tur}-. This was worn suspended from the perforated 
right nostril, and recalls a similar practice among the 
women of Peirsia {supra, p. 78). '" 

-* Ibid., p. 409. 

'-" Sueeter, op. cil., p. 35 ; Kunz and Sievenson, op. cit., p. S. 

="' Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit., p. 410. 

'^ G. A. Cooke, "System of Universal Geogiapliy." London (1801), 
vol. i., p. 448. 



Distribulio7i of Pearls aftd Pearl-sliell. 8 1 

From Greece the admiration for pearls spread to Rome, 
where thej' were knoHii hy the Greei< word margaritce, 
as well as the Roman name unio. According to Pliny 
(bk. ix., ch. 59), the Romans used the latter name to 
distinguish a pearl of remarkable size. This celebrated 
Roman naturalist, who regarded pearls as formed by dew 
or rain falling into the gaping shells of the pearl-oyster,*" 
tells us that after the surrender of Alexandria, these gems 
came into common, and indeed universal, use at Rome ; 
but they first began to be used there during the Jugurthan 
wars.*' 

The Romans were deeply affected by pearls, and these 
gems took precedence over all others. Roman ladies 
wore necklaces and ear-drops of pearls, and dresses were 
lavishly covered with these gems. They were worn even 
at night that in their sleep the owners might be conscious 
of the possession of such valuable jewels. Plinj'" gives us 
a graphic description of the pearls and other ornaments 
worn by the Roman empress Lollia Paulina at an ordi- 
nary wedding entertainment. It was not unusual for the 
Romans to adorn their horses and other favourite animals 
with splendid necklaces ; and it is said that " Incitatus," 
the favourite horse of the Emperor Caligula, wore a pearl 
collar. Pearls also decorated the altars in the Roman 
temples, and the furniture of the houses, while their war- 
chariots shone with them. Philo Judaeus speaks of the 
couches upon which the Romans reclined at meal-times 
as being ornamented with tortoise-shell and ivory, and 
shining with gold and pearls. He also adds that upon the 
couches lay purple coverings embroidered in gold or 
pearls. Under successive emperors sumptuary laws were 

= ^ Pliny, " N.H." bk. ix., ch. 54. 
'= Ibid., bk. ix., ch. 59. 
" Iliid., bk. is., ch. 5S. 



82 SJiells as evidence of the Migrations. 

issued in order to stem the tide of extravagance which 
threatened the ruination of all classes. Julius Caesar 
issued an edict, prohibiting the use of purple and pearls 
to all persons who were not of certain rank, and the latter 
also to unmarried women.*" 

The mother-of-pearl was evidently appreciated in 
Northern Italy long anterior to the time of the Roman 
Empire, as the shell of the pearl-oyster of Eastern seas 
has been found in ancient hut foundations, reported to be 
of Neolithic age, near Reggio Emilia.*^ This discovery- 
would seem to indicate very early intercourse with the 
advanced culture of the East. Further evidence in 
support of this is furnished by discoveries of conch-shell 
trumpets and broken Purpura shells in Ligurian caves, to 
which attention has been called in the other chapters 
of this book. 

It is probable that the ancient Hebrews valued pearls 
for ornamental purposes, doubtless obtaining them by 
commerce with the Phoenicians. It is remarkable, how- 
ever, that the Hebrew word, g&bish, translated " pearl," 
occurs but once in the Old Testament. Some doubt 
exists even here as to the true significance of the word, 
some writers claiming that it relates to some other sub- 
stance, probably " crystal." In the New Testament and 
in the Talmud are to be found frequent references to 
pearls, which show how these gems were estimated b)' 
the Jews. Mother-of-pearl is still a commodity of general 
traffic in Palestine, where it is carved by the inhabitants 
into various religious ornaments." 

" Lovell, "Edible British MoUusca," 1884, p. 92; Slieeter, 0/, f»V., 
pp. 39-40; Kiinz and Stevenson, op. cit.,^.^. 

»« Mosso, "The Dawn of Mediterranean Civilization," 1910, p. 269, 
quoting Colini, Atii delta Societh roinana d'Aniropologia, vol. x,, I9i)4- 

" Streeter, op. cit., p. 32 ; Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit., pp. 6-7. 



Distribution of Pearls atid Pearl-shell. 83 

Although the pearls used by the ancient people of 
the Mediterranean were largely those obtained from the 
true pearl-oyster, pearls from other sources seem also to 
have been employed. Pliny *' informs us that they used 
formerly to be found in the seas of Italy, but more 
frequently about the Thracian Bosporus ; they were of a 
red colour, and small, and enclosed in a shell-fish known 
by the name of " mya." Off the coast of Acarnania they 
were obtained from a shell-fish called " pina," '" but the 
pearls were ill-shaped, and of marble hue ; those found 
about Cape Actium were better, though of small size. 

Pearls have been associated with the name of Britain 
from very early times. According to Suetonius, the great 
motive of Caesar's expedition into Britain in 55 B.C., was 
to obtain its pearls, which were so large that he used to 
try the weight of them by his hand. Pliny *> confirms 
this, saying that Cffisar dedicated a breastplate covered 
with British pearls to Venus Genetrix, and hung it in hej 
temple at Rome. The British pearls, doubtless obtained 
from the fresh-water pearl-mussel, Margaritana margari- 
tifera, seem to have been regarded by ancient writers as 
dull in colour and lustre and inferior to the pearls of the 
Orient. 

The imperial diadem of the sovereigns of the ancient 
Britons, Whitaker remarks, was sometimes encircled with 
an ornament of the mussel -pearls, as appears from the 
coins which have come down to us.^^ 

That the pearl or pearl-shell was appreciated by the 
inhabitants of Britain as early as the Neolithic age seems 

= s Pliny, "N.H.,'' bk. ix., ch. 56. 

''» Pearls are frequently obtained from the /'j«na-shell at the present 
day. 

*" Pliny, "N.H./' bk. ix„ ch. 57. 

*» Whitaker, " History of Manchester," 2nd ed., London, 1 773, vol. i. , 
pp. 22 and 342. 



84 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

very probable from the discover}^ of the shell of the 
fresh-water pearl-mussel >y]\fl argaritatia margaritifera) 
associated with human remains in the sepulchral cave at 
Perthi Chwareu, near Llandegla, Denbighshire.''- 

The presence of fragments of pearl-shell in the paste 
of early hand-made pottery ma}? also be an indication 
that the Early Britons considered the shell as auspicious 
and consequently adding further value to their product, 
analogous to the use in India of lime obtained by burn- 
ing both chank and pearl oyster shells. It is significant 
how widely spread are both these customs. The shells 
of Unio are recorded from North American Indian graves 
where they had been placed to serve as food for the dead 
during the journey to the land of spirits ; and fragments 
of Unio shells were used by the Indians to temper the 
clay for pottery. Beads of Unio shell have also been 
found in graves in the neighbourhood of Bulawayo, 
Rhodesia, as alread}- stated. 

An interesting survival of the Greek word rp'iyKriva 
(triple drops or beads, i.e., pearls) seems to exist in the 
Welsh glain (bead), the name having been carried to 
Britain by Phcenician traders.* It is well known that the 
Phoenicians, after founding many colonies in the 
Mediterranean, passed on through the Straits of Gibraltar, 
and in course of time probably reached the British Isles. 
Here no doubt they became acquainted with the pearls of 
the British rivers. 

The principal fresh-water pearl fisheries in the British 
Isles are those of the Conway River, in North Wales, 
where it is supposed Caesar obtained his pearls ; the Irt, 
in Cumberland ; the Tay, Earn, and Teith, in Perthshire ; 
the Dee, Don, and Ythan, in Aberdeenshire ; the Spey 

^"^ J. \V. Jackson, Lancashire Naturalist, Dec, 1913, pp. 321-2. 
•" Kuiiz and Stevenson, op. cil., p. 8. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 85 

and Findhorn, in Inverness-shire ; and the rivers of the 
counties of Kerry, Donegal, Tyrone, Wexford, etc., in 
Ireland. These fisheries have been described by many 
writers from the time of the Venerable Bede (673 — 735 
A.D.) to the present da}^, and allusion has been made to 
the prevalent belief in the dew-drop origin of the gems. 

On the continent of Europe the abundance of pearls 
in the mussels of the lakes and rivers has also given rise 
to many important fisheries. Little is known, however, of 
their early history, except that some of these localities 
appear to have been exploited by the Romans. It is 
probable that some are of an even earlier date, possibly 
owing their inauguration to Phoenician influence, as in the 
British Isles. 

The principal areas where pearl fishing has been 
carried on in modern times are France, Germany, Austria, 
Scandinavia, Denmark and Russia. 

In the east of France the pearl fisheries of the 
Vologne, in the department of the Vosges, are of special 
interest and have been celebrated for centuries, while in 
the western part of the country the pearl mussels have 
been exploited in the Adour, the Charente, the Gironde 
and tributaries, the Garonne and the Dordogne and their 
affluents, and many other streams. In Germany the pearl 
fisheries are most important in the streams of the southern 
districts, in Bavaria, Saxony and Silesia. In Austria the 
fisheries have been prosecuted in the province of Bohemia 
from very earlj- times. The fisheries of the Wottawa River 
were noted in 1560 and this river has long been known 
as " the gold- and pearl-bearing brook." Formerly 
along its shores, gold washing was more or less carried on, 
as well as the fresh-water pearl-mussel industry. In 
Hungary the native pearls have been popular with the 
Magyar women from early times, and very man\' \-et 



86 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

exist in old Hungarian jewelry. In Denmark no pearl 
fisheries now exist ; but three centuries ago the gems 
were obtained in the Kolding Fjord, in Jutland. In 
Norway most of the rivers and streams, especially on the 
west and south-west coast, have been noted for pearls 
from the 17th century; while in Sweden, pearl fisheries 
were noted, in 1562, by Olaus Magnus, Archbishop of 
Upsala. In Russia the pearl mussel is found in many 
streams ; it occurs throughout Archangel, in most of the 
rivers flowing into the White Sea, Lake Onega, and the 
Baltic Sea ; it likewise occurs in the Volga Watershed. 
In the government of Archangel pearls have been col- 
lected for centuries from the streams flowing into the 
White Sea and Arctic Ocean. Middendorff gives us a 
detailed account of the Lapland pearl fisheries and relates 
that they have been carried on exclusively by the shore 
Laplanders ; but owing to the small returns, they have 
been neglected in recent times. The pearls obtained are 
somewhat dull in colour, which in the opinion of the 
fishermen is caused by the mysterious influence of the 
copper money which they carry with them. The Tuloma 
was formerly a productive river ; its pearls were sold in 
Kola, and were sent from there to Archangel to be pierced. 
The Tjura also yielded many pearls; but since a Lap- 
lander was drowned while fishing for them, the idea has 
spread that the spirit of the river guards the pearls, and 
the natives hesitate about seeking them. In the grand 
duchy of Finland, in the province of Olonetz, and in the 
Baltic Provinces, pearls have been sought after for three 
centuries or more. The areas where pearl fishing is 
conducted in other parts of Russia — the Volga Watershed, 
the Don, the Dnieper, etc. — are indicated on the accom- 
panying map.*" 

■'•' The above information is mostly extracted from \'on Ilessling " Die 
Perlmiischeln und ihre Perlen," Leipzig, 1859; also Kunz and Stevenson, 
oJ>. cit. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 87 

In India pearls were known and appreciated many 
centuries before Christ. They are frequently mentioned 
in Indian mythology, their discovery being attributed to 
Krishna, the eighth avatar or incarnation of Vishnu, who 
is said to have searched the ocean for these gems and 
then carried them to India as a wedding gift to his 
daughter Pandai'a. The Atharvaveda (at least 500 years 
B.C.), alludes to an amulet made of pearls and pearl-shell 
used for bestowing long life and prosperity upon young 
Brahmanical disciples. ■'° The two great epics of ancient 
India, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, also refer to 
pearls, and the former speaks of a necklace of twenty- 
seven of these gems, and refers to pearl drillers accom- 
panying a great military expedition. Ancient Indian 
deities are represented as being adorned with these gems, 
and, according to Varahamihira, the Indian astronomer, 
the statue of the Sun-god, Mithra, wore a crown upon his 
head, and was decked with chain-work of pearls, and 
earrings also of pearl. Pearls and diamonds served as 
eyes for images of the gods ; they were also employed to 
decorate the interior of Buddha's tomb, and shone 
upon the beautiful box containing his sacred tooth. 
Distinguished Indian women wore purple draperies orna- 
mented with pearls, and on great public occasions their 
arms were covered with them ; and they even wove them 
into their hair.* Special esteem seems to have been ac- 
corded to rose coloured pearls, for red pearls (JLohitamukti) 
form one of the seven precious objects which it was incum- 
bent to use in the adornment of Buddhistic reliquaries, 
and to distribute at the building of a Dagopa." 

*° See translation by Maurice Bloomfield in " Hymns of the Atliarva- 
veda," Oxford, 1897, p. 62. 

■" Von Hassling, op. cit., pp. 1-2 ; Streeter, op. cit., pp. 24-25 ; Kunz 
and Stevenson, op. cit., pp. 3-4. 

*' Lovell, op. cit., p. 97 ; see also Yule's " Marco Polo," ii., p. 203. 



88 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

Notwithstanding their great fame, the pearl fisheries 
of India are of small extent. The only resources are the 
pearl reefs situated on the Madras coast in the vicinity of 
Tuticorin, on the northern shore of the Gulf of Manaar ; 
reefs of local importance at Kananur on the Malabar 
coast and on the Ratnagiri coast below Bombay ; and the 
more important reefs off the coast of Nawanagar, on the 
south side of the Gulf of Cutch. The fisheries of the 
Madras coast were well known in the time of Ptolemy, 
and pearls from this source are alluded to by several 
early writers.^ 

According to Hornell," the ancient Tamil classics fur- 
nish evidence of the existence of important pearl fisheries, 
together with those of chank shells, on the Indian shore 
of the Gulf of Manaar. One reference contained in the 
" Maduraikkanchi," a Tamil poem, " incidently describes 
the ancient city of Korkai, once the sub-capital of the 
Pandyan Kingdom and the great emporium familiar to 
Greek and Egyptian sailors and traders and described by 
the geographers of the ist and 2nd centuries A.D. under 
the name of Kolkhoi.'' 

"In one passage," Hornell informs us, "the Parawas 
are described as men who dived for pearl oysters and for 
chank shells and knew charms to keep sharks away from 
that part of the sea where diving was being carried on. 
Another passage depicts the city of Korkai, then a seaport 
at the mouth of the Tambraparni, as the chief town of 
the Parawas and the seat of the pearl fishery, with a popu- 
lation consisting chiefly of pearl-divers and chank-cutters." 

It is of some interest to note that the Parawas to-day 
continue as from time immemorial to provide the con- 

*' Kunz and .Stevenson, op. cil., pp. 128-9. 

■"> James Hornell, "The Sacred Chank of India," .Madras, 1914, pp. 
42-3 {.ffadra! Fisheries Bulletin, No. 7). 



Distribution of Pern Is and Pearl-slielL 89 

tingent of divers employed for the pearl and chank 
fisheries of the gulf of Manaar. 

In the first century A.U. Argalus, in the neighbour- 
hood of Korkai, appears to have been a station where 
the Gulf of Manaar pearls were perforated. Here also 
were to be purchased fine muslins sprinkled with pearls."" 

According to Kunz and Stevenson {pp. cit., p. 131), 
two other species of pearl-producing moUusks are collected 
in the Madras Presidency. One of these is a species of 
mussel, bright green in colour, known as Mytihis stiiarag- 
dinns, collected from the estuary of the Sonnapore River, 
near Berhampore. Small pearls of inferior quality are 
found therein, and are sold chiefly for chunam'"^ and for 
placing in the mouths of deceased Hindus. The other 
species is \h& Placnna placenta — the so-called " window- 
glass " shell— which is abundant from Karachi, near the 
Baluchistan border, to the Kanara district south of Bom- 
bay. It is found also in Pulicat Lake, and in the vicinity 
of Tuticorin. Where it occurs in any abundance it is 
collected for the sake of the small pearls found therein. 
These pearls are highly valued by the Hindus, in calcined 
or powdered form, for medicinal purposes, and especially 
for mixing with the betel-nut ; they are also in consider- 
able demand for placing in the mouths of deceased Hindus 
of the middle class, instead of the sea pearls which are 
used by the wealthy, or the rice employed in a similar 
manner by persons of poorer rank. The practice of 
placing pearls in the mouth of the dead is an old one 
in India an-d was noted by Marco Polo more than 600 
years ago."- As we shall see later on in this chapter, 

"" Mncent, "The Commerce and Navigalion of the Ancients in the 
Indian Ocean," London, 1807, vol. ii., p. 5[g. 

" Chunam : lime prepared from burnt .shells, etc. , used for building 
purp,oses, and by natives for mixing with betel for chewing. 

''- Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit., p. 310. 



90 Shells as evidence of the Migraiions. 

it is also a very ancient custom in China, and, more 
interesting still, in the New World, where it appears to 
have been carried by the great wave of megalithic culture 
compounded of so many curious and remarkable elements. 
In no other way can it be accounted for here, as it is in- 
conceivable that such an arbitrary practice could have 
developed independently in Asia and in America. 

India is the home of many strange ideas concerning the 
origin of pearls. From very early times they have been 
considered as consolidated dew-drops, which Buddha in 
certain months showered upon the earth, when they were 
caught up by the gaping oysters whilst floating on the 
waters to breathe.'^-' Streeter"'* quotes many other equally 
curious superstitions regarding their origin, from a work 
by a native Indian Prince, the Rajah Sourindro Mohun 
Tagore. In his ' Mani-Mald or a treatise on Gems,' ^' 
this writer, in addition to the dew-drop theory, refers to 
the general belief that pearls originate in clouds, ele- 
phants, boars, conch-shells, fish, serpents, and bamboos. 
The cloud-begotten idea seems to be a variant of the 
dew-drop origin. " Pearls that originate in the head of 
the Elephants of Khambogia are large as the fruit of the 
euiblic Myrobalan, heavy, and more yellow, but not more 
lustrous than the other kinds." "Pearls which originate 
in the head of the Boar are generally white, like the tusks 
of that animal." " A pearl derived from the conch-shell 
is of large dimensions, has the same colour as the inner 
surface of that shell-fish, and is productive of good fortune 
to its possessor."* " Pearls attained from the mouth of sea- 
fish are singularly round, small and light. Those which 

^^ Lovell, op. cit.^ p 47. 
°* Streeter, op. cil ., pp. 57-62. 
'•'- 2 vols., Calcuita, 1881. 

5c I'earls aie well-known from Sirovilnis., Tiirbinei/a, and other conch- 
shells. 



Disttibution of Pearls and Pcarl-sJiell. 91 

originate in whales are agreeably round, but not highly 
lustrous." " "Pearls which originate in the crest of Serpents, 
are beautifully round .... the serpents who bear them 
are the descendants of Vasuki, sovereign of the snakes, 
are not born everywhere, and are rarely seen by men in 
some sacred ground.""' "Pearls which originate in the 
Bamboo are clear as the moon, and are like the Kakkol 
fruit in shape." 

The same Indian authority says further, " In certain 
places pearls are found on the head of frogs ; learned 
men class them with serpent-pearls." This prominent 
Indian belief which makes the head of the frog or 
toad Nature's laboratory for the manufacture of pearls, 
was at one time widely prevalent in the British Isles. 

This idea is immortalized in the familiar lines of 
Shakespeare — 

" Sweet are the uses of adversity, 
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, 
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head." 

On the Indian idea of the supposed medicinal proper- 
ties of pearls the Rajah Sourindro Mohun Tagore has 
much to say in the work already quoted. The burnt 
powder of these gems, if taken with water, cures hemor- 
rhages, prevents evil spirits working mischief in men's 
minds, cures lunacy and all mental diseases, jaundice, etc., 
etc. Used as a dentifrice it strengthens the gums and 
cleans the teeth. Rubbed over the body with other medi- 
cines it cures leprosy and all skin diseases. And so on, 

In addition to the pearls themselves, the burnt pearl- 
shells are also looked upon as efficacious in the cure of 
many ailments ; but chank-shell powder appears to sur- 

°' Plin)-, "N. H.," bk. ix.. ch. 24, mentions fish which have a "stone" 
in the head. He refers doubtless to the ear-bones or otoliths. 

" ' Is this a confusion of the pearly-like granules and shields found in 
slugs, the 'snail-stones' credited with the propert)' ofstrengthening eyes, etc. ? 



92 Skills as evidence of the Migrations. 

pass either of these substances, the special significance 
and auspicious nature of the chanl< inspiring the confi- 
dence of patients in the value of this medicine.^" 

The superstitious reverence paid to these white shells 
by the Hindus and other oriental people, recalls the 
reverence paid by the Greeks and Romans to snails and 
other shells. The internal pearly-like shell of some of 
the slugs was believed by them to be highl\- efHcacious in 
the cure of fevers, diseases of the head or headaches. 
The granular substance representing the shell in some 
species was also believed to facilitate teething if suspended 
from the necks of infants.™ In the same category are to be 
included the worn fragments of shells, or " snail-stones," 
which were formerly much commended in Guernsey and 
the Highlands of Scotland as a remedy for diseases of the 
eyes.'" According to Humboldt,"' similar worn fragments 
of shell, known as " eye-stones " {piedras de los ojos), were 
regarded by the inhabitants of Araya, Venezuela, S. 
America, as possessing extraordinary powers in the ex- 
pulsion of foreign particles accidentally introduced into 
the eye. Kunz'" also records that " eye-stones or opthalme 
are taken from the crawfish in the Sandwich Islands. 
They have been used from time immemorial for removing 
dust or other particles from the eye." These " eye-stones " 
are probabl)' the so-called "crab-stones " or " crab's-eyes," 
the concretions of carbonate of lime, developed on either 
side of the stomach in the lobsters, crayfish, etc., before 
the time of moulting. 

'° .See Ilorneirs inleresting work on "The Sacred Chank of India," 
Madras Fiilurits Bulletin, No. 7, 1914, especially Cliap. iii. 

■■''• Pliny, "N. H.," bk. xxix., ch. 36. 

'^ Johnston, "An Introduction to Conchology," London, 1S50, p. 78. 

'■- Humboldt, " Pers. Narrative," )., p. 197 (Bohn's lid.). 

"' G. V. Kunz, "Folk-lore of Precious Storn:s," Memoirs Inlernat. 
Collar. Antlirop., Chic^o, 1894, p. 273. 



Distrihition of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 93 

In European countries these concretions were formerly 
used in tlie preparation of certain medicines.*^ 

Lil<e the pearl fisheries of southern India, those 
situated off the nortli-west coast of Ceylon, in the Gulf 
of Manaar, directly south of Adams Bridge, are of very 
great antiquity. They are said to have been well-known 
to the Phcenicians who traded here in purple robes 
and other commodities."^ Pliny"" refers to Taprobane 
(Ceylon) as the most productive of pearls of all parts of 
the world. Ptolemy, Strabo, and other ancient writers 
also speak of their importance. According to the 
" Mahavansa," pearls figure among the native products 
sent as presents from King Vigaya of Ceylon to his 
Indian father-in-law, in about 550 B.C. ; and again when 
in 306 B.C., King Devanampiyabissa sent an embassy to 
India the presents are said to have included eight kinds of 
Ceylon pearls.'' According to Tennent"" the eight kinds 
of pearls were : " haya (the horse) ; gaja fthe elephant) ; 
ratha (the chariot wheel); maalaka (the nelli fruit); 
valaya (the bracelet) ; anguliwelahka (the ring) ; kakuda- 
phala (the kabook fruit) ; and pakatika, the ordinary 
description." 

The only other locality in Ceylon where pearls are 
obtained is Tamblegam Lake, on the north-eastern coast, 
near Trincomali. Here Placuna fishing is carried on for 
the sake of the diininutive pearls contained in them. 
These are exported to the coast of India, to be burned 
into lime for mixing with betel for chewing. (Tennerit, 
op. cit., ii,pp. 491-2.) 

" Jeffreys, " Brit. Concli." i. 1862, p. I.w. 

*° Streeter, op. cit., p. 186 ; TennenI, "Ceylon," London, 1859, 2nd 
ed., vol. i., p. 551. 

"I' Pliny, "N.H.," bk. ix., ch. 54. 

*^ W. A. Herdman, " J<eport on the pearl oyster fisheries of Ceylon.'" 
"Royal Society, London, pt. i., 1903 ; also Kunzand Stevenson, <)/>. «'/., p. 4. 
<=>* Tennent, op. cit., i., p. 446. 



94 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

We have little definite information regarding the 
early use of the fresh-water pearls of India except the 
statement in the " Feriplus '""' that a considerable traffic, 
consisting of pearls, betel, Gangetic spikenard, and Gan- 
getic muslins, passed through the market town of Ganges, 
situated on the river of the same name. Schoff, in his 
annotations of this work says "these (pearls) were not of 
best quality ; as Dr. Taylor remarks, those of the Ganges 
streams are inferior, being small, often irregular, and 
usually reddish." 

Eastward of India a most interesting pearl fishery 
exists in the Mergui Archipelago (Lower Burma). 
According to Kunz and Stevenson (pp. cit., p. 134), this 
fishery originated with the Selangs or Salangs, a nomadic 
race of maritime gipsies, supposed to be of Malay descent. 
Their early history is unknown, and no information exists 
as to vvhen these people first found profit in searching for 
pearls. It was probably many centuries ago, and for a 
long time they made contributions of them to the Buddhist 
rulers of Burma. 

In the Malay Archipelago pearl-oysters are among 
the important resources of the seas surrounding Sumatra, 
Java, Borneo, Celebes, the Aru Islands, the Moluccas 
and New Guinea. For hundreds of years pearl-shell and 
pearls have been gathered by the natives from these 
waters, and especially on the coast of the Aru Islands, 
Halmahera, and adjacent Islands, on the east coast of 
Celebes, and about the Sunda group. Pearl-oysters also 
occur near many other islands in this neighbourhood, 
including the Sulu Archipelago and the Philippines.™ 

•° "The Periplu.s of the Erythrean Sea : Travel and Trade in the 
Indian Ocean by a merchant of the First Century." Translated from the 
Greek and annotated by Wilfrid H. Schoff. London, 1912. 

'" Voji Hessling, op, cil., pp. 71-4; Kiinz and Stevenson, <?/. cit., pp, 
212 seq. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 95 

Throughout Malaysia, including the Philippines and 
Sulu Islands, the pearl is known as mutya, mootara, 
inutyara, or some similar name, closely resembling the 
Sanskrit mukta, or the Cingalese inootoo, indicating the 
source of the influence that inaugurated the fishery and 
trade of this region." 

At Pados Bay, island of Borneo, Plaatna fishing is 
also carried on, and the shells, dried meat, and the seed- 
pearls they contain, all form important articles of 
commerce. The seed-pearls are used as a form of currency 
between the fishermen and the Chinese traders.'' 

Throughout the Malay Archipelago, and especially 
on the coast of Borneo, the natives allege that " breeding 
pearls " exist, that is to say, there are pearls which possess 
the power of reproduction or rather germination. It is 
the generally accepted belief that if a few pearls of good 
size are sealed up in a box together with some grains of 
rice and a little cotton wool, they will increase in number 
as well as in size. It is asserted that on opening the box 
after several months, one or more small pearls will be 
found therein, and the original ones none the worse ; but 
the grains of rice will have the appearance of having 
their ends nibbled as if by rodents." 

In China pearls appear to have been held in great 
esteem since before the Christian era. They are re- 
peatedly mentioned in the ancient literature of that 
country, but, owing to the traditional nature of some of 
these works, it is impossible to fix, with any degree of 
accuracy, the period when they were first appreciated. 
Some translators of Chinese books give a date as early as 

fi Ibid. 

'^ Kunz and Stevenson, of. cil., p. 221. 

'= Streeler, op. cit., p. 69 ; Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit,, p. 296. 



g6 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

the 231-d century B.C., but other authorities are incUned to 
take a more moderate view. 

One of these early Chinese works, the " Shan Hai 
King," presents us with some extraordinary information 
regarding the existence and origin of pearls. According 
to Streeter," " the 4th book of this work, or ' The Classic 
of Mountains and Rivers,' refers to the Li river, one of the 
affluents of the Tung-Ting Lake, which drains the north- 
west portion of Hunan. 'In it are many Chu-pick fish' 
(or water animals). ' These look like lungs, but have eyes 
and six feet, and they have pearls. They taste sour but 
pleasant, and are not unwholesome' . . . The same work 
also states that wild animals were found which looked like 
sucking-pigs, but have pearls" The identity of the 
curious Chu-pick fish is not clear. Streeter says their 
existence is confirmed in Llishi's edition of the " Book of 
Confucius," and remarks : "they are probably cuttle-fish 
with six; tentacles." Cuttle-fish, however, are essentially 
marine animals, and, moreover, possess at least eight arms, 
or tentacles. As mentioned previously (p. 92), concretions 
of carbonate of lime, resembling pearls, are found in some 
forms of freshwater crustaceans, such as the crayfish, but 
here again, though eyes are present, these animals have 
eight legs. It is not unlikely that the pearl-bearing 
animals in question were freshwater mussels, the addition 
of the eyes and feet being due to some confusion in the 
translation of the passage. 

In the oldest Chinese dictionary, the " Eh'-ya," pearls 
are mentioned as precious products of Shensi in the 
western part of the Empire. As Shensi is an inland 
province in the very heart of China, these again must 
have been freshwater pearls." 

"•'■ Sireeter, op. cil., p. 63. 
" Ibid., pp. 27 and 253. 



Distribution of Pearls mid Pearl-shell. gy 

In the "Tribute of Yli " (Shoo King, pt. iii., bk. i,)/" 
we find it stated that Yll received as tribute, " oyster- 
pearls and fish " and " baskets full of deep azure silks," 
from the wild tribes about the river Hvvae (or Hwai), 
between the Ho and Keang rivers [Kiangsu, E. China] ; 
and from the district of King-chow he received " strings of 
pearls that were not quite round," together with "baskets 
filled with deep azure and purple silken fabrics."" 

Though seemingly acquainted with the local fresh- 
water pearls at a very early period, it would appear that 
the marine pearl was unknown to the Chinese until about 
400 B.C., when commercial intercourse between China and 
the west had become fully established. 

According to Lacouperie,™ to whom we are indebted 
for much valuable information concerning the pearl-trade 
in China, traders from the Indian Ocean (Erythrean Sea) 
arrived in the Gulf of Kiao-tchou (South Shantung) in 
the 7th century IJ.C. They established two colonies at 
this place and entered into trade relations with cities in 
Shantung, Shansi, Shensi, Kiangsu, Honarj, and other 
states. Though pearls are not mentioned among the 
objects they introduced at this period, it is not a little 
curious to find that their sphere of influence coincides in 
a remarkable manner with the area where pearls are said 
to have been first known in China. This fact is significant 
and would seem to suggest that it was through the 
influence of these traders that the Chinese commenced to 

"^ See translation by Dr. James Legge, in " The Chinese Classics," 
1865, vol. iii., pi. i., pp. 107 and 116, 

^^ We have no means of ascertaining the source of the purple colour 
of the silks used as tribute, but the point is of interest in connection with the 
celebrated purple of the ancient Tyrians. Is it possible that this famous dye 
had been introduced already into China? 

'* Lacouperie, op. cit. 



98 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

fish for the pearls contained in the mussels of the local 
rivers. 

About the 5th cei>tury i!,c., Erythrean merchantmen 
began to use Hang-tchou Bay as a calling station, in 
addition to their earlier and more northern ports in the 
Gulf of Kiao-tchou, bringing with them large pearls from 
the Persian Gulf, and mother-of-pearl from the Indian 
Ocean. This latter commodity is stated to have been 
used to adorn the tomb of Duke Yii of Tsin, who died in 
419 B.C. That the real pearl was a novelty at this period 
is gathered from the expressions used by writers of the 
4th century Meh-ti, Lieh-tze, Tsou-hien, and others. In 
some cases it is associated with the Ye-Kwang — the stone 
which shines at night, otherwise yakut ruby of Bardak- 
shan. " And the name of Ming-gwet, a transfer and folk- 
etymology of the western word for it, shows moreover its 
western origin, most probably from the pearl fisheries of 
the Persian Gulf, not of Ceylon."™ 

From this time onwards pearls were among the staple 
articles imported into China by these same traders, though 
the latter had several times to change their stations 
and retreat southward owing to civil wars and the advance 
in power of the Chinese. They used Kwei-ki, near the 
present Ning-po, as their emporium until the Han Empire 
extended its sway there in 201 B.C., when they made Tung- 
yeh (present Fuhtchow of Fu-kiang) their station for a 
time, importing big pearls from the Persian Gulf These 
were transhipped from there to Kwei-ki, which was a 
market for them. In 187 — 140 B.C., one Tchu-tchung was 
trading in pearls at Kwei-ki, some of the gems being of 
remarkably large size. 

'" Lacouperie, o/. «'/., pp. 180- 1 and 365; Ming-gwet, mod. Miiif;- 
ytieh, shining moon. — Cf. Sanskrit, marakata ; Greek, viaragdos ; Latin, 
margarita ; Persian marvid; etc.^ (fide Lacouperie). 



Distribntioyi of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 99 

The rising of the Nan-Yueh kingdom attracted the 
foreign trade to the region of the present Canton, and on 
the conquest by the Nan-Yueh emperor of the country 
westward, in 179 15. C, the Hormuzian or Hwang-tchi 
(yellow-fingered) sea-traders,"" as they were called, estab- 
lished themselves in the Island of Hainan, where they 
discovered pearls on the west coast and created the pearl 
fisheries of Tchu-yai, i.e. the coast of pearls (present 
Yai tchou). They traded with the Nan-Yueh through a 
station called Hop-pu, near the present Pakhoi, their 
goods reaching the principal market of Heng shan, east of 
Nan-ning, in S.W. Kwangsi, on the Yii Kiang leading by 
the Pearl river to Canton. 

In no B.C., tliese Hormuzian sea-traders once more 
removed their chief landing place, establishing it further 
south, on the west of Cape Cambodia, on the ea.st side of 
the Gulf of Siam, in Tcham, the Zabai of Ptolemy. From 
here they traded Persian Gulf pearls to Kattigara and 
Hoppu (near the present Pakhoi). 

In the early Christian era, Cingalese traders seem to 
have taken over most of the trade with China. Amonsr 
the articles of commerce mentioned in the Annals of the 
Eastern Han dynasty, in 69 A.D,, are bright pearls and 
oyster-pearls from Ceylon."^ 

It is of some interest to note here that pearls are 
obtained at the present day in the Gulf of Siam from a 
small oyster with a thin shell. Kunz and Stevenson {op. 
at., p. 149) inform us that " the Siamese do not especially 
value pearls, attributing superstitious .sentiments or ill 

" Names derived from Hormuzia, near the Persian Gulf, and from the 
use of henna to dye their fingers. 

" Lacouperie, op. cit., p. 252, and p. 255 note 11 12; Kwang-tchu, i.e. 
bright pearls, different in name from the Ming-gwet pearls of the Persian 
Gulf; pang-ichu, oyster-pearls (? pearl-oyster shells). 



lOO Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

luck to them." They further remark : " Some fine old 
specimens of marquetry in which these [pearl] shells were 
used exists in the Buddhist temples at Bangkok. This art 
of inlaying is almost lost to-day among the Siamese, and 
there is said to be onl\' one man in the king's palace who , 
can lay any claims to proficiency in working mother-of- 
pearl shell." 

In China during the Han dynasty, De Groot informs 
us,'- " pearls also occupied a place among the objects 
which were introduced into the mouth of the dead. At 
least it is stated in the funeral ritual for the Sovereigns of 
this house that 'their mouths were filled with rice, and 
pearls and jade stone were put therein, in accordance with 
the established ceremonial usages.' And the ' Poh hu 
thung i,' a well-known work professedly written in the 
first century, says : ' On stuffing the mouth of the Son of 
Pleaven with rice, they put jade therein ; in the case of a 
feudal lord they introduce pearls, in that of a Great officer 
and so downwards, as also in that of ordinary officials, 
cowries are used to this end.'" 

The free use of pearls and other precious objects in 
connection with the ritual of the dead, is said to be founded 
on a desire to procure light for the soul, that it may be 
conducted safely along its paths in the dark beyond. But 
the chief object of this practice, it would a[)pear, is to save 
the body from a speedy decay.*' 

The custom of placing articles of value in the mouth 
of the dead is analogous to similar practices widely 
prevalent in other parts of the world. It is well known to 
have obtained among the Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus 
and the ancient Mexican emperors."^ 

"2 De Groot, "The Religious System of China," Leyder. 1S92, vol. i., 
p. 277. 

8' Ibid., p. 278. [On this question, however, see the Intioductiun lu 
the present book]. 

a-" Ibid., p. 279, footnote. 



' Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. loi 

Reference has already been made {snpra p. 89) to the 
plachig of pearls in the mouths of deceased Hindus ; a 
similar custom was practised by the " mound builders" of 
the Mississippi valley (see p. 1 14). 

Pearls are frequently alluded to in Chinese literature 
as the depositories of Yang matter, and as such ranked 
among the bearers of vitality. Medical works declare that 
they can ensure and facilitate the procreation of children, 
and these same books say that pills made of pearls mixed 
with the blood from the comb of a cock and inserted in 
the eyes of a person who has suddenly expired, or lost 
his speech, can be useful in recalling the person to life.-' 

The valves of Uiiio tientsinensis, the Ko-fen of the 
Chinese, are used by these people as a powder in medicine, 
and occasionally as one of the ingredients of pills, as a 
substitute for the pearls from the marine pearl-oyster. On 
account of the costliness of pearls from the latter source, 
pills and powders made from them are said to possess 
marvellous powers of cure, and are even used in the treat- 
ment of small-pox.'" 

It would seem that in China, and in other oriental 
countries, a distinction is made in the therapeutic pro- 
perties of so-called " virgin " pearls and of those pierced 
or bored for stringing. One Chinese natural history states 
that bored pearls will not serve for medicine, for which 
unpierced ones should be used.*' 

Legends of "lightning pearls," " pearls shining during 
the night," " pearls lighting like the moon," inter alia, 
are current in considerable numbers in the native litera- 

'° Ihid., pp. 217 and 277. 

"'• Lovell, op. lit., pp. 75 and 102, quoting J. O. Desbeau.\, " Essai sur 
la I'harmacie et la Maliere Medicale des Chinois." 

'" Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit., pp. 30S-9. , 



20£ SIiclls as evidenci' of the Migrations. 

ture. Allusions are made to pearls so brilliant that they 
were visible at a distance of nearl\" a thousand yards. 
Rice, it is alleged, could be cooked by the light from them. 
One found about the beginning of the Christian era, near 
Yangchow-fu, province of Kiang-su, was reported so 
lustrous as to be visible in the dark for a distance of 
three miles."'' 

The " Ch'eng Yii K'ao," compiled by Ch'iu Chin, 
alias Wen Chuang, a famous scholar of the Ming dynasty 
(born A.D. 1419; died 1495),'"" contains several interesting 
references to pearls, some of the most curious being that 
" pearls can ward off the calamity of fire " ; " the mermaid 
wept tears that became pearls " ; " Ma Ku threw grains of 
rice which became pearls " ; and : " He who cut open his 
stomach to hide the pearl loved mammon more than his 
life." T'ai Tsung of the T'ang dynasty (A.D. 627 — 650), 
when warning his minister against covetousness, and 
licentiousne.ss, said that those who were guilty of these 
offences were as worthy of ridicule as the merchant from 
Syria, who opened his stomach to hide the pearl. One 
Chinese work states that when the whale dies, its eyes 
are changed into pearls.™ 

Regarding the origin of pearls man)' fantastic theories 
are to be found in ancient Chinese literature. By some 
writers they are credited as originating in the brain of 
the fabled dragon, and frequent allusions are made to 
pearls under the throats and in the mouths of these 
creatures. In China and Japan, as well as in India, pearls 
were considered to be in the special possession of dragon- 

^^ De Grool, op. cil., p. 277 ; Kun?. and Stevenson, op. cit , p. 5. 

*» See translation by J. H. Stewart Lockliart in " A Manual of Cliinese 
r^iuoiations," Hong Kong, 2nd Ed., 1903. 

"" ]bid\, pp. 395 and 402. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 103 

shaped sea-gods, or Nagas.*^ These mythological creatures 
— gods of water, thunder, rain, and wind — were believed 
to have their abode in certain ponds and rivers, and 
especially in splendid palaces at the bottom of the sea. 
Hence we find many curious stories in the literature of 
these countries. In Oldham's work " The Sun and the 
Serpent" (London, 1905, p. 61), allusion is made to the 
Nagas of southern India living under the sea in a place 
called the land of gems."" Legge, in the " Sacred Books 
of the East" (vol. xl., p. 211), quotes a legend from 
• Shuangtze, a writer of the 4th century B.C., who says: 
" Near the Ho river there was a poor man, who supported 
his family by weaving rushes. His son, when diving in a 
deep pool, found a pearl worth a thousand ounces of 
silver. The father said : ' Bring a stone and beat it to 
pieces, a pearl of this value must have been in a pool 
nine khung deep and under the chin of the black dragon. 
That you were able to get it must have been owing to 
your liaving found him asleep. Let him awake, and the 
consequences will not be small.'"" Another old Chinese 
account of the Lien-chan district, in the Canton province 
(Kwantung), states : " In the sea there is an island with a 
lake, into which the barbarous natives dive for shells ; 
some years they are abundant, and in others scarce. 
There is a myth amongst the fishermen of a walled city 
at the bottom, guarded by monsters, containing pearls of 
large size and splendour, but which cannot be obtained 
for the guards ; small ones, growing outside the city walls 
like grass, being the only ones obtainable."'" 

"' On the subject of the Chinese dragon, see Dr. M. W. de Visser, 
" The Dragon in China and Japan," Amsterdam, 1913. 
"'^ W. J. Perry, op. cit., p. 11, quoting Oldham. 
"■■' Kunz and Stevenson, op. di., p. 302, quoting Legge. 

"•' F. Hague, " On the Natural and Artificial production of Pearls in 
China,"yw<r«. Roy. .-\siat. Soc. G. B. 6f /., vol. xvi., pt. 2, .-Vrt. xv., p. 281, 



I04 S lulls as evidence of tlie Mis;rations. 

All these myths seem to be modifications of the 
old idea of social relations between pearl-oysters and 
sharks, or of the curious story quoted by Fliny (Bk. ix., 
ch. 55) from Megasthenes that pearl-oysters lived in 
communities, just like swarms of bees, each of them being 
governed by one remarkable for its size and great age 
(or splendour), and which at the same time possessed 
marvellous skill in keeping its subjects out of danger ; 
the divers, it is said, took especial care to find these, so 
that the others might easily be taken. 

The art of artificial pearl-making seems to have been 
practised by the Chinese for several centuries. Mr. F. 
Hague, British Consul at Ningpo, informs us that "there 
is a note that at the commencement of the seventh 
century, pearls were made of a composition or medicine. 
The art may have been lost, or it may be the same as that 
now employed at, and which originated at. Canton.'"® In 
conjunction with Dr. ]Mc Gowan, an .American physician 
resident at Ningpo, the method pursued by the Chinese 
with the " Mussel-pearl " was carefully investigated, and 
excellent accounts of this interesting industry have been 
published.'* The practice of the art is carried on in two 
villages near the city of Teht-sing (Titsin) in the northern 
part of Chihkiang (Chekiang), in a silk-producing region. 
In May or June, quantities of large freshwater mussels 
{Dipsas plicai?is) are brought from the Tahu, a lake in 
Kiang-su, some thirty miles distant, and after a few days' 
respite in bamboo cages in water, various matrices are 
introduced between the animal and the shell by means 
of a bifurcated bamboo stick. After a sufficient number 
has been treated they are placed in canals, pools, and 
streams. In about a ^ear the matrices become incrusted 

■■5 Ibui., p. 282. • 

»« Jbiil, pp. 280-4 ; and McGowan, Jourii. of Soc. of Arts, ii., pp. 72-5. 



Distribution of Feails and Pearl-sliell. 105 

with the pearly nacre, and the mussels are taken out of 
the water, and the " pearls " detached by a sharp knife. 
The matrices used vary in form and substance, the most 
common being pellets of mud. Another class consists of 
small images, especially of Buddha, in the usual sitting 
position, or sometimes of a fish ; they are made of lead, 
cast very thin. The invention of the art is attributed to 
a native of the place, named Ye-jin-yang, to whom a 
temple has been erected, in which divine honours are paid 
to his image. Me is said to have lived about a.d. 1200 — 
1300. The topography of Chihkiang mentions a pearl 
sent to Court in 490 A.D., which resembled Buddha, being 
three inches in size. The resemblance, however, may have 
been fanciful ; the "pearls" now made are but half-an-inch 
long. 

Other writers have given similar accounts of this 
curious industry, but the most remarkable is that related 
by Mary Roberts in her little book on the " Popular 
History of the Mollusca" (1851, pp. 275-6). She tells 
us that in the possession of Sir Joseph Banks were 
" several Chinese Chama; [? Unio\ in the shells of which 
were contained bits of iron wire, covered \yith a substance 
of a pearly nature. These wires had evidently once been 
sharp, and it seemed as if the moUusks, anxious to secure 
themselves against the intrusion of such unwelcome 
visitors, had encrusted, and thus rendered blunt, the 
points with which the)' came in contact." She concludes 
by remarking : " may not, therefore, the process employed 
hi past ages be still practised.' And are we not authorized 
in conjecturing that these bits of iron, which probably 
had slipped from the hands of the Chinese workmen, and 
remained in the animal, resembled the spikes noticed by 
Philostratus as being used by the ancient people who 
inhabited the banks of the Red Sea, for the purpose of 



io6 Shells as evidence of t lie Migrations. 

pricking mussels? " In view of the fact that the Chinese 
retain, with few alterations, the arts and customs of their 
ancestors, these suggestions are not at all improbable. 
In this connection it will be of interest to notice the 
particular skill possessed bj- the Chinese in drilling holes 
in pearls. This, as pointed out by Lacouperie {op. cit., 
p. 241, note 1037), they may have learned from the pearl- 
traders of Hormuz who were celebrated for their ability 
in this respect, and to whom Ceylon pearls were sent for 
that purpose. 

At what period pearls were first appreciated in Japan 
is not known. The occurrence of pearls on the coasts of 
that country is repeatedly alluded to in ancient works 
relating to Japan. According to Kunz and Stevenson,'^ 
they are mentioned in the Nihonki, of the eighth centur\-, 
the oldest Japanese history. Dr. T. Nishikawa also states 
they were used in Japan for ornamental purposes more 
than a thousand years ago. Large pearls derived from 
the abalone, or Halioiis, are found in images of Buddha 
made in 300 A.I). Freshwater pearls, from Dipsas and 
Unio, appear to have been also used."' In jMarco Polo's 
time these people still carried on the Chinese custom of 
placing pearls in the mouth of the dead. We learn from 
this famous traveller that "in the island of Chipan-gu 
(the kingdom of Japan), the Chinese Jih-pan-Kwe, rose- 
coloured pearls were abundant, and quite as valuable as 
the white ones," that " some of the dead were buried and 
others were burnt," and "when a body was burnt they put 
one of the rose-coloured pearls in the mouth, for such is 
their custom."'" These coloured pearls were doubtless 
derived from conch-shells. 

■'" Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit.^ p. 147. 
»* Ibid., i>. 414. 

■'^ Colonel Henry Yule, C.B.. "The Book of Ser Marco Polo" (Book 
iii., ch. ii.), vol. ii., p. 200. 



Distribution of Pearls mid Pearl-shell. 107 

In 1727, Kaempfer noted that pearls were obtained 
by the Japanese from small sorts of oysters, called akoja, 
not unlike the Persian pearl-oyster ; also from the yellow 
•snail shell and from the taira gai {Placuna), and especiall)' 
from the awabi or abalone {Haliotis)™ 

From narratives of China by the Jesuits, there appears 
to be some evidence of a former pearl fishery in the 
neighbourhood of Saghalin Island, but the intelligent 
navigator, M. de la I'erouse, expressed much doubt on 
this point. He acknowledged that his people found 
oysters that contained pearls, and admitted it possible 
that a few families of fishermen may have united together 
for the purpose of fishing for pearls, in order to exchange 
them for nankeens and other articles of commerce from 
China ; but he did not observe that an}' of the natives of 
the places at which he touched on the coast estimated 
this kind of pearl more than common beads."'^ There 
seems to be, however, ample evidence of old-established, 
pearl-fisheries in this region, judging from the various 
records summarized by Von Hessling in 1859 {op. cit., 
pp. 201-4). In Manchuria, he tells us, pearls have been 
-fished, from the oldest time to the present day, in the 
streams which flow into the Songari, a tributary of the 
Amur. Witsen, writing in 1705, mentions the pearls from 
the Gan, a tributary of the .Amur, and also from the 
islands of the Amur at the junction of the Skilka and 
Argun. Pearl-fisheries were established here by the 
Russians nearly two centuries ago. Pearls are finer and 
more plentiful, says Hessling, in southern Manchuria, 
especially in Lake Heikow or Hing-tchou-men, " Black 
Lake " or " Gate of Precious Gems," where they have been 
fished for ages for the account of the Emperor of China. 

'"'" Kunz and Stevenson, of. cit., pp. 147-8. 

i»i G. A. Cooke, "System of Universiil Geography," vol. i. (1801),' 
P- 574- 



io8 Shells as evidence ofi/ie Migrations. 

Cooke, in i8oi {op. cit., vol. i., p. 435), also speaks 
of the Manchiirian pearls as an article of commerce, 
together with a plant called ginseng.^"'' 

In Kamtchatka, pearl fisheries are recorded from the 
south end of the peninsula (Lopatka), and from Nijni 
Kamtchatsk, on the east coast : these are possibly fresh- 
water fisheries. Pearls have also been found at the 
Kurile Islands, and at Lebashja, on the south coast of the 
Sea of Okhotsk, but these were probably from sea shells, 
Mytilus ednlis or Machaera costata, as no L'nios are 
recorded from these places.'"' 

An interesting reference to very early intercourse 
between north-eastern Asia and China is quoted by 
Lacouperie in his work already cited (p. 353, note 195). 
It appears that the " Shih )■ hi " (kiv. 5) mentions a 
mission of a Nele country in 193 n.C, from be}'ond Fusaiig 
(Saghalin). Dr. G. Schlegel identifies this with the 
country of the Tchuktchis, in which Lacouperie concurs. 
No information is given as to the object of the mission, 
but it seems probable that it was for the purposes of 
trade. If so, it is not unlikely that the envoys would 
learn of the appreciation of the pearl b\' the Chinese — 
who were well acquainted with the gem b\' this date — 
and benefiting by the knowledge, they might have in- 
stituted pearl fisheries on their own account. The present 

^^- Ginseng {Paita.x sckin^cir.;) is a native of T.irtar\' and Noitliern 
China, growing at one time abundantl)- in Manchuria, but its great use in 
China has caused it to become scarce. It is a low iierbaceous plant with 
forked roots, which the Chinese imagine resembles the human form, and is 
supposed to ward off all diseases. It is slightly liitter and aromatic, Ijut is 
not of much repute with Kuropean doctors. Panax ijninijinfo/ia, a native 
of North America, is sometimes substituted for it (Smith, " Domestic 
Botany," 1S71, p. 362). Ginseng is used by the Indians of Canada, Virginia, 
South Carolina, etc., along with Snake root. {Cooke, op. ci/., ii., pp. 32, 
69 and 79). 

1"= Von Hessling, op. a/., p. 204. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 109 

pearl fisheries in this region, detailed above, may be 
survivals of an ancient industry. 

In northern Siberia, according to VVitsen, pearls were 
found in the waters around Mangasea on the Turuchan, 
and a manuscript in the Moscow College notes that they 
were found in the river Tunguska which flows into the 
Yenisei. Witsen also refers to their occurrence in the 
rivers and streams of Irkutsk and Onon ; Pallas speaks 
of the Ilim, a tributary of the Angara, as another river 
where they occur.'"'' 

Kunz and Stevenson (op. cit., p. 410) mention an in- 
teresting discovery (made in southern Siberia in the time 
of Peter the Great) of a broken gold ring with a roughly- 
cut turquoise and two pendants, each set with two pearls 
separated by a garnet. This object is thought to belong 
to the second century before Christ.'"" 

In the Pacific Islands pearls and pearl-shell seem to 
have been appreciated for centuries. Among the native 
ornaments noted by Captain Cook at Tahiti were feathers, 
shells and pearls ; but the latter were worn chiefly by the 
women. In the Marquesas Islands, plates of mother-of- 
pearl decorated the principal head-dress of the natives, 
while ornaments consisting chiefly of pearl-shell were seen 
in Toobouai ; Friendly Islands; Mangeea Island; New 
Caledonia ; New Zealand ; etc. The pearl-shell was also 
found to be emplo)'ed in the construction of fish-hooks in 
many of the islands visited by early navigators.™ 

Since Cook's time a considerable literature has accu- 
mulated on the subject of these pearl-shell fish-hooks. 
Hedley, in his " Ethnology of Funafuti "™ gives a most 

i"* IliiiL, p. 201. 

106 Given as second centuiy A.D. on plate iigiuiiig tlie specimen, 
i»« G. A, Cooke, op. at., i. (iSoi), pp. ,^2, 36, 62, 6;, 84, 85, loi, 
105, II3."I3I> 178, 273 and 31S. 

^"^ Mem. AtisC. I\lns., iii., pp. 266 tt seq. 



I lo S/ie//s as evidence of the Migrations. 

interesting account of their manufacture and distribution 
in the various islands of the Pacific. The pearl-shell' 
hooks he remarks, " represented to the Ellice Islanders 
of past generations their most valued treasures. Apart 
from their intrinsic worth they acquired, as conveying a 
maximum of wealth in a minimum of space, an artificial 
value approximating to the coins of more advanced 
civilisations." They were appreciated to such an extent 
that they were frequently offered to the gods, and on 
Vaitupu, or Tracey Island, where the dead were buried 
inside the houses, they were deposited in the grave with 
the body, accompanied by necklaces and other ornaments. 
In former times messages were transmitted from atoll to 
atoll by means of pearl fish-hooks attached to the wings 
of Frigate-birds."' 

According to Hedley the value of these hooks in the 
Ellice Archipelago was heightened by the rarity and 
inaccessibility of the shell {Avicicla miniiigii) from which 
they are made, the supply being principally from a bed 
in the Lagoon of Nukulailai. This type of hook, he 
informs us, is universal throughout the. Pacific, being used 
alike by Melanesians, Polynesians, and Micronesians. 
Examples are recorded from Manihiki and Mortlock 
Islands, the Gilbert and Hawaiian Groups, Danger Island, 
Strong's Island, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, and the Solomons; 
also from the Carolines, the Marshalls, and the Marquesas. 
In New Zealand, owing to the absence of the true pearl- 
shell, the Maories made use of " pawa" {Haliotis iris) as 
a substitute for the flashing nacre of the Avicula. 

Turner™ informs us that at Nukulailai offerings con- 
sisting of pearl-shell were taken to the temple, and at 

1 " » Hedley, op. cil., p. 266 ; see also pp. 47, 53 and 59 ; and G. Turner, 
"Samoa, etc.," London, 1884, pp. 282 and 2S4. 

"■' G. Turner, op. cil.. pp. 280 and 2S8. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 1 1 1 

Nanomana similar offerings were suspended under the 
altars of the principal gods Foelangi and Maumau. 

Among the Torres Straits Islanders pearl-shells are 
trimmed and worn as breast-ornaments, or carved into 
beautiful crescentic and other shapes to be worn as 
pendants either on the chest or in the ears.™ 

They also appear to have been used in mummifica- 
tion, as Dr. lilliot Smith has recently referred to the case 
of a Torres Straits mummy having the eye-sockets filled 
with a gum or resinous substance in which narrow oval 
pieces of mother-of-pearl were embedded. ""^ 

Crescent-shaped plates of pearl-shell are also in 
common use as breast ornaments in British New Guinea 
and the Solomon Islands, and the same shell is used as 
an inlay to decorate the native canoes."' 

In the Sandwich Islands the e3'es of idols were 
noticed by Captain Cook to be made from large pearl 
oysters, with a black nut fixed in the centre. 

Ellis, in his '' Polynesian. Researches," "■' gives us a 
lucid description of the curious dress worn in Tahiti at 
death ceremonies of chiefs. This consisted of a cap of 
thick native cloth fitted close to the head ; in front were 
two large broad mother-of-pearl shells, covering the face 
like a mask, with one small aperture through which the 
wearer could look. Attached to this head-dress was a 
beautiful kind of network composed of small pieces of 
brilliant mother-of-pearl shell, each being about an inch 
or an inch and a half long, and less than a quarter of an 

ii" A. C. Iladdon, "Reports of Lhe Cambridge Anthropological 
Expedition to Torres Straits," vol. iv., 1912, pp. 40-45. 

Ill "The Migratictis of Early Culture" {Manchester, 1915), p. 93. 

"2 Haddon, op. cit., iv., p. 43; and H. B. Guppy, "The Solomon 
Islands and their Natives," London, 1887, pp. 131 and 146-7. 

11' Vol. i., pp. 412-3. 



1 12 Shells Its evidence of the M ignitions. 

inch wide Every piece was finely polished, and reduced 
to the thinness of a card. Small perforations were made 
at each corner to enable the pieces to be threaded 
together. The labour in making this, Ellis says, must 
have been excessive, as so man\' hundred pieces of pearl- 
shell had to be cut, ground down, polished, and perforated, 
without iron tools. Its manufacture was regarded as a 
sacred work. 

I'earl-oyster shells set in whales' teeth are considered 
to be the most valuable ornament that a Fijian possesses; 
he wears it at dances hanging on his breast, and he is 
forbidden by the chiefs to sell it."^ 

It has been asserted by some historians that pearls 
were unknown in the New World in pre-Columbian times, 
but we have evidence that ages prior to the discovery 
of America by Columbus the ancient inhabitants fully 
appreciated these gems. Quantities of pearls, in many 
cases perforated for stringing as necklaces, etc., have been 
discovered in the mounds erected by the ancient popu- 
lation of the Mississippi Valley. Professor Putnam "° 
records that in excavating the mounds near Madisonville, 
Indiana, not less than fifty thousand pearls were found, 
most of them pierced and injured by heat. Squier and 
Davis "" found them on the hearths of five distinct groups 
of mounds in Ohio, and sometimes in such numbers that 
they could be gathered by the hundred. In addition to 
the pearls, quantities of other interesting objects were met 
with which indicate the e.xistence of inter-tribal com- 
merce on an extensive scale at a remote period. The 

J'* 11. X. Moselcy, "Notes by a Naturalist on H.^[.S. Challenger," 
1892. p. 286. 

115 j'l-g^- J,/,ei-. Axsac. AdT\ Scf., 1S84. 

' "^ Squier and Davis, " Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi \'alley," 
Washington, 184S. 



Distribution of Pearls, nnd Peatl-shell. 1 1 3 

pearls were originally thought to have been brought from 
fisheries in southern waters, but are now considered as 
having been derived, partly, if not entirely, from the fresh- 
water mussels (Unto) so abundant in the rivers of the 
region of the mounds. VV. C. Mills, in his " Explorations 
of the Edwin Harness Mound,""' also speaks of the large 
quantities of freshwater pearls ma;de into beads which 
were found in every section of the Harness Mound. In 
one instance more than two thousand of these beads were 
found with one burial. They are all small, some being 
perfectly round. Several hundred were obtained ranging 
in diameter from a quarter to half an inch. In some cases 
the large pearls had been flattened on one side and set in 
copper ; in others, the pearls were often flattened and 
pierced with two holes, as if for attachment to fabrics, 
etc. The most curious discovery, however, in this mound 
was that of imitation pearls made of clay, and apparently 
modelled from real ones. These clay imitations appear 
to have been coated with mica and then burned so as to 
preserve a pearly appearance. This remarkable discovery 
is of great interest as recalling the clay pellets used by 
the Chinese in their artificial pearl-making industry. 

At the Gartner Mound, in the same region, a shell 
gorget was found with a hole cut in the centre and a 
pearl cut and mounted to fill it."* And gorgets and 
crescents made from fresh-water pearl-shells were by no 
means uncommon in this and other Ohio mounds.' 

In his description of "The Seip Mound," "^ situated 
within the largest prehistoric earthworks of the Paint 

' " Ohio Archaol. and Hist. Quart., vol. xvi., no. 2, 1907. 

1" Mills, " Exploralions of the Gartner Mound and Village Site," 
O/iio Arc/i. and Hist. Quart., vol. xiii., no. 2, 1904. 

^^' Mills, "The Seip Mound," Putnam Anniversary Volume. N.Y., 
1909, pp. no, 1 14 and 122. 



114 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

Creek valley of Ohio, this same authority refers to other 
occurrences of pearls including a beautiful string of these 
gems in a good state of preservation from one burial ; 
also to the discovery of bears' teeth set with pearls' in 
what appeared to be sacred shrines for the dead. 

In addition to the archaeologists cited above, other 
noted authorities, including W. K. Moorehead, have 
examined the mounds of the Ohio region, and have met 
with abundant evidence, both in the burial and in the 
altar mounds, of the ancient appreciation of pearls.'™ 

When found in burial mounds with skeletons, the 
pearls are usually at the wrists or ankles, or about the 
neck, or in the mouth, the latter recalling forcibly the 
Hindu and Chinese custom of placing pearls in the mouth 
of the dead {supra pp. 89 and 100). 

In the case of the altar mounds, there is evidence of 
a different procedure. Instead of a burial, there was a 
great funeral sacrifice in honour of some distinguished 
person, in which numerous treasures, including quantities 
of pearls, were consumed, or meant to be. 

It would seem that though the number of pearls 
encountered in the mounds of the Ohio region is very 
great, the graves which contain them are relatively very 
few. They seem to have been buried only with persons 
of special distinction, probably either chiefs or eminent 
medicine men : this preferential use of pearls, it may be 
observed, was also found in Asiatic countries. 

In the mounds of Illinois pearls have also been met 
with associated with skeletons of Indians. Dr. J. F. 
Snyder records the discovery of large caniiie teeth of the 
bear, set with pearls, at the base of a large mound which 
he opened in 1895, in Brown County, on the west side 

1 - » An excellent summary of the work of these authorities is given by 
Kunz and Stevenson (op. cit., especially in Chap, xvii.) 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 115 

fef the Illinois River. Near by were also the remains of 
a necklace composed of alternate pearls and bone beads. 
The McEvers Mound in Montezuma, Pike Co., Illinois, 
also yielded, according to D. I. Bushnell, the excavator, a 
group of forty-five pearls, including one of beautiful lustre 
weighing fifty-two grains.'^' 

The use of pearls as ornaments, and for depositing with 
the remains of persons of distinction, was also customary 
among the Indian tribes of Virginia. The accounts of early 
explorers and colonists furnish us with many details as 
regards the burial of pearls with the dead and their 
use in religious rites. The first English colonists found 
the Indians of Virginia esteeming pearls among their 
favourite treasures and ornaments. An excellent account 
of these Indians is given by Charles C. Willoughby in the 
" American Anthropologist" (vol. ix., 1907). This article 
is of great interest as dealing with the habits and customs 
of the tribes occupying tidewater Virginia at the time 
of the first colonization. The Indians, a branch of the 
Algonquian stock, formed a powerful confederacy under 
Powhatan comprising some thirty tribes. To the greater 
chiefs tribute was paid in pearls, copper, beads, skins, etc. 
Pearls were also used to adorn the native clothing, as 
well as for necklaces and ear-pendants. Strachey, an 
early explorer, reports having seen " manie chaynes and 
braceletts (of pearls) worne by the people, and wee have 
found plentie of them in the sepulchers of their kings, 
though discoloured by burning the oysters in the fier, and 
deformed by grosse boring." The writings of this and 
other explorers give curious accounts and descriptions of 
the " temples " within which, in a sort of sanctuary or 
" chancel," were kept the dried bodies of deceased chiefs, 
and an image of the god, called Okee, made in the shape 

i''^ Kunz and Stevenson, op. cil., p. 509. 



1 1 6 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

of a man, " all black, dressed with chaynes of perle." The 
process of preserving the remains of the chiefs is described 
as follows: "After the body had been disemboweled, the 
skin was laid back and the flesh was cut away from the 
bones. When this operation was completed, the skeleton, 
held together by its ligaments, was again inclosed in the 
skin, and stuffed with white sand, or with ' pearle, copper, 
beads, and such trash sowed in a skynne.' It was then 
dressed in fine skins and adorned with all sorts of 
valuables, including strings of pearls and beads. The 
same kinds of treasures were also deposited in a basket 
at the feet of the mummy." '" 

The chroniclers of De Soto's expedition to Florida in 
1539, speak of almost fabulous quantities of pearls in the 
possession of the Indians of the parts traversed by them. 
One Portuguese narrator says, "they obtained fourteen 
bushels of pearls" from a certain sepulchre, and it is 
stated that a common foot soldier had " a linen bag, in 
which were six pounds of pearls," and pearls are elsewhere 
spoken of that are " as large as filberts." Garcillasso de la 
Vega says " while de Soto sojourned in the province of 
Ichiaha the cacique visited him one day and gave him a 
string of pearls about two fathoms long. This present 
might have been a valuable one if the pearls had not 
been pierced, for they were all of equal size and as large 
as hazelnuts." '■■' 

" As in Cleopatra's time in Egypt," says Streeter, ''^^ 
" so in Florida, the graves of the kings were decorated 
with pearls. Soto's soldiers found in one of their temples 

^■'■^ Ibid., pp. 486-8. 

1-= Stearns, Rept. U.S. Nat. Mus., 1887(1889), pt. ii., p. 279, quoting 
Irving's " Conquest of Florida " ; see also Grace King, '• De Soto and his 
men in the Land of Florida," New York, 1914, pp. 136-143, etc. 

'-■' Sueeter, op. cil., pp. 45-6. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 117 

great wooden coffins, in which the dead lay embalmed,- 
and beside them were small baskets full of pearls. The 
temple of Tolomecco, however, was the richest in pearls ; 
its high walls and roof were of mother-of-pearl, while 
strings of pearls and pkimes of feathers hung round the 
walls ; over the coffins of their kings hung their shields, 
crowned with pearls, and in the centre of the temple 
stood vases full of costly pearls." 

Though the various accounts relating to the abundance 
of pearls in Florida are probably somewhat exaggerated, 
there seems sufficient evidence to prove that pearls of some 
value were in the possession of the wealthier tribes. That 
they were met with in some numbers in graves seems also 
to be a reliable statement.'"" 

As to the source of these pearls, most of the narratives 
refer to them as coming from the coast of the South Sea 
or Gulf of Mexico. While possibly this was the case with 
some of the pearls, it is more probable that the majority 
came from the freshwater shells (Unios) of the inland 
lakes and rivers. 

In Alabama, pearls pierced for stringing have been 
found in several of the mounds at Moundville by Clarence 
B. Moore, along with a sheet-copper pendant bearing a 
perforated pearl nearly 7 mm. in diameter, and an elliptical 
gorget of sheet-copper decorated with a pearl.'-" Per- 
forated pearl beads have been also found in the Etowah 
Mound, located in Barton County, Georgia.'^', 

At the pre-Columbian capital of Copan, in Western 
Honduras, evidences have been met with pointing to a 
very early use of pearls. G. B. Gordon"* tells us that in 

'^" This quesdon is fully discussed by Kunz and Stevenson {op. cit., 
pp. 252-259). 

'-" Kunz and Stevenson, «/. nV., p. 493. 

^-'' \V. K. Moorehead, " Prehistoric Implements," N. V., 1900, p. 376. 

^^^ G. B. Gordon, "The Mysterious City of Honduras," 77?^ Century 
Magazine, vol. Iv., p. 417. 



1 18 S//c//s (IS evidence of the Migrations. 

exploring a number of isolated tombs beneath the pave- 
ment of courtyards and under the foundations of houses 
at this city, human remains were found associated with 
various articles of use and adornment. " The beads, ear- 
ornaments, medallions, and a variety of other ornaments, 
usually of jadeite," Gordon remarks, " exhibit an extra- 
ordinary degree of skill in the art of cutting and polishing 
stones, while the pearls and trinkets carved from shell 
must have been obtained by trade or by journeys to 
the coast." Thomas Gann, of Yucatan, also states that 
" ornaments such as beads, gorgets, and ear-pendants, 
made from the pearlj^ shell of both the oyster and the 
conch, are of common occurrence in many sepulchral 
mounds in British Honduras and Yucatan.'"'-' 

In Guatemala no pearls appear to have been observed 
in the pre-Columbian graves, but marine shells, whole, 
and elaborated in connection with jadeite beads have 
been found.™ 

On the Pacific coast of Mexico, and especiall}' along 
the coast of Lower California, quite extensive pearl- 
fisheries are prosecuted. The fisheries on the Mexican 
coast appear to have been in existence for centuries. 
European knowledge of these resources dates from the 
conquest of Mexico by Cortes about 1522. Native chiefs 
were found living in primitive huts along the sea-shore, 
with quantities of beautiful pearls Ix'ing around, and from 
a tribe near the present site of Hermosillo, in the State of 
Sonora, Cortes secured quantities of the gems.™ 

Pearls were highly appreciated by the Aztec kings, 
and the gems were employed to decorate statues of the 
gods and their temples, as in India. The temple in which 

1'-° Kunz and Stevenson, of. cii., p. 511. 

i'» Ibid., p. Sir. 

■" Kunz and Stevenson, op. cil.. p. 241. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 1 19 

Montezuma used to pray at night, is said to have had walls 
of beaten silver and gold, decorated with pearls and precious 
stones."' Humboldt refers to a statue of a Mexican 
priestess in basalt, whose head-dress is ornamented with 
pearls"'^ Bateman ^^ likewise mentions an ancient Mexi- 
can horned head-dress, inlaid in mosaic with turquoise, 
malachite, coral (?), and mother-of-pearl. Pearl-shell also 
appears to have been used as an inlay in the Mexican 
mosaic masks in the British Museum, which are pre-, 
Columbian in origin. One of these, a plain mask, is of 
special interest as the eyes are of mother-of-pearl.™ 

Mrs. Zelia Nuttall, in a letter to Kunz and Steven-. 
son,"" writes " that pearls are not mentioned either as 
articles of tribute or of decoration in ancient Mexican 
codices ; possibly a lack of fine, hard instruments with 
which to drill holes in pearls may have caused them to be 
comparatively little used in personal adornment. Neither 
do they appear to have been found incrusted in prehis- 
toric objects, and we have no written evidence of their 
having been used in this way. We do not know of any 
instances of the wearing of pearls by the Indian women; 
but the women of the higher classes used to wear them 
profusely, more especially drop-earrings and pendants." 

W. H. Holmes,"' quoting from Davis' " Spanish Con- 
quest of New Mexico," says: "In travelling north along 
the west coast of Mexico, the Friar Niza encountered 
Indians who wore many large shells of mother-of-pearl 
about their necks, and farther up towards Cibola, the 

' '- Streeter, op. cit., p. 45 ; Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit., p. 23. 

^•''" Humboldt, op. cit., i., p. 191. 

^''' Bateman, "Catalogue of Antiquities." Bakevvell, 1S55, P- 236. 

'''" Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit., p. 510. 

"« /&•«'., p. 433. 

I'" W. H. Holmes, "Art in Shell of the Ancient Americans." Second 

Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, Washington, 1883, p. 256. 



I20 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

inhabitants wore pearl shells upon their, foreheads." 
These facts are of interest as recalling the identical use of 
pearl shell in some of the Pacific Islands — Torres Straits 
Islands, Solomon Islands, etc., — and in Ancient Egj'pt 
{supra p. 74). 

According to the reports of travellers, the natives of 
Mexico, in the i8th century, still appreciated pearls, using 
them along with other jewels to adorn their noses, lips, 
ears, necks and arms.™ 

On the coast of Venezuela extensive pearl fisheries 
have been carried on since before the time of Columbus. On 
entering the Gulf of Paria, in 1498, this voyager found the 
natives in possession of numerous pearls which they were 
wearing on their necks and wrists. They were also seen 
engaged in pearl fishing by the Spaniards, and it is curious 
to note that the views of the Indians regarding the origin 
of the gems were identical with those which obtained for 
ages in the Old World. They regarded them as congealed 
dewdrops, which had been caught by the gaping oysters.''"' 

Another famous American pearl fishery is that of the 
Gulf of Panama, referred to by many early Spanish 
writers. The pearl resources of this region were first 
made known by Balboa's immortal journey in 15 13 
across the Isthmus of Panaina to the Pacific. Having 
reached the Pacific, Balboa proceeded along the coast 
and found the Indians in possession of gold and pearls, 
the latter being used to decorate their paddles. The 
pearl fishery appeared to be the principal source of income 
and wealth of the Indian chiefs.'*' 

Among the pre-Columbian antiquities found in Ecua- 
dor associated with burials was a little box or receptacle 

'^" G. A. Cooke, op. cil., ii., p. 141. 

^^» Streeter, op. cit., p. 223. 

'■"■ Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit., p. 235. 



Distribution of Pearls and Pearl-shell. 1 2 1 

cut from a Cassis shell, the cover of which was a fragment 
of the valve of the pearl-oyster."' This and other dis-. 
coveries of pearls in that country by the same investigator 
point to the existence of pearl fisheries on this coast many 
centuries ago. It is reported that Manta, in the Province 
of Manabi, is the place where the Incas obtained the 
splendid gems found in the temples and palaces of Peru 
by the Spaniards."' 

The Incas of Peru held a curious belief concerning 
pearls ; they regarded them as the " eggs " of the pearl- 
producing shell-fish.'*^ 

The artificial eyes of their mummies have been spoken 
of as pearls, but, according to Tschudi, they are the dried 
eyes of the cuttle-fish {Loligo gigas')}^* 

Rivero and Tschudi"' inform us that the Peruvians 
were accustomed to ornament their textiles by sewing 
upon them leaves of gold and silver, or small pieces of 
mother-of-pearl, etc. ; and in speaking of the Huaca of 
Misa, they say that a stone idol, with mother-of-pearl, was 
formerly met with here, along with mummies, cloths, 
pieces of gold and silver, etc. 

Much further information could be given concerning 
tlie use of pearls and pearl-shell, but enough evidence has 
been collected t6 demonstrate the nature and extent of 
the ideas concerning them. Plowever, mention might be 

"^ M. H. Saville, " Anliquities of Manabi, Ecuador," Conlribulions 
to South American Arcliiieology, N. V,, 1910, vol. ii., p. 177. 

^"^ Kunz and Stevenson, op. cit., p. 282. 

1" W. J. Dakin, " Pearls," Cambridge, 1913, p. 8. 

'^* Tryon, " Structural and Systematic Conchology," vol. ii., 1883, 
p. 24. Cuttle-fish eyes are strung, as pearls for necklaces, on the shores of 
Sicily and Naples ; and the natives of the Sandwich Islands have imposed 
them on the Russians as pearls. Johnston, op. cit., p. 62 footnote. 

'■" i\r. E. Rivero and J. J. von T.schudi," Peruvian Antiquities," New 
York and London, 1857, pp. 224 and 266 (Translation by F. L, Hawks). 



122 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

made of an interesting reference to the use of pearl-shell 
among the Indians of southern Alaska. 

In his description of Port des PVancais, the celebrated 
navigator, M. de la I'erouse, remarks on the ability of the 
Indians of this neighbourhood to inlay boxes of elegant 
form with mother-of-pearl. Unfortunately, he does not 
state whether the true pearl-shell was employed, or that 
of the abalone {Haliotis). This, however, is not of very 
great importance, as the point of chief interest is the fact 
that the use of the pearl-shell for inlay purposes is 
strongly suggestive of Asiatic influence. Other details, 
given by Perouse, concerning the many curious customs 
of these same people, such as ' platform burials,' the 
' special preservation of the head of the deceased and 
cremation of the body,' etc., provide equally suggestive 
evidence of this.'* 

The Haliotis, which also yields good pearls, was 
applied to many varied uses by other savage peoples on 
the Pacific coast of America, especiall}- in California, 
where these pearly shells have been found in great 
numbers in the burial places of the ancient tribes. Putnam 
records the discovery of several objects inlaid with Haliotis 
shell in graves on the islands of Santa Catalina and of 
Santa Cruz, the pieces of shell being held in place by a 
thin cement of asphaltum."' 

The remarkable resemblance between the shell-art 
of ancient California and that of the Pacific Islands is 
very significant. 

'■"^ G. A. Cooke, ofi. cil., ii., p. io6 ; see also Js'iblack, "The Coast 
Indians of Southern Alaska and Northern British Columbia." Jiept. U.S. 
Nat. Miis., 1887-8 (1890), pp. 225-386 

^*' F. \V. Putnam, "U.S. Geographical Survey west of the looth 
Meridian : vol vii., Archjeology." Washington, 1S79, pp. 232-3. 



Chapter IV. 

The Use of Cowry-shells for the Purposes of 
Currency, Araulets, and Charms. 



Of the man}^ varieties of shells used for currency and 
as amulets, the most familiar and extensively employed 
are the cowries, especially the money-cowry (Cypraa 
moneta) and the ring-cowry (Cypraa amiulus) (Figs. 
A Si B, p. 1 56). The small size, shape, and substance of the 
latter renders them peculiarly adapted for use as money, 
and no other species of shell or form of shell-money has had 
so wide-spread and general use. They are distinguished by 
the fact that they can be and are used in a natural state, 
most other forms of shell-money being made from portions 
of larger species. Though known to science under two dis- 
tinct names, the difference between the two forms is so 
slight that by some authorities they are considered as 
merely the extremes of one variable mollusc.'^ Both forms 
are inhabitants of Indo-Pacific seas, and the specimens 
used as currency are derived mainly from the Persian 
Gulf, Maldive Islands, Ceylon, the Malabar Coast, the 
Sooloo Islands (between the Philippines and Borneo), and 
other East Indian Islands ; also from various parts of the 
East African coast, ranging from Ras Hafun (near the 

> Melvill and Slunden, /oiirn. of Conchology, ix., 1899, p. 236; S. R. 
Roberts, "Monograph of the Family CyprreidL^," in Tryon's "Manual of 
Conchology," vol. vii., 18S5, p. 179. 

(123) 



1 26 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

Gulf of Aden) to Mozambique. As currency these shells 
circulate not only through Southern Asia and certain of 
the Pacific Islands, but far into the African continent. 

The term cowry, cowrie, or gowrie, is said by Dr. J. 
Cosmo MelvilP to be derived from a Greek word meaning 
"a little pig," and according to Liddell and Scott this was 
probably the shell used by the Athenian dic'asts in voting. 
" Following the example of the Greeks, the Romans 
termed these little shells /i?m or porctdi, whilst the French 
nowadays term them fiou de vier ; and in the word porcelain 
we can also trace the same derivation" (Melvill, p. 186). 
Deniker,' however, says the term cowry, cowrie, or cauri, 
appears to be a corruption of the Sanskrit word Kaparda, 
whence Kavari in the Mahrattan. Murray's dictionary* 
gives the Hindi and Urdu equivalents as Kaurl{Qx KaudT). 
In Monier Williams' "Sanskrit-English Dictionary"^ the 
following interpretations are given : " Kaparda, as : a small 
shell or cowrie used as a coin and as a die in gambling, 
Cyprcea moneta ; braided and knotted hair, especially that 
of S'iva (knotted so as to resemble the cowrie shell). 
Kapardin, t, ini, i : shaggy ; wearing braided and knotted 
hair like a cowrie shell ; epithet of Rudra, of Pushan, of 
the descendants of Vasishtha and of Durga ; (1) name of 
S'iva ; name of one of the eleven Rudras." 

The Portuguese called the cowry Boudji or Boughi ; 

the inhabitants of the Maldives, Boli ; the Siamese, Bios 

(which means shell in general in Thai). By the Arabs it 

is known under the name ouoadda or vadaat (Deniker, 

op. cit^. 

^ J. C, Melvill, "A Survey of the genus Cyproea," Memoirs and Proc. 
Manch. Lit. &= Phil. Soc, 4th Ser., vol. i. (1887-8), pp. 184-252. 

' Deniker, "Races et peuples de la Terre," Paris, igoo, p. 324 foot- 
note. 

* Murray, " New English Dictionary." 

= Oxford, 1872, p. 201. 



Use of Cowry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 127 

The use of cowries as currency and as amulets or 
charms has been frequently discussed in ethnological 
memoirs. From this literature it is clear, though the fact 
has not always been realised or sufficiently emphasised by 
the authors, that cowries have been for ages regarded and 
even reverenced as charms in hunting and fishing, and as 
amulets against the evil eye. In fishing, especially in the 
Pacific Islands, they are attached to the nets to ensure 
luck, being misnamed " net-sinkers " by many writers on 
ethnology. They have been, and in many places are 
stili, associated with marriage, with the object of securing 
communion with the spirit of fertility, supposed to be 
indwelling in the cowry. In like manner they are used 
in some places as offerings to rivers and springs in order 
to ensure that the rivers will run and springs flow. 

In the following pages an attempt is made to show some 
of the many uses of cowries in different parts of the world. 
The remarkable manner in which some of the customs, in 
which cowries play an important part, crop up in widely- 
scattered localitie.s is very significant, and goes far to 
prove a common centre of origin for these practices. It 
is altogether unreasonable to assume that exactly similar 
customs of so peculiar and wholly arbitrary a nature and 
identical beliefs concerning the cowry could have arisen 
independently among isolated groups of people. 
1 The best and most comprehensive work on the subject of 
shell-money is that by Dr. O. Schneider, on "Muschelgeld- 
Studien."" This work contains some 180 pages dealing 
with the subject, of which about 72 pages are devoted to 
an excellent summary of the extensive literature relating 
to cowry-currency. Some use has been made of this 
work in the compilation of the present chapter, as will 

' Dr. Oskar Schneider, " Muschelgeld-Studien" {Nach dem hinter- 
lassenen Manuskript bearbeitet yon Carl Ribbe). Herausgegeben vom 
Verein fiir Erdkunde zu Dresden. Dresden, 1905. 



128 Shells as evidence of i/ie Migrations. 

be seen by the footnotes. Much further information, how- 
ever, not noted by Schneider, is embodied here, more 
especially with regard to the use of cowries in Ancient 
Egypt, Eastern Asia, North America, and many other 
places. 

Cowries appear to have been appreciated and used as 
amulets at a very early period in Egypt. Both Cyprcea 
vw7ieta and Cypraa annulus — the forms so universally 
used for currency — have been discovered, along with other 
cowries, in Pre-dynastic burials, and both forms have been 
found repeatedly in later graves in Egypt and Nubia. 
According to Lortet and Gailiard," the following species 
of cowries have been found at Karnak : Cypraa vitellus, 
C. iigris, C. pantherina , C. canielopardalis { =inelanostoma), 
C. arabica, and var. kistrio, C.erythi'ceensis,C. caput-serpentis, 
C. vioueta and C. annulus — all species which occur to-day 
in the Red Sea. The larger forms are perforated near 
one end as if for use as pendants. The examples of 
C. nioneta and C. annulus are of peculiar interest from the 
fact . that they have been rubbed down on the back or 
convex side — a custom which is still in vogue among the 
East African people to-day. Of further interest is the 
figure given by the same authors of a reproduction in 
diorite of a Cyprcea vioneta. This object, which is per- 
forated for suspension, was found in the necropolis of 
Rizakat, near Gebelen, Upper Egypt. In a tomb (D 114) 
at Abydos, of xviiith dynasty date, large numbers of 
Cyprcea annuhis were discovered, all of them having been 
rubbed down on the back, as at Karnak.' The same 

■ Lortet & Gailiard, "La Faune Momifiee de rancienne Egypte : 
MoUusque.':," Arch. Mtis. d'HisL Nat. de Lyon, vol. 10, Lyon, 1909, pp. 
108-111; see also List of Species, pp. 3io-3ti. 

s T. E. Peet & W. L. S. Loat, " The Cemeteries of Abydos," pt. III. 
1912-1913, 35tli Mem. Egypt. Explor. Fund, 1913, p. 30, pi. xii., figs. 6 & 9. 
(The Series is now in the Manchester Museum). 



Use of Cowry -shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 129 

species, C. annulus is also recorded froin Koptos" and 
■ Nagadeh, probably of pre- or proto-dynastic date ;'" it is 
also associated with other objects, such as papyrus charm 
pendants, uzat eyes, etc., strung on knotted cords found 
at Kafr Ammar (xxiii — xxvth dynasty)." Reisner in 
"The Archaeological Survey of Nubia (1907-8)"'° gives a 
figure of a small cowry, rubbed down on the back, which 
is probably C. annulus ; it is recorded as occurring in the 
C-group, New Empire, and later graves. Cyprcsa nioneta 
occurs in the list of shells found in graves at El Amrah 
(Pre-dynastic).''' Other species of cowries discovered in 
Egyptian graves are as follows : Cyprcea cauricaf "Pan- 
Graves " at Balabish ;" C. arabica, Koptos ; C. carneola, 
Ballas ; C erosa, Ballas ; C. caurica, Ballas ? ; C. pa7itherina, 
Nagadeh f' C. arabica var reticulata Toukh, Upper Egypt.'" 
These discoveries of cowries in Ancient Egyptian 
graves are of great interest as being the earliest evidence 
' of a special appreciation of these shells. That they were 
worn as amulets by the Egyptians cannot be doubted 
from the fact that so many are perforated for suspension. 
The discovery of so many specimens of the smaller 

» Flinders Petrie, "Six Temples at Thebes, 1896," London, 1897, 
chap. X., p. 30. 

1° Idivi. " Amulets," 1914, p. 27, pi. xiv., f. 107b. 

11 Ibid., p. 29, pi. xvii.,f. 131b, 131C. ; pl.xviii.,f. 1316, I3lf. ; pl.xix., 
f- I3ig- 

^"- Vol. i., ArchtEol. Rept., Cairo, 1910, pi. 66, f. 7 and pi. 70, f. i. 
The C-group belongs to a period corresponding to the Middle Kingdom in 
Egypt. 

1= D. Randall-Maciver & A. C. Mace, "El Amrah and Abydos 1899- 
1901," London, 1902, p. 49. 

1' G. A. Wainwright, " The Excavations at Balabish, "yoK»7j. of Egypt. 
Archeeol., ii., Oct., 1915, pi. xxv., f . 2 (named from photograph). "Pan- 
Graves" are Nubian interments in Egypt and may belong to the period from . 
2000 B.C. onwards. 

1° These five recorded by Flinders Petrie (fide Lortet & Gaillard, op. 
cit., pp. 310-311). 

'« De Morgan {fide Lortet & Gaillard, op. cit., p. 310). 



1 30 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

form, C. anmilus, together in one grave (Di 14) at Abydos, 
would seem to suggest the possibility that cowries may 
have been adopted as a form of cunency at that early 
date. According to Del Mar," Egypt "appears to have 
conducted its exchanges with cowries and scarabs, supple- 
mented possibly at later dates by Lydian or Greek coins 
for foreign commerce, until the Persian conquest, when it 
was supplied with a national coinage, probably of very 
limited extent, by Cambyses and Darius." He further 
remarks: "The Indians who traded with Egypt used 
cowries for money ; the Chinese, who also traded with 
Egypt at a very remote period, used 'tortoise' (probably 
cowrie) shells for money." (Del Mar, p. 147.) 

The money-cowry {Cyprcea monetd) has been found at 
the famous cemetery of Koban, upon the northern slope 
of the Caucasus, almost midway between the Black and 
Caspian Seas, along with bronze and other antiquities.^' 
It has also been recorded from a sandy layer above the 
Tertiaries at Frankfurt-on-Main by Dr. W. Wenz, who 
reports the existence of extensive prehistoric settlements 
of different periods in the immediate neighbourhood." 
Another interesting record is that of Dr. H. Stolpe, who 
states that, among the foreign objects (Cufic money, etc.) 
found in the Island of Bjorko, were many Upper Silurian 
fossils from Gothland, and Cretaceous fossils from Skane, 
also some shells of molluscs from the west coast of 
Sweden. But the most important shells were five 
examples of the money-cowry, Cyprma 7noneta'^ Speci- 

i'' Del Mar, "A History of Jloney," London, 1885, p. 149. 
' * "A Guide to the Antiquities of the Bronze Age " (British Museum), 
1904, p. 129 ; see also " Materiaux pourl'hist. prim, etnat. de rhonime," 2nd 
ser., xiii., June, 1882, p. 260. 

" Nachr. Dcutsch. Mai. Ges., 191 1, p. 104. 

= " Congrh inteniat. d'Anlhropo!. et d'Arch^ol. Prihist., 1874, vol. ii., 
Sl ockholm, 1876,1pp. 619-29. 



Use of Cowyy-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 131 

mens of the ring-cowry {C. anniilus) were found by Dr. 
Layard in the ruins of Nimroud,-' and others of this form, 
riMed down on the back, were met with in graves at 
Shusha, in Transcaucasia, associated with numerous car- 
nelian beads, perforated animals' teeth, stone implements, 
and bronze and iron objects." 

Another find of special interest was made by Dr. 
Truhelka at the pile-dwelling of Donja Dolina, on the 
bank of the Save (Bosnia). Here urn-burials were met 
with in under-ground vaults which contained the in- 
cinerated remains of bodies and a wealth of grave-goods. 
From the valuable nature of the latter it would appear 
that the cremated persons were of great social distinction. 
The objects comprised fibula;, beads of glass, amber, and 
enamel, and other articles characteristic of the late 
Hallstatt period. One of the chief objects of interest 
was " one urn, which contained a necklet composed of 
several hundreds of beads of amber, enamel, coloured 
glass, seven cowrie shells, two perforated teeth, and a 
large bead of clay without any ornamentation." ^ 

Dr. Schneider (op. cit., p. 1 1 5), quotes many interesting 
discoveries of cowries in ancient graves, chiefly in the 
neighbourhood of Danzig — the great amber-producing 
region. According to this authority they were found at 
Marienhausen, in the government of Witebsk, where in 
1879, some 50 specimens occurred in a grave, doubtless 
belonging to Slavonic times ; also in old pagan Lithuanian 
graves, at Riigenwalde in Pomerania, in the urn of a 
" giant's-grave " at Stolpe, on the well-known Pomerellen 

" S. P. Woodward, " Manual of the Mollusca," Reprint of 4th Ed., 
London, 1890, p, 233. 

22 Verhandl. der Berliner Gess. f. Anthrop., 1892, pp. 566-8; 1894, 
p. 216. 

-' R. Munro, " Palzeolithic Man and Terraraara Settlements in 
Europe," Edinburgh, 1912, p. 473. 



132 Shells as evidence of the Migi-ations. 

face-urns as earrings ; further, several burnt and fractured 
specimens of Cyprcea anniilus were found in an urn from 
a stone-cist at Jakobsmtihle near Mewe, and in a face-urn 
at Rheinfeld near Carthaus ; Cyprcea moneta in a grave 
near Praust, a Cyprcea annulus, prepared as an amulet, at 
Seehof near Kulmsee, C. moneta as earrings on face-urns 
at Stangenwalde and at Wilschen in Berent district, as well 
as in burnt condition in a face-urn at Czapeln ; finally, 
several specimens of a Cyprcea, too badly damaged by fire 
for exact specific determination, occurred in a face-urn at 
Bockau on the river Radaune, West Prussia. 

In an essay by Dr. H. Conventz, of Danzig, on the 
introduction of cowries and related sea-shells as ornament 
in West Prussia in prehistoric times,-^ further mention is 
made of discoveries, which he refers to the first century 
B.C., of Cyprcea annulus in face-urns at Rheinfeld, in 
Carthaus district, Suckschin, in Higher Danzig district, 
and Jakobsmiihle, in Marienwerder district, as well- as in 
an ordinary urn at Fronza, in Marienwerder district ; and 
of Cyprcea moneta in the ears of urns from Wilschen, Berent 
district, and Stangenwalde, Carthaus district, and in a face- 
urn from Praust, near Danzig ; further, of " Roman times," 
which corresponds to the ist century A.D., CyprcBa annulus 
attached to bronze-strip as a charm, found near Elbing 
and Seehof, in Briesen district ; finally, of the " Arabic- 
norse epoch," a perforated C. moneta on the neck of a 
skeleton in the grave-field near the Grutschno Burgwalle, 
in the Schwetzer district. 

Cowries of larger dimensions than Cyprcea moneta 
and C. annulus have been met with in pre-historic pit- 
dwellings and Saxon graves in our own country; in 
Franco-Merovingian graves in France ; in the Gallo- 

■-* Correspondenzblatl d. deutsch. Gisell.f. A. E. 11. U., xxxiii. no. 2, 
1902, {fide Schneider, op. cit., p. 115) 



Use of Cowry -shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 133 

Roman necropolis of Trion, at Lyons ; and in Pompeii, as 
well as in other places. 

The complete outer lip of Cyprma tigris, a species 
occurring in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, has been 
recorded by J. R. le B. Tomlin, from a pre-historic pit- 
dwelling at St. Mary Bourne, Hants.-" The same hand- 
some species is recorded by M. Locard from the Gallo- 
Roman necropolis of Trion, and by Monterosato from 
Pompeii.''" Cyprcea pantherina, a Red Sea shell, has been 
found in Saxon women's graves, excavated on Kingston 
Down, and Sibertswold Down, in Kent,^' and in a grave 
near Wingham, Kent.-' It has also been recorded (under 
the name Cyprcea vinosd) by Dr. Ph. Dautzenburg from the 
Franco-Merovingian necropolis of Nesles-lez-Verlincthun 
(Canton de Samer).-" Dr. Dautzenburg also refers in the 
same paper to a record by M. I'Abbe Henri Debout of the 
presence of this shell (erroneously referred to C. arabicd) 
in. a sepulchre at Tardinghen ; and from Dr. Tiberi's 
Memoir on the shells met with in the excavations at 
Pompeii,'™ we learn that many examples of this species 
were found, and that the shell in question was an amulet 
which the women carried in order to prevent sterility. 

In a footnote in Dr. Schneider's paper {pp. cit., p. n6), 
reference is made to a description, by Dr. Koehl, of 
Merovingian graves at Weisoppenheim, near Worms, 
where cowries were found alongside the bodies of several 
women, either hanging- from a girdle, or sewn to their 
dresses. Unfortunately, the specific name of the shell is 

^" Jouiital of Cofichology, vol. 13, 1912, p. 251. 

-'^ fuU Tomlin, op. cit. 

-- Faussett's " Inventorium Sepulchrale," 1856, pp. 68, 92 & 133. (See 
also J. W. Jackson, y«(r«. of Conch., vol. 13, 1912, p. 307, for discussion 
of species). 

2s " Archieologia," vol. 30, p. 551. 

-° Journ. dc Conchyliologie, vol. liv., igo6, p. 260, figs, i & 2. 

"' " Le Conchiglie Ponipeiane," Napoli, 1879. 



1 34 Shells as cxndencc of tlie Migrations. 

not given. In the same footnote mention is made of the 
discover}- of a large Cyprcea in an old German grave at 
Entibiihl, and of an Indian Ocean Tritonijimf^ filled with 
worked flints at Brunswick. 

A further discovery of a shell from the Indian Ocean, 
Ovulum ovum, closely akin to the cowries, was made in a 
Gothlandic tomb. This specimen had a hole at one end 
in which was still fixed a little ring of bronze wire."- 

In Crete, black cowries, probably dark forms of 
Cyprcen pantherinn, were found in excavating the rooms 
of Mycenaean houses.^" 

In a paper on " Cave Explorations at Gibraltar in 
September, igio,"'''' Dr. W. L. H. Duckworth records the 
discovery- of a Mediterranean cowry, Cyprcea pyruvi, in 
excavating Cave S. The specimen is remarkable on 
account of an artificial perforation at one end, as if for 
suspension as an amulet. On the evidence of the human 
remains and the pottery found, the cave is assigned .to 
the Neolithic period. In the same cave were found 
specimens of Purpura hcemasioina with the apical parts 
fractured in a curious manner, suggesting that the mollusc 
had been used for the preparation of its distinctive 
product, the Tyrian Purple.'"' 

A perforated specimen of Cyprcea pyrum is recorded 
by Lartet and Christy^" from La Madelaine cave, Perigord, 
along with other perforated shells and teeth of animals, 
but in this case the cowr}' is said to be a fossil, probably 

'^ ? Triton^ the shell employed as a trumpet in many places. 

"- Hans Hilclebrand, " The Industrial Arts of Scandinavia," (South 
Kensington Museum Art Handbook), 1882, p. 40. 

^' Ann. Biit. Sch. Athens, ix. (1902-3), pp. 291 and 335. 

'^ Journ. Roy. Anthrop. Inst., xli., 1911, p. 362, pi. xl., fig. 4, 5. 

^° See chapter i. 

"^ " Reliquia> Aquitanicfe," London, 1875, ?■ 4^ (Description of the 
Plates), pi. v., fig. 15. 



Use of Cowry-sliells for Cjirrency, Amulets, etc. 135 

from the Faluns of Toiiraine. Mention is also made of 
a collection of objects from the Cave of Bruniquel, com- 
prising carnivore teeth and perforated marine shells, 
including a Cyprcea an inch in length, not improbably 
derived from the Miocene beds of the Garonne.^' 

Since Christy's diggings in Laugerie-Basse,'' this cave 
has yielded many other interesting objects, including two 
species of Mediterranean cowries, perforated for use as 
pendants. Particulars of the discovery of the cowries 
are given in a paper by Massenat and others'''' dealing 
with the finding of a human skeleton (the so-called 
homme ecrassd) in this cave. The latter seems to have 
been a ceremonial interment in the contracted posture. 
The situation of the objects which accompanied the 
skeleton was studied with scrupulous attention and a 
score of shells were found. These were determined by 
Mortillet as belonging to two (different species of Mediter- 
ranean cowries, Cyprcea pyrum, Gmelin (or rufa Lam.), and 
CyprcBa lurida L. The most interesting fact concerning 
them is that they were arranged in pairs upon the body ; 
two pairs on the forehead, one near each humerus, four in 
the region of the knees and thighs, two upon each foot. 
The discoverer dismisses the idea of a necklace or bracelets 
and suggests they were intended to adorn a garment. 
Each cowry was pierced with a notch. 

Cowries have also been found in the celebrated Men- 
tone Caves alongside human skeletons, which can with 

" Ibid., p. 179 (Text). 

= s /bid., p. 288 (Text). 

°" E. Massenat, Ph. Lalande & Cartailhac, "Decouveite d'un .squelette 
humain de I'age du renne a Laugerie-Basse (Dordogne)." Comptes liendus 
dt fAcad. des Sciences, vol. 74, 1872, pp. 1060-3 ! ^Iso Paul Girod and K. 
Massenat, " Les Stations de I'Age du Renne dans les vallees de la Vezere 
et de la Coneze — Laugerie-Basse," Paris, 1900, pp. 24-5. Sollas (" Ancient 
Hunters," 2nd Ed., 1915, p. 509, fig. 288) gives a figure (after Cartailhac) 
of this interesting burial, with the associated shells. 



136 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

considerable confidence be correlated with those found in 
the valley of La Vezere, at Laugerie-Basse, Cro-Magnon, 
Gourdan, and Chancelade. Villeneuve* records, amongst 
other shells, one Cyprma, from an occupation level (Foyer 
D), 3m. 15. from the surface, in La Grotte des Enfants. 
The specific name, unfortunately, is not given. On the 
same level a remarkable find was made of Cassis rnfa, an 
Indian Ocean shell.^' 

At Barma Grande, another of the Mentone Caves, 
various kinds of ornaments of teeth and bone, and perfor- 
ated shells oi Nassa neriiea, were found, in 1892, near the 
head of one of the skeletons discovered there ; but the 
most interesting and remarkable find was that "on each 
thigh bone above the knee was a perforated cowry."*'' The 
body is said to be that of an old man. It is of interest 
to note that all the skulls found here are stated to be of 

■" " Les Grottes de GrimalJi (Baousse — Rousse),"' Tome i., Fasc. i. 
" Hi.'storique et Description." By M. L. de Villeneuve (p. 65). (Impn- 
merie de Monaco, 1906). 

*i Ibid,, Tome i. Fasc. 2. "Geologic et Paleontologie." Ky I'lof. 
Marcellin Boiile (p. 123) ; In a footnote to this page, G. Dollfus remarks : 
" Cassis rnfa L., an Indian Ocean ihell, is represented in tlie collection at 
Monaco by two fragments ; one was found in the lower habitation level D ; 
the other is probably of the same origin. The presence of this shell is 
extraordinary as it has no analogue in the Mediterranean, neither recent 
nor fossil ; there e.xists no species in the North Atlantic or off Senegal with 
which it could be confounded. The fragments have the traces of the reddish 
colour preserved and are not fossil ; one of them presents a notch which 
has determined a hole that seems to have been made intentionally. The 
species has not yet been found in the Gulf of .Suez nor in ihe raised-beaches 
of the Isthmus. M. Jousseaume has found it in the Gulf of Tadjoura at 
Aden, but it has not yet been encountered in the Red Sea nor in the raised- 
beaches of that region. The common habitat of Cassis riifa is Socotra, 
besides the Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, New Caledonia and perhaps 
Tahiti. The fragments iliscovered at Mentone have therefore been brought 
from a great distance, at a very ancient epoch, by prehistoric man."' 

<■- Munro, " Palteolithic Man and Terramara Settlements in Europe." 
Edinburgh, 1912, p. 163. [At p. 235, perforated teeth and shells, N'assa, 
Cypitea, Pectunculus, etc., are mentioned as being found at the Rock-shelter 
of Cap-Blanc (Laussel), Dordogne]. 



• Use of Coivry-sliells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 137 

the Cro-Magnon type, and that all the bodies had been 
definitely interred. The discovery of cowries and the 
relation of these to the body, forms an interesting parallel 
to the Laugerie-Basse burial referred to above. 

The association of perforated cowry shells with men 
belonging to the Cro-Magnon group is not without interest 
when it is remembered that these people were members 
of our own species — Hoino sapiens, and quite distinct from 
the earlier Neanderthal people. That they were men 
capable of formulating ideas and endowed with an artistic 
sense is unquestionable. The skeletons of this race all 
seem to have been ceremonially interred, which certain 
writers regard as implying that they were not without 
some idea of religion. The fact that they used perforated 
shells, teeth, and pendants, as amulets, also supports this 
conclusion. But, of course, the validity of the inference 
depends upon what is meant by the term " religion." 

How this race came into the south of Europe and 
where it came from is not easy to determine ; but the 
slender evidence at present available disposes us to look to 
North Africa as its immediate source. It seems possible 
that these people may have been an early sporadic 
invasion from, or at least have been in direct or indirect 
contact with, the region where civilisation first developed — 
the valley of the Nile and Western Asia. 

The skull of the Cro-Magnon man has so many points 
of similarity to that of Neolithic man in England, that, 
in defiance of the archaeological evidence, the former race 
was judged at one time to belong to the Neolithic period. 
Leading authorities now agree in relegating it to an 
earlier time, which includes the Magdalenian period.*' 

*^ The culture of the Cro-Magnon race is certainly quite distinct from 
that of the Lower Pateolithic people — Neanderthal man, and on this account 
Dr. Elliot Smith has suggested the term " Neoanlhrophic phase of culture," 
in order to give specific emphasis to the jirofound break in human history 



138 Sliclls^as evideticc of the Migrations. 

As Dr. G. Elliot Smith has pointed out,** many 
similarities exist between Magdalenian and the later 
Azilian implements, and also of both of these to those 
of Pre-dynastic Egypt. This suggests the possibility of 
the Magdalenian period in the west being approximately 
contemporaneous with the pre-dynastic period in Egypt, 
and that the Neolithic period in Western Europe did not 
begin long before the third millennium B.C. 

In connection with the above it is of interest to note 
that the cowry is frequently associated with pre-dynastic 
burials in Egypt. 

The numerous discoveries of cowries detailed above 
serve to show the migrations or intercourse of early 
peoples. They are not to be regarded as evidence of the 
shells, even the smaller kind, having been employed as 
currency in the localities where they were found, nor 
indeed are they to be looked upon as having been worn 
from purely jeslhetic motives. Their presence may be 
explained by the part cowries played in early times as 
symbolic of the generative forces of nature. The shell 
itself was not worshipped, but rather regarded as an 
attribute of some goddess. It was due probably to this 
fact that the cowry was known to the ancients under the 
appellation of " Concha Venerea," — the shell of Venus.^^ 
As pointed out by Dr. J. C. Melvill,* the generic name of 

between the Lower and Upper Palreolithic. The Lower Palosolilhic, he 
suggests, may be known as the Palseanthropic, the Upper as the commence- 
ment of the Neoanthropic, Age. (See " The American Museum Journal,'' 
vol. xvi., Jlay, 1916, p. 325.) 

■" Abstract of paper on " The Commencement of the Neolithic Phase 
of Culture," read before the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, 
April 4th, 1916. 

■"> As well as the goddess of love, the word Venus signifies the highest 
throw of the dice. (Horace, ' Carmina,' 2, 7, 25.) It is not surprising, 
therefore, that we find the cowry— the shell of Venus, used in so many 
games of chance. 

*" "Survey of Genus Cyprfea," op. cit., p. 184. 



Use of CoLvry-shells for Ciiirencj', Amulets, etc. 139 

this group of shells, " Cyprasa, or more classically Cypria, 
is derived from one of the many attributes of Aphrodite, 
owing, doubtless,, to her worship not only having been 
inaugurated, but for long years principally centralized, in 
Cyprus, then a luxuriant and smiling island, teeming with 
industrial wealth. Horace''' addresses her as 'Diva potens 
Cypri,' and TibuUus,-" when apostrophizing the goddess, 
thus : ' Et faveas concha, Cypria, vecta tua.' " 

As previously remarked, cowries were worn as amulets 
by the women of Pompeii in order to prevent sterility. The 
presence of these shells in women's-graves in France and 
the South of England seems to point to the prevalence 
of the same ideas in the Middle Ages. 

In the 1 8th century the custom of wearing a large 
cowry as an amulet or charm was prevalent among Ken- 
dure Tartar women and girls.*' And in the neighbourhood 
of Naples, cowries, it is stated, are still worn by the poorer 
class.™ Money-cowries are used by the Bedouin women 
of the Hadramaut, South Arabia, to adorn their girdles ;" 
also by the women of the races of the Volga region, as 
breast and forehead ornaments by the Tshuwash and 
Mordvins, and as necklaces by the Tsheremis. They are 
also to be seen on the necks of the Kirghis women, and 
on the curious head-dresses of the Bashkir women ;''' and 

*' Horace, Od., i, 3, i. 

<-^ TibuUus, III., 3,4, 

*" G. A. Cooke, "System of Universal Geography," vol. i. (1801), 
p. 448. 

<■" Faussett, " Inventorium Sepulchrale," 1S56, p. 68. 

''^ Schneider, op. cit., p. 117; Strabo, bk. xvi., ch. iv., par. i7(Bohii's 
Ed., vol. iii., p. 202), speaking of the Troglodyt.-e of the Arabian Gulf says: 
" The women carefully paint themselves with antimony. They wear about 
their necks shells, as a protection against fascination by witchcraft." 

'^ Schneider, op. cit., p. 117; Ratzel, "History of Mankind," iii., 
p. 327, gives a figure of one of these Bashkir head-dresses ornamented with 
small cowries. 



I40 S/iells Its evidence of the Migrations. 

in England they are occasionally noticed worn in long 
strings by travelling gypsies. 

According to Professor Ridgeway,'" cowries are still 
used, combined with a Christian medal, in Corfu as a 
child's amulet ; and also in Montenegro. 

In the following pages frequent references will be 
found to the use of cowry-shells as amulets of magical 
. import in Africa, Asia, Pacific Islands, and elsewhere. 

The custom of decorating the trappings of horses with 
cowries, doubtless with the object of averting the evil eye, 
is found in Persia as well as in India (where elephants 
carry such ornament), in Hungary and in Norway. 
And according to Ridgeway {op. cit., p. 248), Mr. F. W. 
Hasluck, when travelling in the Moreain 1907, saw a boar's 
tusk charm on a horse in Triphylia, with a pendant of a 
cross formed of four cowries sewn on leather. 

Lane, in his " Modern Egyptians," "^ informs us that 
cowries are still used by the people of Egypt, and are 
regarded as a protection against the evil eye. With this 
object they are often attached to the trappings of camels, 
horses, and other animals, as well as to the caps of children. 
Pickering"' remarks that on ascending the Nile to Kenneh, 
the modern capital of the Thebaid, about 30 miles below the 
site of ancient Thebes, cowries were seen used as money 
by market women of the Ethiopian [? Soudanese] race. 
Culin, in his "Chess and Playing Cards," "" reports that in 
the streets of "Cairo" at the Columbian Exposition was a 
family of Bishareen from the Eastern desert, near Assouan, 

'" \V. Ridgewiiy, "The Origin of the Turkish Crescent," yi>//r«. Roy. 
Anihrop. Inst., G. B. and I., vol. 38 (1908), p. 248, pi. 21, fig. 23. 

'* E. W. Lane, " Modern Egyptians," vol. i., 1849, p. 343. 

'° Pickering, "Races of Man" (Bohn's Kd.), 1863, as quoted by 
Stearns, " Ethno-conchology," Rept. U.S. Nat. Miis., 1887, {1889), p. 303. 

" Stewart Culin, "Chess and Playing Cards," Rept. U..S. Nat. Mus., 
1896, (189S), p. 815 footnote. 



Use of Cowry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 141 

whose headman practised soothsaying with cowries. He 
threw several cowry-shells, and made his prediction from 
the manner in which they fell. 

At Sennaar, in the Soudan, cowry-ornament still 
obtains to-day among the Hassanieh Arabs. Caillarud, 
in the 20th year of last century, saw cowries ornamenting 
the fringed girdle of the young girls in Sennaar. Accord- 
ing to Carl Ritter, they are still found as trimmings for 
women's girdles in Abyssinia ;'' and Haldeman''*' describes 
a curious Abyssinian necklace composed of European 
beads, cowry-shells, bits of brass, copper coins, etc. 

According to Schneider {op. cit., p. 173), a large leather 
object from Somaliland, richly ornamented with cowries, 
is in the Dresden Museum,'"' and a similar object, orna- 
mented in the same way, was brought from Somaliland 
by Riebeck in 1883. That the cowry was in use here in 
early times is proved by the discovery of CyprcBa mmulus, 
along with glass, enamel, stone and other objects, in the 
ruins of Bender Abbas, near Berbera. The age of these 
ruins is still problematic ; they may belong to " Persian 
times."™ Presumably this refers to the period of the 
Persian conquest of Egypt in the sixth century B.C. 

In the Upper Nile region cowries, rubbed down on 
their backs, are used by many negro peoples. The Lango, 
Latuka, Lur, Shuli and Nuer have very many cowry- 
ornaments, more especially on their head-coverings. Ac- 
cording to Ratzel {pp. cit., iii., p. 30), the head-coverings of 
the Shuli and Lango " consist of strong bass-matting, close 
set with concentric rows of cowries, with a woven blunt 
appendage, shaped either like a flat conical cup or like a 

" Schneider, op. cit., p. 173. 

■'" S. S. Haldeman, " United States Geographical Surveys West uf the 
looth Meridian," vol. vii., Arcliteology, 1879, p. 263. 

''^ See also Ratzel, op. cit., ii., fig. 14 of plate facing p. 533. 
•" Schneider, op. cii,,^. 118. 



142 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

helmet enclosing the head and hanging down the back ot 
the neck" (see also Ratzel, op. at., i., p. loi). Among the 
Latukas and their kinsfolk heavy wicker helmets, with 
crests recalling Greek forms, are used ; these are orna- 
mented with a ring of cowries all round (Ratzel, iii., 
p. 30, and p. 41, fig. 7). Among the Djibba tribe of the 
Sobat country, one of the Nile tributaries, cowries appear 
to be associated with head-hunting, as among the Nagas of 
Assam (infra, p. 172J. Like these latter people, the Djibba 
warriors wear the hair taken from the decapitated h'eads of 
slain enemies, in addition to luearing goat-skin dresses, 
ivory armlets and belts of cowries. ^^ By the furs, beads and 
coivry-shells are cotisidered as essential at betrothals.^ 

In East Africa rubbed-down cowries"^ are used largely 
by the Akikuyu, Kavirondo, Akamba and Masai peoples. 
Kavirondo men are noted for their peculiar and elaborate 
head-dresses made of tliese shells. Among the Akamba, 
Masai and other tribes, cowries appear to be associated 
with unmarried girls (as among the Chettis of Southern 
India, infra p. 170). The young unmarried girls of the 
Akamba tribe wear belts and aprons adorned with beads 
and cowries ; but these ornaments are discarded after the 
birth of the first child. The Masai women also wear a 
peculiar head-band covered with cowries during the 
period of "engagement."*'' The Lumbwa girls' aprons, too, 
are similarly adorned, doubtless with the same sig- 
nificance.*' Ridgeway, in his paper on " The Origin of 

"^ Brown, " Races of Mankind," iii., p. 16. 
" Schneider, op. cii., p. 173. 

° ^ On the East side of Africa, the ring-cowry ( C. annulus) appears to 
be the form universally used. 

64 " Women of all Nations," pp. 266 and 268. 

"' Specimens in the Manchester Museum; see also yija?-;;. Anthrop. 
Inst., vol. 33 (1903), pi. xxix., for illustration of a Lumhwa girl wearing one 
of these cowry-ornamented aprons. 



Use of Coivry-skells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 143 

the Turkish Crescent " (op. cit., p. 253, pi. 25), figures and ' 
describes two curious head-dresses worn by the Ja-luo of 
Kavirondo, one consisting of ram's horns and cowries, the 
other of reed-buek's horns and cowries. These remind us, 
Ridgeway remarks, of the combination of boars' tusks and 
cowries in Greece {supra p. 140). Captain K. F. Burton 
gives us an interesting account of the cowry-trade of the 
regions north of the 'Land of the Moon,' in his description 
of " The Lake Regions of Central Equatorial Africa." 
The cowries, he reports, are collected from various places 
between Ras Hafun and Mozambique, the trade being 
in the hands of Moslem hucksters. They are purchased 
on the mainland by a curious specimen of the ' round- 
trade '; money is not taken, so the article is sold measure 
for measure of holcus grain. From Zanzibar the use of 
cowries spreads in two directions ; one to the regions 
north of the ' Land of the Moon ' where they form the 
currency, though they are also occasionally in demand as 
an ornament in Unyamwesi ; " the other to the West 
African coast. That the collecting of cowries on the East 
African coast dates from ancient times is evident from 
the list of articles of export at Rhapta in the first century 
A.D. Among the articles mentioned in the " Periplus '"'' 
as exported from this place — the Quiloa or Kilwa of 
modern times — is an item, NafTrXfo? dX/yoy {lit. little sea- 
shell), a term which has given rise to some discussion. 
Vincent"" says : " It seems to be an inferior tortoise-shell 
from the context" (which he translates, "tortoise-shell of 
superior kind, but not equal to the Indian ; and a small 

"' Journ. Roy. Geog. Soc. Lond., vol. 29, 1859, p. 448. 

" See Ratzel, op', cit., ii., plate facing p. 533, fig. i, for cowry orna- 
mented head-dress of Wanyamwesi. 

«' Vincent, "The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the 
Indian Ocean," London, 1807, vol. ii., p. 172. 

«» Ibid., p. 748. 



144 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

quantity of that species called nauplius"). " It may, 
however, be a different commodity." As cowries are an 
article of commerce on this coast to-day, the suggestion 
naturally presents itself of interpreting the term as a 
reference to shells (? cowries) intended for ornament. 

In Uganda, cowries have been a recognised form of 
currency from an early date. According to the Rev. John 
Roscoe,™ the standard of currency among the Baganda 
was set by the value of the cow. During the reign of 
Suna, he tells us, a cow was sold for 2,500 cowry-shells ; 
a goat for 500 ; a fowl for 25 ; a large cock for 50 ; and 
an ivory tusk weighing sixty-two pounds was valued at 
1,000 cowry-shells." Cooking-pots were priced according 
to size ; a large pot was sold for 200 cowries, small ones 
for 20 or 30 cowries. A milk-pot cost 60 or even loo 
cowries ; a tobacco pipe from 5 to 10 shells ; and a water- 
pot from 40 to 50 shells.'- " Before the introduction of 
cowry-shells," Roscoe informs us, " a blue bead (nsinda) 
was used ; this was very rough and badly made, but it 
was considered to be of great value ; one bead was of 
equal value with one hundred cowry-shells. Still earlier, 
before the introduction of the bead, a small ivory disc 
was used, known as sanga ; one of these discs was valued 
at one hundred cowry-shells. When the cowry-shell was 
first introduced, which was probably in the reign of King 
Semakokiro, two cowry-shells would purchase a woman." " 
By these same people cowry-shells have also been used 
from the first in religious and other ceremonies. One 
of the many interesting uses, mentioned by Roscoe, 
is their employment in the decoration of an amulet 
called LuzalQ, which partakes of the nature of a fetish, 

'° Roscoe, "The Baganda," London, 1911. 
' » I/iiil. , p. 456. 
■<- IhiJ., p. 455. 
" Ibid., p. 457- 



Use of Cozvry -shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 145 

and is designed to insure fecundity. This consists of 
a piece of wood sewn into a small cat-skin bag 
ornamented with cowry-shells, which is worn round the 
waist, so that the amulet rests in front of the wearer." 
Divination is also practised by means of pieces of 
leather decorated with cowry-shells. They are also 
offered to propitiate the spirits of trees ; and sent by the 
king as presents to each of the important deities. Another 
most important use is to decorate the jawbones of deceased 
kings. Some five months after the death and burial of a 
king the tomb is entered and the head severed from the 
body and brought away. The jawbone is then removed 
and placed in an ant hill until all the flesh is eaten awaj', 
the skull meanwhile being given special burial in a place 
near the tomb. The jawbone, after being cleansed and 
washed in beer and milk, is wrapped in fine barkcloth 
which has been rubbed with butter, and is decorated with 
beads and cowry-shells collected during the king's lifetime 
from people succeeding to chieftainships. A temple is 
then built to receive the decorated jawbone and umbilical 
cord of the late king, and also the umbilical cord of the 
ex-queen.™ At the end of the royal mourning cowry- 
shells are thrown on the fire as if they were fuel ; this is 
also done at ceremonies to prolong the king's life.™ 

In the marriage ceremonies of the Baganda these 
shells form an important part of the dowry, the bridegroom 
having to provide as many as two thousand five hundred." 
On the birth of twins it is the custom for the grandmother 
to make each twin a present of cowry-shells, and everyone 
coming to see them throws cowry-shells into a basket 

""■ Ibid., p. 331. 

'■^ Ibid., pp. 109-10. 

" Ibid., p. 108. 

" Ibid., pp. 88-9. 



146 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

placed to receive these offerings." On the death of a twin 
the body is embalmed and the ghost is caught by the 
medicine man and made up into a "twin" (mulongo). To 
do this, the man goes, by night into a space in front of the 
house, spreads a barkcloth on the ground, kills a white 
fowl, cuts out its tongue, and places it on the barkcloth ; 
he then watches for the first insect that alights on the 
barkcloth, catches it, and wraps it up with the fowl's 
tongue, saying that the ghost has come back again. The 
insect and fowl's tongue are then made up into a " twin " 
decorated with cowry-shells and beads, put into a wooden 
pot and preserved.™ 

In addition to the above uses, cowries are employed 
by the Baganda to decorate the royal drum. Drum-sticks 
made from human arm-bones are also ornamented with 
them, as well as the stool of the war-god Kibuka.*" 

According to Stuhlmann, cowries were used in 
Karagwe, on the west side of Victoria Nyanza, to orna- 
ment the leather-cuff which serves as a protection of the 
left wrist at archery, and in Unyora, north-west of the 
above lake, the most important personage wears, as token 
of his rank, a strip of cow-hide adorned with cowries and 
coloured glass beads. The Wassongona and Wahuma 
have cowries as neck-ornaments, and the young girls of 
the latter wear a hip-cord of cowry-shells and beads, which 
are sewn on leather strips.^ 

According to Schweinfurth the Madi and Niam Niam 
wear cowry-ornaments, but they do not appear to be of 
great importance among the latter people. Cowries were 
much sought after in former times by the Bongo, but they 
have long since fallen out qf the category of objects 

'^ Ibid., p. 71. 

"° Ibid., p. 124. 

si» Ibid., pp. 26, 214 and 306, fig. 49. 

''^ Schneider, op. cit., p.. 172. 



Use of Cotvyy-shells for Cu.rrency, Amulets, etc. 147 

of value.*' Schweinfurth also depicts a fashion in hair 
among the Monbuttus, by which the head is surrounded 
with a regular saint's halo. The hair, in plaits, is spread 
out round the whole head and fastened to a hoop adorned 
with cowry-shells.** 

The Wavira of the upper Ituri wear in their ears a 
wooden plug with cowries at both ends ; this object is in 
the Lunda Empire an amulet hung by a string from the 
^neck.''' Cowries were also seen by Junker used as orna- 
ments by the Bagarambo on the Welle River. And 
Thonner reports cowries in common use by the Mog- 
wandi north of the upper Dua and by the neighbouring 
races ; by the Mobali in the hair, and by a Banza man 
from Bogola as a neck-chain. On the middle and upper 
Ubangi and on the Welle to its source cowries pass current 
as money ; they are also in use as such by the Basoko 
inhabiting the region of the Congo between Stanley Falls 
and the Aruwimi confluence. In 1886 Lenz saw them 
used for ornament by the Nkaia at Riba Riba above the 
Stanley Falls, as well as in other places. According to 
Johnston cowries were made use of as small-change 
everywhere on the Upper Congo. Large numbers of them 
were placed in the graves with the dead. In Nyangwe 
they were in use along with other objects of barter in 
Livingstone's (1871), Cameron's (1874), Stanley's (1876) 
and Pogge's time, and often served as presents for the 
chiefs and for purchasing necessary articles of food in the 
districts through which these and other travellers passed. 
In Uhombo, between the Congo and Lake Tanganyika, 
they were the current money in Stanley's time. At Mpala, 

^^ Ibid., p. 173 ; and Schweinfurth, " The Heart of Africa," London, 
1873, vol. i., p. 299; ii., p. 9. 

*" Ratzel, op. cit., iii., p. 69; Schweinfurth, op. cit., ii., p. 7 (Text- 
figure). 

** Ratzel, op. cit., iii., p. 69. 



148 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

on the western shore of Lake Tanganyika, they were seen 
by Richard as head-ornaments or sewn on straps ; he also 
observed them in use by the NoUo Nollo, living north 
thereof, to ornament the forehead, neck and wrist ; in 
the latter case, two shells were worn attached to the 
middle of a thin strap, probably an amulet of some kind. 
Among the Warua of the Upper Congo similar ornaments 
were noticed.'" 

On the middle Congo cowries are a recognised cur- 
rency about Lukolela, Ngowe, Matumba Lake, etc., being 
used by the Balolo people. On the Mongalla, Thonner, 
in 1896, found cowries the necessary legal tender for con- 
tinuing his journey up the river and for the purchase of 
food-stuffs. Wissmann, Wolf, and other travellers found 
them highly estimated in the Kassai-Sankuru basin. 
According to Wolf, in 1885, these shells together with a 
black and white striped glass bead were used as barter- 
material by the Baluba people of this region.'" 

In the Lunda Empire, the wooden plug set with 
cowries at both ends, which the Wavira wear in their ears, 
is hung by a string from the neck as an amulet."" 

According to Magyar, cloth in Kimbundaland, about 
1850, was reckoned at from 25 to 50 cowries, or busio- 
shells, per ell or j-ard, according to the distance from the 
coast ; and this same observer tells us that the women of 
the Mondumbe, inwards from Benguela, ornament their 
hair with small white cowries {C. moneta ? Oliva ?)?^ 

In describing the Ovambo, Ratzel [pp. cit., ii., p, 541) 
informs us that they barter ivory for beads, iron, copper, 
shells, and cowries, with the Portuguese-speaking black 
traders on the further side of the Cunene River. Such 

'"' Schneider, op. cil., various pages. 

*= IhiJ. 

^'' Ratzel, op. cil., iii., p. 69. 

'"* Schneider, op. cit., pp. 159 and 172. 



Use of Cowry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 149 

articles as they obtain in this way, and do not themselves 
need, they trade away to the south and east. On another 
page (p. 553) of the same volume, he gives an illustration 
(after Serpa Pinto) of Kimbande-Ganguellas with cowry- 
ornament. It is of interest to note that the shells {C.moneta 
or annulus), are employed by the women and girls as a 
decoration in connection with their curious method of 
hair-dressing ; the man shown in the illustration has no 
such ornament. According to the observation of Waitz, 
cowries were usual as ornament among Hottentots and 
Kaffirs.*' Unfortunately no indication is given as to 
whether these were the small white money cowries, or 
some other. From Ratzel's figure (ii., p. 268) of a 
Bushman amulet, consisting of large cowries attached to 
a sort of belt, it would appear that cowries other than 
those so universally employed for currency are used also 
in the south. It is impossible to define the species from 
the illustration, but it appears to be a large spotted one, 
probably C tigris, whose nearest habitat is off the East 
African coast, in the neighbourhood of Zanzibar. 

Returning north, to the French Congo, we find that, 
according to Foret™ the races on the Tem and on the 
Ivindo use cowries as ornaments. Lenz, in 1876, found 
them so employed in the hinterland of Gaboon. Kund 
also reports cowry-ornaments for the neck among the 
Bateke, not far from Leopoldville. Dennett'^ figures a 
Bavili " guardian fetish," called Mpembe, consisting of a 
wooden image in the shape of a man, the eyes of which 
are cowry-shells with the apertures outwards. Ratzel 

*" Schneider, op. cit., p. 172 : According to Peringuey (Ann. S. Afr. 
Mies., viii, 1911, p. 104), Sparrman mentions and figures Hottentot orna- 
ments of marine shells (Nerita albicilla ?) and a leather head-dress adorned 
with three spaced rows of " cowries." 

"° Le Mouvement Geographique, 1902, No. 9 [fide Schneider). 

" R. E. Dennett, "At the Back of the Black Man's Mind," London, 
1906, p. 91, pi. 5. 



1 50 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

{op. cit., iii., p. 83, fig. i.), also gives an illustration of a 
Beneki fetish with cowry-eyes, which has a strong resem- 
blance to the Bavili example. 

In the Cameroon district the use of cowries as currency 
seems to have ceased, but the shells are applied as orna- 
ment. Zintgraff writes that in Adamawa and the frontier- 
land such was the case. The Bali warriors were allowed 
to carry a bandolier upon which the cowries were sewn in 
two rows, the channelled opening of the shell being to the 
outside. They were also seen arranged in cross-form on 
a small, flat, cloth packet, which was worn on a string 
from the neck, resembling the amulet which the Mahom- 
medan wears. Another interesting use noted by Zint- 
graff is that by the chief of the Bafut, living on the 
Adamawa frontier, who had utilized cowries as a sort of 
mosaic on the floor of his spacious palm-wine hall."* The 
shells are also worked into the coiffure of the women in 
the Cameroons, as many as two hundred being required."* 

We now reach the chief zone of circulation of the 
cowry — the western Sudan and Guinea coast. For many 
centuries the shells have passed as a means of currency 
throughout the greater part of this region, and in many 
places they have also played an important part in religious 
and other ceremonies. 

Our earliest knowledge of their employment in this 
region as currency dates from the 14th century, when the 
Arab traveller Ibn Batuta saw them in use for transacting 
business at Kawkaw (Gao or Gagho) on the Niger.'* 
Cadamosto, who visited Cape Verde in 1455, also noted 
the white shells, " porcellete or cowries," used in exchange 

"^ Schneider, op. ciL, p. 171. 

"' Joyce and others, " Women of all Nations," p. 351. 

»* "The Travels of Ibn Battlla," translated by the Rev. Samuel Lee, 
London, 1829, p. 241. 



Use of Coivry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 15 1 

between the Arabs and the natives of the interior."" Leo 
Africanus/'^ who wrote at the beginning of the i6th century, 
mentions in his description of Timbuctoo that " the 
natives of this place use small mussel-shells or snail^shells, 
which were brought from Persia, of which 400 equal one 
ducat, and six and two-thirds go to a Roman ounce." In 
Benin, at the end of the 15th century, according to 
Pereira, cowries, under the name Iguru, were in currency. 
In the description of Commodore Stewart's embassy 
journey to Mekines (Mequinez) in 1721, it is stated :" "The 
goods, which they (the Moroccans) convey to Guinea, 
are salt, cowries, etc. — Cowries are small shells, which are 
brought from the East Indies, and they are current instead 
of ready money, and as such have the highest value." 

From Timbuctoo and the Upper Niger"" the territory 
of the cowry-currency extends to Lake Chad, with wide 
spaces here and there in which the cowries do not, or only 
in a minor degree, pass as currency. Barth mentions 
three such places within the great bend of the Niger, — 
Aribinda, where the shells had no value, and Isaye (Ise) 
and Bambara, where they were employed only in the sale 
of milk. The places noted by Barth as having the cowry- 
currency were Kabara, near Timbuctoo, Saraiyamo, Kubo, 
Dore, Bundore, Sinder and Say on the Niger ; Gando, 
Sokoto, Wurno, Bamurna, Badarana, Kammane, Bunka, 
Katsena, Kano, Lamisso, Kukameirua and Gummel, all in 
the northern part of Sokoto State ; Tasawa, immediately 
north of the Haussa region ; as well as Zinder, Wushek, 

"' Deniker, " Les Races et les Peuples de la Terre," Paris, 1900, p. 
324; Schneider, op. cit., p. 119. 

°° Leo Africanus, "Description de I'Afrique," Lyon, 1556, p. 225 
{/ide Schneider, op. cit., p. 119). 

'"' Thos. Winterbottom, "Nachrichten von der Sierra-Leone-Kiiste " 
p. 221 {fide Schneider, op. cit., p. 119). 

"* Segu, Jenne, Kaarla, etc. 



152 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

Muniyo, and Kuka in Bornu. In the Haussa States, 
Clapperton, in 1826, found the shells in general use as 
money, and his companion, Richard Lander, mentions 
cowry-currency in Kano, Womba, Catup, Kazigee and 
Ragada in S.W. Haussa district. Rohlfs, on his 1867 
journey from Kuka through Gujeba and the southern 
Sokoto beyond Yakoba to the Benue, and down this river 
to its junction with the Niger, and then up to the Rabba, 
finally passing through Ilorin and Yoruba to the coast at 
Lagos, moved throughout in the region of the cowry- 
currency. In the district of the Marghi, cowries did not 
circulate as money in Earth's time, yet he managed to 
obtain two fowls with them, owing to the fact that the 
shells were desired as ornament by the " young ladies." 

In the 17th and i8th centuries cowries were used 
very largely by the slave-traders of the Guinea coast from 
Senegal southwards ; but in later times, English gold 
and the American dollar, together with other articles of 
exchange, displaced the shells to a very great extent. 
Where not actually in use as money, they still continue 
to be employed for ornamental and other purposes. 

The territory of cowry-ornament in Western Africa is 
of much wider extent than that of the cowry-currency. 
In Morocco, for example, Lenz saw cowries as ornament 
on the daughter of a chieftain. Such ornament is also 
said to be used by the Tuarag of the southern Sahara, 
and, according to Nachtigal, by the women in Tibesti. 
The Joloff women string them on their hip-girdle. 
Clapperton saw cowries frequently on the fringes of the 
goat- and sheep-skins wound round the hips of the 
women of " Kufu," and at Wazo he saw them on the 
collars of greyhounds. According to Staudinger the 
Fulbes had their numerous hair-plaits frequently decorated 
with cowries. In Loko, Gurich, in 1885, found children 



Use of Cowry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 153 

hung with cowry-shells. The men-folk of the pagan 
Kado negro in southern Haussaland, wear, according to 
Rohlfs, a skin-apron hung with cowries, and the young 
girls of the Kedje negro fasten on their leather-girdles a 
bundle of small shells presented to them by their bride- 
grooms. Barth mentions shell-ornament as in use by the 
young women and girls of the Margin, and in Bagirmi,by 
the pagan population in the south. The women especially 
wear such ornament of cowries, and caps too are made 
thereof, with which to decorate the heads of deceased 
relations. Nachtigal also states that in this neighbour- 
hood, at the funeral of a chief, " a small gourd-shell 
full of beads and cowries was placed on the mouth in 
order to serve to some extent as travelling expenses." 
According to Rohlfs, the Mahommedan Aulad Rashid 
(Arabs in N.W. Darfur) decorate the hair-plaits of their 
camels and horses with the porcelain-shells, and the 
women of Pebu adorn their arms with them. According 
to Nachtigal, the wood- or tin-trombone, about one and 
a half metres long, the hollowed antelope-horn, and the 
short pipes of wood, brass or horn, which emitted such 
terrible tones at festive processions of the Sheikhs in 
Bornu, were all adorned with numerous cowries on the 
surface. The Kawembu in Kanem and the Buduma of 
the islands of Lake Chad also wear neck-chains of cowries. 
The shells are a market-article in Kuka. They are taken 
as an article of barter in journeys from Kuka to Bagirmi 
and Wadai, where, especially by the native Arab and also 
by the pagan negro, they are used as ornament. The 
Mahommedan women in Bagirmi wear cowry neck-chains ; 
the wives of the pagans in the Mofu district wear the 
shells on the girdle and apron strings. In Abeshr 
(Wadai), at the wedding of the king's daughter, thirt)^ 
large baskets, adorned with shells or beads, were carried 



154 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

in front; Being wishful to journey through the pagan-land 
of Runga, Nachtigal provided himself with cowries. In 
Darfur he saw no more cowry-ornament.*" In Haussaland 
Robinson informs us : " The most common form ot 
gambling is a game called by the natives chacha. It 
consists in throwing up five cowry-shells, the player 
winning or losing according as the shells fall, the right 
or the wrong way up." ™ 

Regarding the use of cowries in the region of the 
northern Guinea coast we have ample material to draw 
upon in the accounts of numerous observers. In Sierra 
Leone, at the time of Thomas Winterbottom, three or four 
necklaces of cowries were worn at the mourning for a wife, 
and the husband of the deceased woman was also required 
to wear a necklet of shells. According to Major R. G. 
Berry"^ the shells are used to play a game called jagay, 
or knuckle-bones. They also form part of the sacred 
contents of the medicine bag, or Borfimor, used at the 
initiation ceremonies in connection with the Human 
Leopard Society of the Sierra Leone cannibals. A 
Borfimor bag obtained by Major Berry was found to 
contain four smaller bags, one of which held two tau- 
shaped iron crosses, the stems of which were lapped with 
cotton, and to the top of each was tied a cowry-shell, or 
sign of life. "The tau cross, or crux ansata," Berry remarks 
• — and in quoting this passage I do not accept all of the 
statements — " was the emblem of Osiris, and is called the 
Sign of Life, the symbol of resuscitation and new birth, 
expressive of the idea entertained by the Egyptians and 

'■''■' Schneider, op. cil., various pages (quoting Nachtigal, Barth, and 
others). 

""' C. H. Robinson, "Haussaland," London, 1896, p. 206. 

i»i R. G. Berry, "The Sierra Leone Cannibals, with Notes on their 
History, Religion, and Customs." Proc. Roy. Irish Academy, vol. xxx., 
Sect. C, No. 2, May, 1912, pp. 45, 53, and 67. 



Use of Cowry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 155 

other philosophers, that nothing created was annihilated, 
and that to cease to be was only to assume another form, 
dissolution being merely the passage to reproduction. 
In its association with the Bordmor [and In this connection 
the presence of the cowry must . not be overlookeci]^"'' we 
seem to have the reflection of some such ideas, the fetish 
being animated by the indwelling life of the victim and 
the spirit attracted to it." 

The Borfimor bag also contained a pebble made of 
some earthy matter and lime, in one side of which was 
incorporated a cowry-shell. 

The remarkable resemblance in the use of the money- 
cowry here to that of the Ojibwa and Menomini tribes 
of North America, who also empio)' the same shell, has 
been pointed out already in a previous paper. ^"'^ 

In Liberia, according to Stewart Culin,"" pierced 
cowry-shells {i.e., rubbed down on the back) are used in 
fortune-teUing. {See Fig. E., p. 156). Ratzel {op. cit., iii., 
p. lOS) also gives a figure (f 6) of a sword-sheath from 
Liberia which is ornamented with cowries arranged in 
stars. 

Bowdich, who in 18 17 was sent on a mission of peace 
from Cape Coast Castle to Kumassi, mentions that in 
Accra, as in Gaman, Kong and other neighbouring places, 
cowries had currency. 

North of Ashanti proper, in Koranza and Atabuobo, 
Perregaux found them in full use and of higher value than 
on the coast. According to this observer, in Koranza, 
they were counted per thousand, and 100 cowries were 

1°^ The italicized sentence is my own. 

'°= J. W. Jackson, "The ISIoney Cowry (Cypraa inonela, L.) as a 
Sacred Object among North American Indians," Manch. Memoirs [Lit. and 
Phil. Soc), vol. Ix. (1916), No. 4. See also p. 184 of this chapter. 

1°' Culin, "Chess and Playing Cards," op. cit., p. S15, footnote, and 
fig. 134 on p. 817. 








Cowries used for currencv, etc. 

A.— Cypriia annulus (after Stearns). 
B. — Cyprtia monela ( „ „ ). 

C. — C. tnoneta var. aiava Rochbr. (after Roberts in Tryon). 
£). — C. moneta var. atava l^ochbr., used by Ojibwa Indians (after Hoffman). 
E. Cowries (C moneta v. atava and v. ctJow^raphica) used in fortune- 
telling, Liberia, Africa (after Culin). 



Use of Co-ivry-shelh for Currency, Amulets, etc. 157 

worth 3d. In Okwaon, on the contrary, they were 

reckoned thus : — 

35 cowries = I string (Obang). 

12x35 1) therefore 12 strings = 3d. 

50x35 „ „ 50 „ (1750 cowries) = I Head 

(Atramatiri). 

In the plural, Atiri, was used for 2-9, and Atramatiri, 
for 10 or more heads. A game with cowries (obviously 
the same game as elsewhere in this region) was named 
Atramaton, i.e. to throw cowries. These words are com- 
binations with the word Atrama, which denotes cowries. 
" They were so named," says Ferregaux, " in the Tshi 
language in Aquapim and Ashanti, while in Okwaon and 
the northern lands the designation Serewa was used. A 
single cowry was called Niwa, because of its likeness to an 
eye'"' (Oniwa), and ten cowries were called Niwandu.""" 

Among the Mamprusi of the Gambaga country, north 
of Ashanti, cowries, together with kola nut, figure among 
the objects distributed to guests and musicians at wedding 
ceremonies."" 

Apart from their use as currency, cowries play a very 
important role as amulets and in fetish-worship among 
the Ewe negroes of Togo district. They are worn on 
the neck, arm, wrist and ankle, and regarded as amulets 
against wounds and sickness, and for luck in hunting. 
Mischlich records that the hunt-fetishes, Gbofu of Dad- 
ease and Nakuku of Mjooti, both in Adeli, a district in the 
hill-country of Togo, were ornamented with cowries. Spiess 
mentions that they were worn in quantity by expectant 
women, to ward off danger. It was the custom among the 

'" ° The likeness of the aperture of the cowry to the closed eye may 
explain why these shells have been applied as eyes for fetishes, etc., in the 
Congo region, Borneo, New Zealand, etc. 

^"^ fide Schneider, op. cit., pp. 144-5. 

107 " Women of all Nations," p. 344. 



158 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

Ewe that if a woman died in childbirth she was not given 
the usual burial treatment, and was not buried in her hut. 
The same shells are also employed as eyes in the Begbowo 
idol, as an ornament of the fetish-priests and priestesses 
at their dance, as offerings to the protective deity and at 
ordeals, at which it depends upon whether the priest, who 
has taken two or three cowries in the mouth, retains them 
there or casts them out."' The similarity of these customs 
to those current in other parts of the world is remarkable. 
As will be seen in the subsequent account, the association of 
the cowry-shell with pregnancy is to be found in places so 
far away as India and Japan ; while the spitting out of 
cowries appears to be identical ivith the rnedicine ceremonial 
of the Ojibwa and Menomini Indians of North America. 

According to Klose, Togo warriors wear caps orna- 
mented with cowries. As a protection from evil small 
children have a pair of consecrated cowries interwoven in 
the hair, while the women of the bush-people of the hinter- 
land fasten cowries as a fetish on the side of the head. 
Hunters, too, ornament therewith the butt-end of their 
flint-lock guns, in order to ensure success, and on a much 
honoured hunt-fetish in the neighbourhood of Soluga lay 
buffalo- and antelope-horns adorned with cowries. At 
the entrance to villages frequently stand clay-idols with 
cowry-eyes and shell-ornament, and in front of them lay 
abundant offerings of old spirit-flasks and calabashes 
filled with cowries. At ordeals for the detection of a mur- 
derer, the priests blow poison towards the sun out of a 
cowry-decorated pipe, which, when the suspicion is correct, 
falls down as blood, while at the trial of a thief two pieces of 
wood, adorned with a cowry at each end and wrapped 
round with a long cord, are made use of^'*' 

los Schneider, op. cit., pp. 169-170 (quoting Mischlich and Spiess). 
'" Schneider, op. cit., p. 170 (quoting Klose, "Togo."). 



Use of Cowry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 159 

In Togo-land cowries are also paid by the relations of 
a girl seeking admission among the Ewe-priestesses, and 
when the betrothed Ewe-youth brings his wife home 
he pays to her parents 4 marks in cowries.™ At death 
ceremonies, relations, friends and acquaintances, place 
quantities of cowries in the grave with the dead, in order 
that the deceased may purchase food and palm-wine, 
and reward the old ferry-man Akotia who carries him in 
his canoe over the wide river Assisa to the region of the 
dead. According to Monrad,™ the negroes fully believe 
that everything expended in the funeral obsequies, such as 
the goods, coral, cowry-money, etc., placed in the grave, 
the tobacco used and the wine drunk on such occasions, 
will be of use to the defunct when he rises up in the future 
world. 

Among the Bassari-people Klose found the previously- 
mentioned game of chance (cowry-throwing), at which he 
saw soldiers wager cowries to the value of from i to 3 
marks at a cast. Cowry-casting for divination was also 
employed by the priests in the fetish-village Dadease. 

According to R. Fr. Miiller, at the circumcision of 
boys the circumciser receives a cowry, conveys it to the 
forehead of the person about to be circumcised, and finally 
buries it with the prepuce in a small pit ; as a reward he 
receives 81 cowries. According to the same informer, 
cowries were offered to the small-pox fetish.^^" 

That cowry-money has circulated in Togo for ages is 
proved by an old saying, handed down from generation to 
generation among the Ewe-negroes, according to which 
cowries were found in a basket despatched from heaven 

11" Herold, "Mitteil. aus den deutsch. Schutzgebeiten," Bd. V. (1892), 
p. 151 (fide Schneider). 

111 Monrad, "Gemalde der Kiistevon Guinea," p. 11 (fids Schneider). 

112 Miiller, " Fetischistisches aus Atakpama (Deutsch-Togo)," Gkbas, 
1902, No. 18, pp. 280-1 (fide Schneider). 



l6o Shells as evidence of tlie Migrations. 

by Mawu (God), which the black eagerly appropriated 
for purposes of trade.™ 

In Dahomey similar customs to those of the Ewe- 
negroes prevail. The famous Amazons of the king, who 
dwell in a house richly ornamented with skulls and cowry- 
garlands, have a custom of glueing a cowry-shell for each 
slain enemy to the stocks of their muskets, the shells being 
glued by means of the blood of the slain man. Another 
custom of the Dahomeyans takes the form of a " fight for 
cowries" thrown by the king and his Amazons, this being 
followed by the sacrifice of a human victim upon which 
cowries and other objects have been dashed. At the con- 
clusion of these ceremonies a number of cowries are 
thrown upon the blood-stained earth."^ 

In Yoruba, as in Dahomey, cowries have been a 
recognised form of currency for centuries, and in recent 
years thousands of tons have been imported into Lagos. 
According to Hoffmann, in 1850, about 40 white cowries 
(C. vioneta) were equal to an English penny. In Yoemba, 
in Lander's time, it was the custom on the death of a 
chief for one of his wives to destroy all his possessions 
and shell-money and then destroy herself On his travels 
through Yoruba, Lander also saw a sorcerer whose cowry- 
hangings he estimated at 20,000 specimens. Not far off 
the river Mussa, Forscher saw a hut with a veiled entrance 
in which it was customary for passing negroes to place 
cowries, because the god housed therein gave them water, 
corn, and yams in abundance."' 

Among the Egbas, according to Brown,™ it is the 
custom when a great man dies for slaves to be slain to 
act as his attendants in the land of spirits. Messengers 

I''' C. Spiess, Detiiscli. Ceogr. Blatter, 1899, P- 33 (fid^ Schneider). 

^1* Brown, "Races of Mankind," vol. iii., pp. 92 and 100-2. 

1"* Schneider, op. cit., pp. 154-6, and 170. 

'1" Brown, op. cit., iii., pp. 114-15. 



Use of Cowry -shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. i6i 

are also despatched to the dead in the same way. Slaves 
or prisoners taken in war are richly dressed and laden 
with cowries, and when they become intoxicated by rum 
they are slain. In this manner it is believed that not 
only messages, but the circulating medium with which 
the victims are laden, can be conveyed to the departed 
relatives of the people who have performed this pious 
sacrifice. With these people sixteen appears to be a 
sacred and mystical number. Thus, for instance, when 
meditating war the war priest throws into the air sixteen 
cowries. Much depends upon the way these fall. Those 
which fall with the aperture upwards portend peace ; but 
if a greater number fall with their apertures downwards, 
then the divination is considered to be favourable to war. 

Some interesting details of the use of the cowry as a 
medium for the transmission of messages are given by 
the Rev. C. A. Gollmer in his paper on " African Symbolic 
Messages.""" In the Yoruba country, he informs us, the 
natives send messages to each other by means of shells, 
feathers, corn, stone, coal, etc., through which they convey 
their ideas, feelings, and wishes, good or bad. Cowry- 
shells in the symbolic language are used to convey, by their 
number and the way in which they are strung, a variety of 
ideas. Thus one cowry, strung on a short bit of grass 
fibre, or cord, may indicate " defiance and failure " ; two 
cowries, if strung face to face, "relationship and meeting," 
but if strung back to back, " separation and enmity " ; 
two cowries and a feather, " speedy meeting " ; three 
cowries, with their faces all looking one way, strung with 
an alligator pepper, " deceit " ; six cowries may indicate 
" attachment and affection." 

According to Bloxam,™ cowries are similarly em- 

"' Journ. Anilirop. Inst, Gt. Bn. and I., vol. xiv,, p. 169. 
^'' Ibid., vol. .\vi. , p. 295. 






Strings of cowries used as messages, etc. 

A. — West African symbolic message (after Bloxam). 
B. — "Amulet for protection," from Kafr Ammar, Egypt (after Petrie). 
C. — String of C. annuhis from rubbish dating to xxii. dynasty. Medum 
(in Manchester Museum). 



Use of Coivry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 163 

ployed by the Jebu tribe of the west coast. The shells 
are strung together in varying numbers, odd numbers, as 
a rule, being of evil import, while even numbers express 
good will. A single cowry may be sent as an unfavour- 
able answer to a request or message. In some cases other 
substances besides cowries are included in the aroko or 
symbolic letters. Thus we find piecesof spice, a piece of 
mat, and a feather, introduced for the purpose of convey- 
ing some significant idea. (See Fig. A, p. 162). 

This method of employing cowries for the purpose of 
conveying certain ideas is of interest in connection with 
discoveries made in Egypt of knotted cords with the same 
cowries, papyrus charm pendants, uzat eyes, etc., attached. 
Several of these cords are figured by Fetrie"'' in his book 
on " Amulets," all from Kafr Ammar, xxiii-xxvth dynasty. 
He places the objects among amulets for protection and 
says no explanation of their meaning is known in Egypt. 
(See Figs. B & C, p. 162.) 

The history of the cowry in Africa may be concluded 
with a few remarks on its use in Benin and about the 
lower Niger. Dennett, speaking of the customs of the 
Bini,'-° informs us that " the people swear by licking and 
touching stones, iron, cowries, bits of twisted rope, and the 
crushed leaves of a plant, asking these things to kill them 
if they are not telling the truth." According to the same 
authority, every great house has an altar to Olukun — the 
river spirit of Olukun or Great Benin river — in or near to 
which is a pot of water, cowries (Igo) and a heap of other 
objects. At Ewesi, not far from the Sobo plains, is a 
temple to Olukun, in which are very old wooden figures 
(like those into which nails are driven in the Congo) 
covered with cowries and other objects. In front of the 

1"' W. M. Flinders Petric, "Amulets," London, 1914, p. 29, No. 131, 
pi. xvii. — xix. 

15 » K. E. Dennett, op. cit., p. 193. 



164 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

great figure of Olukun himself sits a priest, half hidden 
by long strings of cowries hung from the roof At Igo, a 
town on the Gilly Gilly road, there is a mound on which 
is an altar to Olukun with chalk cones and cowries on it, 
all covered by a shed. The presence of an Odigi, or 
sacred well, is generally made known along the roads 
by a tree and a mound of earth and cdwries.'-' The 
shells are also scattered at certain death ceremonies. '"■' 
Their association with marriage is seen by the fact that 
among the upper class cowries, together with kola-nuts 
and palm-wine, are given as presents on betrothal. 
" Often on the roads one passes a small tree planted by 
the side of the road, near which are chalk marks and a 
mound of earth, cowries, yams and plantains. This tree 
has been planted in memory of the fact that some woman 
or other has brought forth a child on that spot."'^'' 

On the Bonny river, at Ibo on the Niger, and in other 
places of the Niger-delta, cowries have, or had until quite 
recently, general currency. In this neighbourhood also it 
is the custom, at the interment of a chief, to bury all his 
treasure with him in the grave. The brothers Lander 
narrate that when they visited Idda, on the left bank of 
the Niger, much consternation and indignation prevailed, 
owing to the fact that the new chief had again exhumed 
and misappropriated for his own use the treasure of 
cowries which had been buried with his father.'^* 

In India the money-cowry seems to have been 
regarded with special favour for amuletic and currency 
purposes from very early times. It has been met with 
on several pre-historic sites accompanied with bangles 
made from the sacred chank shell, Tiirbinella pyrum, and 

^-1 Jbid., pp. 222-4, *fd 227. 

122 Ibid., p. 207. 

"S Hid., pp. 198-9. 

'** Schneider, op. cit., pp. 156-7. 



Use of Coivry-shelis for Cicrrency, Aviulefs, etc. 165 

other shell ornaments. Its association with chank bangles 
is specially interesting and seems to , imply a similar 
cultural source for the use of these white shells. Hornell 
in his work on "The Sacred Chank of India "^''^ informs 
us (p. 50) that fragments of Cypr/sa vionetn and of a 
Nerita, also beads of entire Paludina shells, were found 
near Hampasagra, on the Tungabhadra, 53 miles west of 
Bellary, along with 18 fragments of chank bangles, 
Mr. Bruce Foote placing the age of this find as late 
neolithic or early iron age. Also (p. 51), "from made 
ground in the north bank of a nullah, at Huvina, near 
Hadagalli, 65 miles west of Bellary, came a single bangle 
fragment with two money cowries [f^yprcBd nionetd)" 
and " from an old site north of Bellaguppa, came a 
fragment of a working section of chank shell, an entire 
Cyprcea nioneta, four fragments of scraper made of Unio 
shell, and three fragments of chank bangles ; associated 
with these were a neolithic celt, a fragment of a corn- 
crusher, some pottery, and two metal fragments, one 
being possibly part of a bronze ring." A further discovery 
of the money-cowry is recorded from Damnagar, Amreli 
Prant, Kathiawar, where two examples were found 
associated with a great number of fragmentary chank 
bangles, a basalt corncrusher, a bloodstone hammer, and 
chert and agate cores (Hornell, p. 57). The example of 
C. moneta figured by Hornell on plate V., (3456-13) is of 
great interest from the fact that the back of the specimen 
has been rubbed down in the characteristic Ancient 
Egyptian and East African fashion. 

In dealing with the money of India prior to Alex- 
ander the Great, Del Mar(i?/. «'/.') states that : " In Bengal 
the principal money finds have been of cowries, the 
metallic monies being comparatively few " (p. 66). And 

'-° Madras Fisheries Rnlleiin, No. 7, 1914. 



1 66 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

again (p. go) in speaking of the standard of money 
in India from Alexander the Great to the Mahommedan 
Conquest, he says : "In Northern India the copper pieces 
were supplemented by gold and silver multipliers, in 
Southern India by dividers of cowrie-shells." In the 
Manikyala tope in the Punjab, opened in 1830, " were 
found mingled together cowrie shells, gold coins of the 
Kadphises and Kanerkes, Roman consular coins shortly 
before the Christian era, and copper coins of the Sassanian 
line.'"-" Cowries formed the bulk of the currency between 
the beginning of the Christian era and the Mahommedan 
dynasty of A.D. 1203.'" f" Bengal the system of a copper 
standard with cowry dividers and gold and silver multi- 
pliers remained unchanged after the Mahommedan Con- 
quest. Ibn Batuta, the Arabian traveller of the 14th century, 
gives an account of the collection of the cowry-shells in 
the Maldive islands, from whence they were exported to 
Bengal in exchange for rice. He states that a biistus 
equalled a lak of cowries, and four /^r/tj, or four bustus, were 
estimated as worth one gold dinar, but the rate of exchange 
was so variable that occasionally a dinar would purchase 
as many as twelve laks of cowries.'^ 

In Orissa, the next kingdom south of Bengal, accounts 
were kept in cowries, and the following scale of values 
prevailed during the early part of the Mahommedan rule : 
4cowries=i gunda ; 5 gundas= i boory ; 4 boories=i 
pun ; 16 — 20 puns=i khawun ; 10 khawuns=i rupee. In 
1740, a rupee exchanged for 2,400 cowries ; in 1756, for 

'-" .Maisden, " Numismata Orientalia," edited by Hdward Thomas, 
London, 1874, quoted by Del Mar, op. (it., p. 86 footnote. 

I''' Marsden, op. cit., p. 37 ; Del Mar, op. cit., p. 90 footnote. 

'" Del Mar, op. cit., p. 99; Edward Thomas, "The Chronicles of 
the I'alhan Kings of Delhi," London, 1871, p. no footnote. In Lee's 
translation of " Ibn Batfita" (London, 1829, pp. 179 & 181) the cowry 
(Wada) is referred to as alms-gifts and as currency in the Maldives. 



Use of Cowry-shells for Curreiicv, Amulets, etc. 167 

2,560 cowries ; in 1833, 6,400 cowries ; and in 1845,6,500 
cowries. Major Rcnnell, who was in Silhet in 1767-8, 
speaking of the cowry-money, remarks : " I found no other 
currency of any kind in the country ; and upon an occasion, 
when an increase in the revenue of the province was 
enforced, several boat loads (not less than 50 tons each) 
were collected and sent down the Burrampooter to Dacca." 
As late as 1801 the revenues of the ]5ritish district of 
Silhet " were collected in cowries, which was also the 
general medium of all pecuniary transactions, and a con- 
siderable expense was then incurred by Government in 
effecting their conversion into bullion." (Thomas, op. cit., 
pp. 1 10 — III footnotes). 

Lovell Reeve, in his " Conchologia Systematica,""" 
mentions that " a gentleman residing some time since at 
Cuttack is said to have paid for the erection of his 
bungalow entirely in these cowries [C inonetd]. The 
building cost him about'4,000 rupees sicca (;^400 sterling) ; 
and as sixty-four of these shells are equivalent in value 
to one 'pice,' and sixty-four pice to a rupee sicca, he paid 
for it with above sixteen millions of these shells." 

In the Deccan, up to the thirteenth century, but few 
coins of any kind seem to have been minted, the currency 
appearing to consist almost entirely of cowries (Del Mar, 
oj?. cit., p. 108). 

In early times, cowries, it is thought, were brought to 
India from the Philippines and Borneo, as well as from 
• the island of Bima near Macassar (Celebes); in later 
times they were obtained from the Laccadive and 
Maldive Islands. Of the latter, the Arab Masudi, in the 
first half of the loth century, remarked that the queen 
had no other kind of money than the cowries, which were 

i2'j Reeve, " Coiicliologia Systematica," London, 1842, vol. ii., p. 262 
footnole. 



1 68 Shells as evidence of /he Migrations. 

obtained by means of rafts made of the branches and 
leaves of the cocoa-nut lashed together and floated on 
the surface of the sea. The work was carried out by 
women. When sufficient animals had become attached 
to the rafts by climbing aloft among the branches, these 
were dragged ashore and the shells spread out on the 
sands to enable the sun to dr\' up the contained animals. 
The Arab author, Ebn Beithar, who died in 1248, also 
mentions the Maldives as a locality from which cowries 
were obtained.™ These islands are also referred to by 
Ibn Batuta, the Arabian traveller of the 14th century, 
who speaks of the use of cowries ( Wada) there as currencj' 
and alms-gifts."' At the beginning of the 17th centur\-, 
Frangois Pyrard de Laval, observed the fishing of the 
cowries by the women of the Maldives. According to 
him they were collected twice a month, three days after 
the new moon and three days after the full moon. The 
shells were in such demand in India that sometimes 30 to 
40 ships were seen loaded with them. In Cambay and 
other Indian places, the prettiest were used as ornaments 
along with silver and gold, and held as great rarities, as 
if they were precious stones. They also passed current 
there as money under the nam.e Boly, and at burials they 
were scattered on the way from the house of the defunct 
to the cemetery as alms for the poor.''" Captain Owen, in 
1832,"'' gives an account of the collecting of cowries in the 
Alaldives somewhat similar to that of Masudi. He further 
remarks on the similarity of the rafts, or balsas, to those 
used on the coasts of Chili and Peru. 

Bengal seems to have been the great market for the 
cowries from the Maldives. From there the}- were widely 

^"'' fide Schneider, op. cit., p. no. 

'" See Translation by Lee, of. cit., pp. 178 & 181. 

^'= Schneider, op. cil., p. in. 

^'= Journ. Roy. Geog. Soc. LoiuL, vol. 2, 1832, pp. 82-3. 



Use of Coivry-shells for Cm rency, A niulets, etc. 1 69 

distributed over India, not only over the plains of tlie 
north and north-west, but also along the east coast and 
even to the slopes of the Himalayas and to the Deccan 
plateau."' 

Besides their use as mone)' in India the same shells 
are employed to ornament the trappings of horses and 
elephants, as previously remarked. They are also strung 
like beads or sewed like buttons on the dresses of the 
Brinjari women of Nagpur province.''" According to Dr. 
Curt Boeck, they are traded in Indian bazaars, especially 
for bordering the cloth-masks of shamans.''" In many 
Indian places, e.g., Gahsi, Punjab, one still finds C. aunubi-s 
worn by the native women. The Todas of the Nilgiri 
Hills, S. India, wear a C. moiieta on a heavy silver collar 
(Schneider, op. cit., p. 117). According to Thurston, this 
same species is also worn by Toda women on their thread 
and silver armlet.s and necklets. As in Africa, cowries 
are associated with Toda death ceremonies. When a 
person dies, various objects such as rice, hone}', and other 
food-stuffs, together with cowries, " with which to purchase 
food in the celestial bazar," are burned with him. Like 
the Todas, the Kotas of the Nilgiris occasionally make use 
of cowries ; they are sometimes seen on the necklets of 
the women ; and at funeral ceremonies when the skulls of 
the deceased are brought to the funeral ground to be burnt, 
a pole, twenty feet long, decorated with cowries, is also 
burned in the case of a male. The Nilgiri Irula women, too, 
sometimes have bead necklets with cowry-shells pendent.'" 

^"* Sclmeider, «A «■/., p. iii. 

^•"' Stearns, " Ethno-conchology — A Study of Primitive Money," 
Report U. S. Nat. Mas., 1887, p. 302. 

^"'' .Schneider, op. liL. pp. 116-7. 

'■'" E. Thurston, Madias Goveniment Mti.'^eiim, Hnlletin \o. 4, iSgb, 
pp. 754, 174 (Todas), 192, igS (Kotas) ; vol. ii., Nd, i., 1897, pp. I4and 16, 
pi. V, (Irulas). 



I/O S lulls as evidence of the Migrations. 

Thurston'* also cites a curious custom among the Chettis 
(traders) of Southern India of unmarried girls wearing a 
necklace of the money-cowry and beads, it being " unusual 
for unmarried girls to wear any badge of their condition. 
This association of cowries with the unmarried is of great 
interest in view of a somewhat similar custom in East 
Africa, to which reference is made on another page. 
Thurston further states that " when a Hasalara or Hasala 
(forest tribe) of Mysore dies, somebody's evil spirit is 
credited with the mishap, and an astrologer is consulted 
to ascertain its identity. He throws cowry {Cypi'cea 
vioneia) shells or rice for divination, and mentions the 
name of some neighbour as the owner of the devil. There- 
upon the spirit of the dead is redeemed by the heir or 
relative bj' means of a pig, fowl, or other guerdon." 
(Thurston, op. cit., pp. 164-5). 

Turning to Ceylon we find that Hildburgh, in his 
"Notes on Sinhalese Magic,""" states that cowries are 
worn as amulets by infants. This same writer also gives 
illustrations (pi. xi.) of masks worn by devil-dancers in 
v.hich sometimes the upper, or both upper and lower, 
teeth are formed qf cowry-shells. Culin, in his " Chess 
and Playing-Cards,""" describes a cowry game, Kavvadi 
Kelia, in which cowries of different kinds are used as men, 
each player also having three cowries as dice. This game 
is clearly related to the Hindu game of Pachisi, also 
played with cowries. The shells are thrown as dice and 
the counts are according as the apertures fall uppermost 
or not. " The game of Fachisi," sa3'S Culin, " may be 

'■'" E. Tluirston, " Ethnographic Notes in Southern India," Madras, 
1906, p. 68 ; In his article on " Some .Marriage Customs in Suutliern India" 
\Madras GoT't. Miis. Bulklhi, vol. iv,, No. 3, 1903, p. 155), Thurston gives 
the species as Cypiau aiaHca. 

'" Journ. h'. .Anlhrop. lust., vol. 38 (1908), \>. 193. 

Ill' Kiporl U. S. .Va/. .Viis., for 1S96 (189S), pp. 851--I. 



Use of Cowry-sliells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 171 

regarded a.s an expansion and elaboration of the type of 
game represented by the Korean Nyout, and sacred and 
divinatory in its origin." Nyout is played with staves. 
" The two faces of the staves, black and white, may be 
regarded as .signifying the dual principles of nature, 
masculine and feminine. A feminine significarice is widel)' 
attributed to the aperture of the cowrie shell. Its convex 
side would natural!)' be regarded as masculine ; hence its 
substitution for the staves would seem to have been an 
easy transition." 

Games like Pachisi, in which cowries are used as dice, 
are known in the Maldive Islands under the name Dliola, 
and in Syria under the name of Edris a Jin; also in 
Burma as Pasit}"^ 

In parts of Further India the cowry is still in circula- 
tion as money. In Siam and Laos it serves as a form 
of currency, and in the former country 6,400 cowries are 
said to equal about is. 6d."^ At the end of the 17th century 
La Loubere found it in use in all Si<uTi ; it was obtained 
from the Laccadives, from Borneo and the Philippines, 
where it was taken in as ballast by the siiips. About the 
middle of the i8th century, according to Gervaise, the 
Siamese small-change consisted of small shells, which the 
Europeans called cowries and the Siamese Bia, Accord- 
ing to Hertz they were no longer in use as small-change 
at Bangkok in 1881."' 

In Burma the women of the Taungthas wear a loose 
skirt adorned with a wide belt of cowries or silver filigree 
work.'" 

'*! Culin, 0/1. lil., pp. S56-7. 

'*'- Deniker, op. n'/., p. 324 : See also " Centur\- Dictionary,'' ii., p. 
1321. 

'*" Schneider, ofi. cit„ pp. 107-S. 

'** "Women of all Xaticns," p. 574. 



1/2 S/ielis as evidence of tlie Migratiofis. 

In Thibet, according to Carl Ritter, cowries serve as 
ornaments for women's girdles."' 

Among the Khasias, a stone-using tribe inhabiting the 
Khasia Hills of Eastern Bengal, cowries are associated with 
marriage. .According to Brown,''^ " the marriage ceremony 
is of the most primitive type. All that is necessary is for 
the couple to sit together on one seat and receive their 
friends, to whom they give a marriage feast. A union so 
easil}' contracted is just as easily dissolved. The woman 
receives five cowries which she throws awav ; thev are 
then free to be married again, the children remaining with 
the mother." 

Among the Nagas of Assam, head-hunting was 
formerly a qualification for matrimony, and a warrior, 
having slain an enemy, had the privilege of wearing a kilt 
decorated with cowry-shells, collars ornamented with 
similar shells, tufts of goat hair dyed red, and locks of 
hair from the heads of the persons killed."" 

A similar custom is prevalent among the head-hunt- 
ing Patasiwa of Seran, where a warrior is not allowed to 
take a wife until he can show the head of an enemy he has 
slain. In proof of his prowess the warrior wears as many 
little white shells (? cowries) round his neck and arms as 
he has murdered men.'** .\n even more striking identity 
in the association of cowries with head-hunting is to be 
found in East Central Africa, where the Djibba tribe wear 
not only the cowries but also the hair from the heads of 
the slain enemies (see p. 142). 

'*' Schneider, op. cil., p. 117. 

'*« Brown, of. cit., iii., p. 302; quoting Lieul. .Sleel, \i.fi.., Joiiiii. 
Ethnol. So,:, vii., p. 305. B\- some philologists the Khasias are considered 
to be Thibetans. 

^*" *' \\'omen of all Nations," p. 581. 

'" G. .-\. Cooke, "System of Universal Geography," vol. i. (1801), p. 
609. 



Use of Coivry-shells for Ctirrency, Amulets^ etc. 173 

Among the Dyaks of Borneo it is the custom to place 
the small white money-cowries in the eye-sockets of the 
skulls of enemies, which they keep."' The baskets of the 
Dyak head-hunter are also decorated with the same 
cowries."" Specimens in the Leiden Museum show C. 
annulus as decoration for sword-hangings from West 
Borneo, and C. moneta as decoration for a betel-pouch 
from South-east Borneo."' 

In certain parts of Malaysia, cowries are attached to 
the fishing-nets, not as " net-sinkers " as recorded by 
several ethnologists,"- but in order to ensure success in 
fishing or to ward off evil influences. In Nias, an island 
off the west coast of Sumatra, Cyprcea vitellus is so used ; 
in Engano, an island in the same neighbourhood, the 
species is C. ventriculus ; in Timor, C. arabica ; while off 
N.W. New Guinea the shells employed are C. moneta, 
C. caput-serpentis, C. erosa, C. lynx, C. tigris and C. vitellus}"'' 

According to Von Martens, the Berlin Museum con- 
tains specimens of clothing ornamented with cowries, from 
Bali, near Java.^** In Timorlaut the natives adorn cloth- 
girdles with cowries, and in the same island, four species 
of cowries, C. annulus, C. Isabella, C. erosa, and C. helvola, 
are employed as neck-ornaments."* 

Van der Sande,"" describes and figures several neck- 
ornaments from Dutch New Guinea, on which specimens 

'*» Slearns, op. cii., p. 302 ; Ralzel, op. cit., i., p. 135 (fig.). 

"° Ratzel, op. cit., vol. i., p. 448 (fig.) 

^''^ Schmeltz, " Schnecken und Muscheln in leben der volker Indo- 
ne.siens und Oceaniens," Leiden, 1894. 

■"*' The slight weight of these shells would render them valueless as 
sinkers. 

1°'' Schmeltz, op. cit. ' 

>"* Schneider, op. cit., p. 118. 

1"^ liid., and Schmeltz, op. cil. 

160 Yan der Sande, "Nova Guinea," iii , 1907, pp. 83, ii/S, pi. xiii., 
fig. 4. 



1/4 S/iel/s ns evidence of tlie ]\Iigrations. 

of C. annitliis are strung on strips of Pandanus leaf, the 
whole hanging down from a neck string in front of the 
chest. Schmeltz {pp. at., pp. 23 et seq.), also cites the 
use of C. argils and C. lynx as breast-ornaments, and 
C. moiieta on hip-strings in X.E. New Guinea ; C. moneta 
on arm band, C. nniiulns as leg- and shield-ornaments in 
S.E. New Guinea ; and C. moneta as ankle-ornament in 
N.W. New Guinea. 

In the Philippines, according to Schmeltz {pp. cit.), 
C. anmthis is used as a neck-ornament, as decoration for 
the coat-of-mail of the Moro, and as the e)-es of ancestor- 
images. 

According to Pickering the cowry was formerl)- in use 
as money in the Hawaiian Islands. He says'": "An 
estimable and intelligent Hawaiian lady gave me the 
following particulars respecting former customs : . . . 
Money was certainly known, for with a string of cowries 
( Cvpi'ica moneta) it was possible to buy any article wanted. 
Specimens of the same shell that were finer than usual, 
having a high polish and deep yellow colour, were 
extravagantl)- valued, and could only be worn by the 
highest chiefs, who also e.xclusively possessed wooden 
calabashes." In the Vancouver collection, British Museum, 
are Leis of Cypii'ca moneta from these islands."* 

In Oahn, Hawaii Islands, a large cowr}', Cyprcea 
manritiana, is attached to fishing-nets in order to ensure 
success. Specimens of this are in the R. D. Darbi- 
shire collection, Manchester Museum. The stone (lava) 
"net-sinkers" of Oahu are curiously enough all modelled 
after this shell, being rough!}- carved with a high round 
back and flat base, with a groove for the attachment of a 
cord. 

isr rickeiing, "RacesofMan" (Bohn's Ed.),iS63, quoted by Stearns, 
op. cil., p. 303. 

i°~ " IJernice I'jnahi Bishop Museum," Honolulu (1898-1902), Report 
i., P- 43- 



Use of Cowry-shells for Cnrrcmy, Avinlets, etc. 175 

Cyprcea vioneta appears to have been current also in 
other islands of the Pacific, as Brenchley states:'™ "At 
Eramango [New Hebrides] a shell called ' Nunpuri,' the 
Cypr(ea 7«o«eto, passes as money, as also in New Caledonia." 

In the Bismark Archipelago, says Schneider (op. cit., 
p. 118), C. aiiniilus was found as money in special cases. 

In Gilbert Archipelago, the Ellice and Kingsmill 
Islands, Cyprcea inoneia and C. anmilus are used as body- 
ornament and for decorating implements and tools.'"" 

F. W. Christian, in his article " On Micronesian 
Weapons, Dress, Implements, etc,'"" figures a cowry-shell 
used in the Carolines for stripping off the outer skin of 
the bread-fruit. The figured shell looks like a Cyprcea 
niajtritiann. He also figures an Ovuhtin ovum shell 
(often alluded to as the white cowry) pierced for 
ornamenting prows of canoes. The use of this shell 
as a canoe-ornament is general throughout the Pacific. 
Amongst other places it is recorded from the Pelew Islands,^ 
Yap, Gilbert Archipelago, Samoa, Nine, Viti Islands, 
Solomon Archipelago and Torres Straits Islands. In 
some of these and in other islands it is also worn as an 
ornament for the neck, breast, or leg, and placed on the 
outsides of native houses. In Tonga it is used as a grave- 
ornament, and in the Solomons as decoration of an idol.'"" 

In Tahiti, Cyprcea moneta and C. talpa are worn on 
the neck, and C. tigris occurs on the base of an idol from 
Tahiti, now in the British Museum."" Sir C. H. Read, in 
his description of specimens obtained on Vancouver's 

t5a Brenchley, "Cruise of tlie ' Curajoa,' " 1873, p. 299, quoted by C. 
Hedley, Mem. Ausl. Rhis., iii., pt. 7, 1899, P- 452- 

i''» Sclineider, op. cit., p. 118. 

»" ' /. Anthrop. Inst., 28 (1898-9), pp. 28S et seq., pi. xxiv., f. 5. 

^"^^ Schmeltz, " .Schnecken und Muschelii in leben der volUer Indo- 
nesiens und Oceanians," Leiden, 1894. 

J«» Ibid. 



1 76 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

voyage, figures an instrument of palm-wood, used for 
splitting bread-fruit in this island, to which are attached 
two tiger cowries with their inner whorls broken out, and 
one end cut off."^ 

In the Loyalty Islands, the orange cowry {Cypiaa 
aurora) is greatly valued. The Rev. Mr. Hadfield, in 
the course of his missionary work, came across a fine 
specimen in a native hut in Lifu, where it was held in 
much veneration by the occupant, who considered it a 
kind of fetish."^ Mr. Hadfield also gives us some further 
interesting information regarding this species. He tells 
us that his wife came upon a specimen which, according 
to the native report, had been found by an old woman 
who was struck on the forehead by a demon, who asked 
her why she took the shell. The woman, it is said, died 
from the effects of the blow.'"' This fine shell is used as a 
badge of high rank in Tonga, or Friendly Islands, as well 
as in Fiji. One of the most remarkable Fijian industries 
is the working of whales' teeth to represent this cowry, as 
well as the commoner C. ialpa, which is more easily 
imitated.'"' 

The New Zealanders, it is stated, use Cyprcea asellus 
and other shells to form the eyes of their idols.'** 

Codrington, in his " Melanesians" (Oxford, 1891, p. 26), 
tells us that in Aurora, the nearest of the New Hebrides 
to the Bank's Islands, the natives have a story that the 
first woman came from a cowry-shell. Somewhat analogous 
ideas are expressed in the traditions of the .Samoans as 
to the origin of man. By these people it is believed 

'°* /. Anthrop. Iiisl., 21 (1891-2), pp. 105-6, pi. x., f. 5, 
1C6 Melvill & Standen, "Lifu Molhisca,'' y"««-«. of Conch ology,^\\\., 
189s, p. 112. 

'»« Ibid., p. 131. 

1" A. H. Cooke, " Molluscs," Camb. Nat. Hist., iii., 1S95, P- 98- 

1" Ibid., p. 99. 



Use of Cowry-shells for Currency, Afiiulets, etc. 177 

that man is formed from ^ species of mussel and that 
gods are present in some of the shell-fish.'"' A similar idea 
concerning the possibility of human beings living in shells 
is current among the Indians of the N.W. coast of 
America. According to the Haida and Kaigani the first 
people sprang from a cockle-shell.™ 

In the Far East, cowries, both large and small, were 
used as a medium of currency long before the Christian 
era. Frequent allusions are made to them in ancient 
Chinese literature, but the authenticity of some of these 
I'ecords and of the dates assigned to the period when 
cowries were in use is open to some criticism. M. 
Terrien de Lacouperie™ has presented us with some re- 
markable views on the origin of Chinese civilization, based 
upon the study of numerous Chinese works, and from his 
statements it would appear that cowries were used as 
money in China as early as 2,000 years B.C. But the 
fact that many of the works which he studied are, to a 
large extent, based upon tradition renders them unreliable 
as evidence as to date. It seems certain, however, that 
cowries were in circulation among the people of Eastern 
China in the seventh century B.C., and the southern country 
of Ts'u figures largely in connection with supplies of these 
shells for currency. Contact with the west through sea- 
traders of the Indian Ocean (Erythrsan Sea), who are 
claimed to have established a colony in the Gulf of Kiao- 
chou (South Shantung) in 675-670 B.C., had made them 
familiar with many western practices, and it is not im- 
probable that the use of the cowry was one of them. 
Some time about 600 B.C., the king of Ts'u issued two 

»«» Turner, "Samoa, etc," London, 18S4, pp. 8, 12 and 17. 

"» Niblack, "The Coast Indians of Southern Alaska and Northern 
British Columbia," Kept. U.S. Nat. Mus., 1887-8 {1890), p. 378. 

'''"■ Terrien de Lacouperie, "Western Origin of the Early Chinese 
Civilisation from 2,300 B.C. to 200 a.d." London, 1894. 



178 Shells as evidence of tJte Migrations. 

sizes of small coins, bean-shaped (in the fashion of the 
vEginastan and Lydian coins of 750-700 B.C.) and inscribed 
with their respective weights. These coins are known in 
native numismatics as metallic cowries, Ho-pei isien, 
because their shape suggested that of the once useful 
little shells they superseded. They have also received 
other quaint appellatives, as ' Ghost-heads,' Kwei-ton ; 
' Ghost-faces,' Kwei-lien ; and ' Ants'-noses money,' Y-pi ■ 
tsicn}''- The introduction of this and other metallic 
currencies caused the circulation of cowries to disappear 
gradually in eastern China, and in B.C. 221, the king of 
Ts'in, having assumed the title of She Hwang-ti, "the 
first universal Emperor," issued an order forbidding hence- 
forth the use of gems, pearls, tortoise-shells, cowries and 
tin for currency purposes. Cowries, however, still con- 
tinued to be regarded as objects of appreciation ; and in 
B.C. 179 we find the king of Nan-yueh sending as presents 
to the Chinese emperors 500 purple cowries™ along with 
other gifts. At the end of the First Han dynasty an 
attempt was made by Sin Wang Mang, the usurper (a.D. 
9-22), to revive the circulation of cowries and tortoise- 
shells, but little success rewarded his efforts. According 
to Lacouperie,''^ the cowry currency consisted of five sorts, 
regulated as follows : — 
"(i) The great shells ; 4 tsan or inches, 8 fen or loths 

in length ; two of which formed a pang or pair ; 

value 216 cowries. 
(2) The bull shells ; 3 tsnn, 6 fen in length ; a pair of 

which was worth 150 cowries. 

1"= Lacouperie, op. cif., p. iiS; also "Catalogue of Chinese Coins in 
Biitish Museum." London, 1892; and "The Metallic Cowries of Ancient 
China, 6oo E.G.,''/"'""- J^"}'- Asiatic Soc, xx., 1888, pp. 428-439. 

1 ■ = The money cowry, C. iiioneta, before becoming fully adult, has 
a deep purple back, and probably these were the objects sent. 

i'* Lacouperie, op. cil., 1 892, p. 382. 



Use of Coivry -shells for Currency, A viulets, etc. 1 79 

(3) The small shells ; 2 tsun, 4 fen in length ; a pair 

of which was worth 30 cowries. 

(4) The lesser shells ; i tsuii, 2 fen in length ; a pair 

of which was worth 10 cowries. 

(5) The smallest shells {cyprece nionetce, or cowries), 

being smaller than i tsun 2 j/»?«, were not fastened 
in pairs ; each was worth three cash. Those 
which were smaller than six fen were not used 
for currency." 

The shells of groups i to 4 seem to have been un- 
doubted cowries, as in group 5, only larger, as the same 
characteristic Chinese hieroglyph denoting cowry (see 
Fig. C, p. 180.) appears against each of the groups. 

Unfortunately, except for dimensions, the particulars 
are lacking as to the species of cowries forming these 
four groups. 

If we may take the measurements as more or less 
approximating to English inches, it is possible to find a 
series of cowries inhabiting Eastern seas which would 
come within these dimensions. For example, Cyprcea 
testudinaria (the " tortoise-cowry," named by Linnaeus 
from its resemblance to the tortoise) might very well have 
served for group i. Of the others, group 2 may have 
been smaller examples of the same, or even Cyprcea tigris ; 
group 3 may have been Cyprcsa lynx; while group 4 were 
probably exceptionally large examples of Cyprcea momta. 
The average length of the latter species is about one inch. 

Regarding the tortoise-shells re-issued by Wang Mang, 
Lacouperie informs us that "there were four different 
sorts, of various sizes and denominations, with different 
values, but the details have not yet been handed down to 
our time." It is not a little curious that the larger cowry- 
shells were also of four different sorts, sizes, and values. 




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Use of Cozvry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. i8i 

This suggests the possibility of the so-called " tortoise- 
shells " being really cowries. 

From the following facts it is obvious that some con- 
fusion has taken place with regard to the interpretation of 
certain symbols in ancient Chinese works. 

In Dr. Morrison's " Dictionary of the Chinese Lan- 
guage ""^ a symbol known as pei (see Fig. C, p. i8o), is 
translated (p. 622, No. 8471) as "the tortoise shell or 
pearl-oyster shell " : on an earlier page (p. 510, No. 68n) 
quite a distinct symbol, kwei, is translated " tortoise," and 
the /«■ symbol is attached to denote "tortoise shell" — 
kwei pei (see Fig. D, p. 180). 

In a Chinese work, the "Li Ki" or "Treatises on 
Ceremonial Uses" (referred to on a later page) the/>« 
symbol {Fig. C, p. 1 80) is used to denote a particular object 
placed in the mouth of the dead. The symbol in this 
case has been correctly interpreted by the translator of 
the work as meaning " cowry." 

In the " Shoo King" (v., xxii., 19), the same symbols 
{^Fig. A, p. 180) as quoted by Lacouperie for the "great 
shells " {i.e., cowries) of the Wang Mang currency, are 
used in a paragraph describing a display of various precious 
relics. But these characters have been translated by Dr. 
Legge, in his "Chinese Classics,"'™ as the "great tortoise- 
shell." 

The " Tribute of Yu " (" Shoo King," iii,, i., 52) refers 
to a particular object presented to Yii from the country 
of the nine Keang, the symbol denoting this object being 
the Kwei (No. 681 1, p. 510) of Morrison's Dictionary 
{Fig. -5, p. 180). It is here translated by Legge as " the 
great tortoise." '" In his footnotes to this passage the trans- 
lator states that " according to the 'Historical Records ' the 

*" Dr. R. Morrison, "Dictionary of the Cliincse Language," 1819, 
vol. i., pt. ii. 

''' Dr. J. Legge, "Chinese Classics," 1865, vol. iii., pt. ii., p. 554. 
'" Ibid., vol. iii., pt. i., p. 116. 



1 82 Sliells as I'vidcnce of the Migrations. 

great tortoise attained the size of two cubits and a half. 
Such a creature would be esteemed very valuable, where 
divination was much relied on " ; and further, according 
to Gan-Kwo, that " the tortoise was not a regular article 
of tribute, but was presented when required by express 
command." 

In the " Fwan-Kang" ("Shoo King," iv., vii., 14), the 
characteristic symho\, pei (^Fig. C, p. 180) occurs in a passage 
dealing with the hoarding propensities of government 
officials, and is here translated by Legge as " cowries."™ 

From the above remarks it will be seen that the/c/ 
symbol has been incorrectly interpreted in certain cases. 

Some interesting particulars concerning the use of 
cowries in connection with the dead are given by Dr. J. J. 
M. de Groot, in his work on " The Religious System in 
China.""" The ancient Chinese, he tells us, used several 
precious articles for preserving their dead. To this end 
they availed themselves of cowry-shells, which were so 
valuable in ancient times for currency. This fact, well 
known to Sinologists, is especially manifest in the ancient 
hieroglyph denoting the cowry (see Fig. C, p. 180), which 
enters into the composition of most characters signifying 
things of value and acts connected with trade and barter 
(see Figs. E, F, G, H, I, p. 180). 

These shells were used in association with rice for 
stuffing the mouth of the dead: The\- were made to 
support the last molar tooth on the left and the right side, 
and the mouth was finally filled up with rice. 

According to the " Li Ki'' or " Treatises on Cere- 
monial Usages" (an important source of our knowledge 
of China during pre-Christian times), the mouth of the 
Son of Heaven was stuffed with nine cowries, that of a 

'"' Iliid., iii., pt. i., p. 240. 

''° Vol. i., bk. i., " Disposal of the Dead." Leyden, 1S92, pp^ 275-6. 



Use of Cowry -shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 183 

feudal lord with seven, that of a great officer with five, 
and that of an ordinary official with three.'"" 

In some of the out-of-the-way corners of China cowries 
remained in circulation for many centuries. In Marco 
Polo's time (a.D. 1271 — 91) cowries, called " porcellani " 
by this traveller, were still in use in the country of Yunnan, 
the shells being gathered at the group of islands now 
known as Pulo Condore, off Cochin China.^*' 

In the i6th century the cowry-currency seems to have 
been officially suspended in Yunnan province. At the 
present time cowries appear to have completely lost their 
money value in Yunnan, since Lieutenant Garmer found 
them nowhere in use north of Luang Prabang, Laos ; and 
in western Yunnan tliey were worn only as ornament by 
the Kakhyens. Carl Bock likewise saw cowries on the 
head-masks of the leaders of the mule-caravans which 
come from Yunnan into northern Further India.™ 

It is doubtful whether the cowry was used as currency 
in Japan, though it is possible that in olden times shells 
from the neighbouring Liu Kiu Islands were so used. 
The Japanese name, Takara ( = prosperity, riches), kai or 
gai ( = shell), may indicate their use as money. In 
Kampfer's " Description of Japan " (London, 1727, Bk.i., 
ch. ii.) appears : " Takara gai, called Kauri in India, 
brought from the Maldives and other islands and im- 
ported into Bengal, Pegu and Siam, where it serves as 
current money." K. Florenz reports that the Japanese 
women at their confinement hold in the hand a " Koyasu- 
gai (Easy-delivery-shell), a species of cowry," in order to 
ensure certain and easy delivery, a practise analagous to 

"*" fide De C^oot, op. cil., p. 275. 

"' Colonel Henry Yule, "The Book of Ser Marco Polo," London, 
1S71, vol. ii., pp. 39 e/ scq. 

^^'^ Schneider, ol>. cit,, p. 107. 



184 Shells as evidence of the Aligrations. 

that of other peoples, e.g., the Indian.''^ Attention has 
already been called to the similarity of this custonri to 
that of the Togo people of West Africa. 

The money-cowry (Cyprica vioneta) is, and has been 
for centuries, a sacred object among the Ojibwa and 
Menomini Indians of North America, and is employed in 
initiation ceremonies of the Grand Medicine Society.^*^ 

The use of this particular cowry by these Indians is of 
peculiar interest ; in the first place; owing to it being 
alien to the American continent, and in the second place, 
in view of its intimate association with so many remark- 
able and fantastic beliefs and practices in different parts 
of the Old World. 

The tradition among the Indians is that the original 
sacred shell — nngis^"^ of the Ojibwa; kond'paniik, oi the 
Menomini — was introduced by a particular hero-god, who 
acted as an intermediary between the Great Unknown 
and the Indians, and founded their Medicine Society. 
Among the Menomini thp sacred shell appears always to 
be the small white money-cowry, Cyprcea inoneta^^ but 
among the Ojibwa, according to Hoffman, it consists of a 
small white shell, of almost any species : but the one 
believed to resemble the mythical iin'gis is similar to the 
monej'-cowry. This fact would seem to imply that the 
money-cowry is scarce among them, and those they 
possess, doubtless handed down from generation to genera- 
tion, are regarded with special veneration as being like 

'" Schneider, op. cil., p. 108. 

'"* W. J. Hoffman, Bureau of Ethnology (United Stales), 71h Annual 
Report, 1885-6(1891), and 14th Annual Report, 1892-3 (1896), pt. i. ; also 
T- W. Jackson, Manch. Mtmoits (Lit. and Phil. Soc), vol. Ix. (1916), No 
4. Abstract in Nature, January 27th, 1916. 

'" In the Ojibwa language, mi'gis = symbolical of life. 

'" The e.Kample figured by Hoffman (op. cit., 1S91, pi. xi., fig. i) is 
interesting, as it is perforated at one end as if for suspension ; it is of the 
dwarf var. atai'a of C vioneta (see Fig. D, p. 156). 



Use pf Cowry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 185 

that which came into their possession through the hero- 
god Mi'nabo'zho. 

The initiation ceremonies of these Indians are very 
elaborate : the most important incidents are dancing and 
the shooting forward by the medicine men of their skin 
medicine-bags containing the sacred cowries. Mystic 
powers are attributed to the shells, and it is firmly believed 
that if they be swallowed by the medicine man, he can 
transfer his power to the medicine-bag by breathing on 
it, the mysterious influence being then conveyed to the 
desired object or person merely by thrusting the bag for- 
ward in the appropriate direction. At the initiation 
ceremonies the magic influence is shot at the candidate's 
brea.st, and the cowry ^-the symbol of life — is supposed to 
enter his heart ; he becomes unconscious and falls forward 
on his face. The chief medicine man then raises the 
candidate's head slightly from the ground, and a sacred 
cowry drops from the candidate's mouth. 

The same cowries apparently play an important part 
at baptismal ceremonies of the Ojibwa. There is much 
dancing and the same shooting forward of the medicine 
bags, and after a good deal of facial contortion each 
medicine man spits out two shells on to a cloth spread in 
the middle of the medicine tent."' 

The essential part of these ceremonies is the supposed 
death and survival of the candidate, the whole ceremonial 
being strongly reminiscent of the St. George, or Mummers'', 
Plays of the Old World."" It is remarkable how closely 
the prevailing idea of the cowries being connected in some 
strange manner with resurrection and resuscitation agrees 

^^~ James Greenwood, "Curiosities of Savage Life," London, 1863, 
p. 24. 

i«^ For a full discussion of this subject see A. Beatl)-, "The St. 
George, or Mummers' Plays ; A .Study in the rrotology of the Drama,^ 
Trans. Wise, ,-liad. Set. Arts and Litlers, xv., pt. ii., Oct., 1906. 



1 86 Shells as cvidaicc of the Migrations. 

with the ancient Chinese belief as evidenced in the cere- 
monial use of monej'-covvries in obsequies of the dead. 
As mentioned previously, in pre-Christian and later times, 
cowries were used in China, in association with rice, for 
stuffing the mouth of the dead. Wild rice, it might be 
added, also enters into the ritual of Ojibvva and Menomini 
ceremonies. The fact that the so-called "wild rice" of 
America is not identical with true rice cannot be raised 
as an objection to the identity of these practices : for 
the similarity which suggested the name "wild rice" to 
European immigrants in America no doubt appealed with 
equal force to the earlier Asiatic rice-using immigrants. 

The apparent identity in the spitting out of cowries 
by the Togo priests of West Africa and by the medicine 
men of the Ojibwa and Menomini Indians has been noted 
already. The association of the money-cowry with the 
medicine bags used by the Sierra Leone cannibals at 
initiation ceremonies is a further remarkable parallel. 

Some interesting evidence of the earlj' use of the 
money-cowry in North America is contained in an ex- 
haustive account on " Aboriginal Sites on Tennessee 
River," by Mr. Clarence B. Moore. ^^ In his description 
of the Roden Mounds, Marshall County, Alabama, this 
author mforms us that in Burial No. 44, well in the body 
of mound A, were the remains of a skull, near which were 
fragments of a large marine univalve, and five shells, some 
much decayed, which had been pierced for stringing, like 
beads. These are pronounced by Dr. H. A. Pilsbry, the 
well-known American conchologist, to be examples of the 
money-cowry, Cyprcea mcneta, of Eastern Seas. Such 
shells have never been recorded before from an aboriginal 
mound in the United States. The careful investigation 
of the Roden mounds indicated that they had been built 

""" /onni. Aiiid. Nat. Sii. I'/nlad., 2nd Ser., xvi., pt. ii., 1915. 



Use of Cowry-sliells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 187 

before their makers had any intercourse with white per- 
sons. The presence of the cowries, therefore, is of special 
interest. 

The shells were sent by the discoverer to Dr. W. H. 
Dall, another of America's leading conchologists, and the 
following extraordinary statement was received in reply : — 
" I should incline to the belief that the cowries were 
imported in or about the time of Columbus' voyages. 
Bound, as they supposed, for the Indies, where the 
cowry was formerly (like our wampum) a staple 
article of barter, the exploring vessels would undoubt- 
edly have carried cowries as well as the other articles 
of trade we know they carried. It would not have 
taken them long to find out that cowries did not pass 
as currency with American natives, and reporting this 
on their return to Spain later traders would not have 
carried them for barter. The necklace or bracelet 
you obtained may have passed from hand to hand as 
a curiosity (as I have known such things to do) until 
it reached a people who knew nothing of the whites 
'till much later. In fact your cowries may have come 
off one of Columbus' own vessels ! " 
But an even more remarkable story is that given in 
"Harper's Monthly Magazine" for September (1916, 
p. 599), by Mr. H. Newell Wardle, of the Philadelphia 
Academy of Natural Science, as follows : — 

"The great Genoese, starting in 1492 on his tirst 
voyage to discover a new route to the kingdom of the 
Great Khan, doubtless stocked his ships with a goodly 
store of these ivory-white porcelain shells. He had 
been in Guinea. He knew the requirements of the 
Gold Coast trade .... Probably, though he fails to 
mention it, cowries, strung as for the Guinea trade, 
were part of his stock — an ill-venture, in competition 



1 88 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

with the shell ornaments of the Gulf Coast. ... So 
mayhap the five little shells were bestowed, by Colum- 
bus's own hands, upon a native of the isles, were 
carried across to the mainland on some trip of trade 
or of pleasure, and thence, from hand to hand, as 
curios, journeyed northward with an ever-growing 
wonder-tale of the great white chiefs from the East. . ." 
" If not thus, then they had journeyed in dangling 
from the trappings of one of those noble steeds that 
shared the perils of the earK' explorers of the main- 
land. . . ." 

" Certain it is that they date from the close of the 
fifteenth or the early days of the sixteenth century." 
But Mr. Wardle omits the most wonderful episode of 
his wonder-tale — I refer to the fact that after all these 
imaginary wanderings and episodes on sea and land, the 
cowries should eventually have Come to rest in the heart 
of the American continent, and, "of course purely by 
accident," have become linked up with the identical beliefs 
and fantastic practices with which they are associated in 
Africa, India and Eastern Asia ! 

To such lengths does the American ethnologist go 
rather than admit the patent fact that these shells 
and the associated beliefs and practices were taken 
from Eastern Asia to America long before the time of 
Columbus ! 

According to Mr. Charles C. Willoughby, the Peabody 
Museum, Cambridge, Mass., contains a dress of a Cree 
woman, collected by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 
1804-5, on which are four dozen cowries (see American 
Anthropologist, 1905, for picture of the dress). 

The shells from the Roden mound, Moore informs us, 
" differ from those on the Oee dress, which are of a larger 
variety and much more distinctly humped than are onx 



Use of Cowry- shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 189 

shells, ours being of the variety atava, as described by 
Rochebrune,™ who says they come from the Cape Verde 
Islands" (see Fig. C, p. 156). 

Notwithstanding Rochebrune's assertion, few students 
of CyprcBa admit the possibility of the occurrence of living 
C. moneta at the Cape Verde Islands, or indeed on any 
l>ortion of the West African coast. The cited occurrences 
there of this and the allied form, C. annulus, may be due 
to accident. As already stated, enormous numbers of 
these shells have been carried to this coast during the 
last few centuries, and it is a well-known fact that ships 
conveying this commodity have occasionally come to 
grief, the cargo of shells being lost. Such an occurrence 
is recorded to have taken place in the year 1873, when 
the " Glendowra," a four-masted barque, homeward bound 
from Manilla, was wrecked off the coast of Cumberland. 
The " Glendowra " had on board some 600 bags of cowries 
(C moneta and C. annulus) and missed the port of Liver- 
pool through an error in her course, and, in the fog which 
prevailed, ran ashore near Seascale. For years these 
shells have been picked up, in good condition, on the 
sandy shore between Seascale and the river Calder, and 
collectors, unaware of their history, have regarded them 
as indigenous to the British Isles.^"' 

Unfortunately, the precise distribution of the numerous 
varieties of C. moneta is not very well known. Hence it 
is not possible to be sure of the exact provenance of the 
Roden mound cowries, rtor of those on the Cree dress. 
It may be of interest, however, to note that Dr. J. Cosmo 
Melvill, in his " Survey of the Genus Cypraea " {pp. cit., 
p. 240), gives India as a locality for the var. atava. 

!»» Bull. Soc. Malac. de Fiance, i., 1884, p. 83, pi. i., fig. 4 (copied 
in Fig. C of the present Chapter, p. 156). 

'»' See The Naturalist, London, Nov., 1890, p. 324. 



I go Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

Mr. Willoughby believes that cowry shells were sold 
to the Indians by the Hudson's Bay Company late in the 
eighteenth or early in the nineteenth century. 

Prof. Henry Montgomery''^ records and figures a cowry 
found near the so-called Onatonabee Serpent Mound, 
Peterboro County, Ontario. Mr. C. B. Moore, {op. cit., 
p. 295) says : " The shell described by Professor Mont- 
gomery is a regular Cyprcea inoneta, or money cowry of 
Africa and the East, and not a California shell. This 
shell, which, b}' the way, is not pierced for stringing, is 
probably one from the Hudson's Bay Company stock. 
We do not think the sale of cowries to Indians in the 
North at a comparatively late date by the Hudson's Bay 
Company indicates a relatively recent origin for the 
Roden mounds, for, at a period when the supplies of the 
Hudson's Bay Company could have reached the makers 
of the Roden mounds, articles of European make could 
have got among them from all directions and the mounds 
presumably would have been well supplied with glass 
beads, brass, iron, and other things obtained from Euro- 
pean sources which, as we see, was very far from being 
the case." 

In an old account by G. A. Cooke,"^ dealing with the 
habits and customs of the Indians of the most northern 
parts of America, some interesting particulars are given 
concerning the ceremonies observed by certain tribes 
previous to waging war. One of the most hideous of 
these, Cooke informs us, was the setting of the war-kettle 
on the fire, as an emblem that they were going out to 
devour their enemies. A porcelane, or large shell, was 
then dispatched to their allies, inviting them to come 
along and drink the blood of their enemies. Unfortu- 

\''' Tram. Canad. Tnst., Toronto, 1910, ix. (i.) No. 20, p. 7, pi. iv., 
fig. 6 i^fide Moore). 

'"" Cooke, op. cit., ii. , p. 21. 



Use of Cowry-shells for Currency, Amulets, etc. 191 

nately, neither the name of the tribes concerned, nor the 
name of the shell employed, are given ; but the fact of 
the latter being called a "porcelane" is not without 
interest, as " porcelaine " is the common French term for 
cowry. There is no certain evidence, however, to support 
the conclusion that a cowry was the shell employed as a 
war signal. Earlier in this Chapter we have seen that when 
the Egbas of West Africa meditated war, cowries were 
thrown into the air by the war-priest ; and in the Yoruba 
country, where cowries are used for symbolic messages, 
a solitary cowry indicates defiance. 





Oi'iila (Calpiiiniis) verrucosa L. 

A. — Philippines (after Keeve). 

B. — Ancient American graves (after Holmes). 



Mr. W. li. Holmes, in his " Art in Shell of the Ancient 
Americans,"^"* illustrates in Plate xxxii. a number of 
perforated marine shells exhumed from ancient graves of 
North America, Two of these (Figs. 11 and 12) are of 
special interest as coming within the scope of the present 
discussion. Unfortunately the precise data regarding 
the site of their discovery are not given ; all we are told is 

i"* Second Annual Repoit, Bureau of Ethnology, Washington, 1S83, 
pp. I79-30S- 



192 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

that they are from the Pacific coast. Fig. 11 shows a 
cowry with a small hole near each extremity, illustrating, 
it is stated (p. 220), "an ancient as well as a modern 
method of perforation." The name of the species is not 
given, but it does not appear to me to be an American 
shell. Though the illustration is not sufficfently clear to 
define the species, in general appearance and contour the 
shell has a look oi Cyprma caput-serpentis — an Indo-Pacific 
species. 

Holmes' Fig. 1 2 (see Fig. j5, p. 1 9 1 ) shows a shell rubbed 
down on the back, and is referred, like the last, to Cyprcea ; 
but this is incorrect, the shell being undoubtedly Ovula 
(Calpurnfis) verrucosa, L."^ {Fig. A, p. 191). This fact is of 
great importance and has hitherto passed unnoticed. 
Like the money-cowry, C. moneta, which it somev/hat 
resembles, this species is alien to the American continent ; 
■ it is known to occur only in East Africa, the Indian 
Ocean, Philippines, New Caledonia and neighbouring 
Islands. 

According to Schmeltz {op. cit., 1894, p. 34), this shell 
is worn as a neck-ornament in the Viti, or Fiji, Islands ; 
as a hip-ornament in Santa Cruz (Queen Charlotte 
Islands) ; and as a leg-ornament in East New Guinea. 
The Rev. A. H. Cooke™ also informs us that in Papua, 
" village elders are distinguished by a single Ovulum 
verrucosum, worn in the centre of the forehead." 

The fact that the shell figured by Holmes is ground 
down on the back, as is done in the case of money- 
cowries in India, Africa, and other places, is of no little 
interest. Such an arbitrary method of perforation does 

'" The well-defined tubfercles at the extremities confirm this identifi- 
cation. Compare, Tryon's "Manual of Conchology," vii., 1885, pi. 5, fig., 
56-58 (Ovulidae) ; Reeve, " Conchologia Iconica : Monograph of the Genus 
Ovulum," 1865, pi. i., fig. 2. 

196 .< Molluscs," Camb. Nat. Hist., vol. iii., London, 1895, p. 99. 



Use of Cowry-shells for Currency , Armilets, etc. 193 

not seem to have been usual in shells other than cowries, 
either in America or anywhere else. 

It is remarkable that after so many years, and with 
the yearly increase of knowledge, the two shells figured 
by Holmes should have remained undetermined. They 
are reproduced along with the other shells of Holmes' 
plate by H. Beuchat, on page -145 of his "Manuel 
d'.A-rcheologie Americaine" (Paris, 19 12), but no further 
details are added. 

Regarding the use of cowries in Southern California, 
Frederick W. Putnam'"' gives some interesting particulars, 
though these are somewhat lacking in detail. He writes 
(p. 252J: "The fact that the Indians of California, in 
common with savages generally, often decorated their 
implements and utensils with the same materials which 
they employed for personal ornament, is proved by articles 
collected from the graves ; as, for instance, the decoration 
of the rims of the large stone mortars, on which, held in 
place by asphaltum, are pieces of the pearly shell of 
Halioiis, or sometimes, the perfect shells of two or three 
beautiful species of Cyprcea ; C. spadicea particularly being 
employed on the mainland. Another method of ornament- 
ing the rims of these mortars consisted in cutting away the 
dorsal portion of the shells of CyprcBa and fastening them 
to the mortar, by their cut surface, with asphaltum, so as 
to exhibit the lips of the shell, with their serrated edges." 
Such a cut shell is represented by Putnam in Plate xiii., 
Fig. 52, of his work, but no specific name is given. Its 
contour is totally unlike that of C. spadicea, or any other 
American cowry. My colleague, Mr. R. Standen, and I 
have carefully compared the illustration with various 
cowries, and the only shell the features of which appear 

"" In " Report U.S. Geog. Sarv. west of looth meridian, vol. vii. — 
Archieology," Washington, 1879. 



194 Shells as evidence of the Migrations. 

to conform to the illustration is C. vitellus, an Indo- 
Pacific species. This suggestion, however, can only be a 
tentative one, as comparison with the original specimen 
may reveal other distinguishing characters not visible in 
the illustration. 

A further interesting feature is seen in Putnam's Plate 
(Plate xiii., Fig. 47-51) in the use that was made by the 
Californians of cowry-shells for personal adornment. The 
serrated lips of these shells were cut out and perforated 
at one end for suspension as pendants. Earlier in this 
Chapter reference is made to the discovery of the com- 
plete outer lip of a large cowry {C. tigris) in prehistoric 
pit-dwellings in the South of England (antea, p. 133). 

The discovery of cowries in pre-Columbian graves in 
Ecuador is recorded by M. H. Saville. In his "Antiqui- 
ties of Manabi, Ecuador,'"'* this writer reports the finding 
of a shell of the cowry-type, which had a hole drilled in 
the top, and a piece of pottery was fitted to the under 
part by means of some kind of gum. This shell, which is 
figured by Saville (Plate Ixvii., Fig. 5) as Cypr(Ba cervinetta 
(a Panamic species), was found with a human skeleton in 
mound 3 at Cerro Jaboncillo. 



^'* Contributions to South American Archaeology, N.Y., 1910, vol. ii., 
pp. 48 and 177. 



APPENDIX. I. 

Since the rest of this work has been printed further 
information bearing upon the matters discussed in it has 
come to my knowledge. Some of these data are of 
sufficient importance, especially from their bearing upon 
the problems of geographical distribution, to justify the 
writing of an appendix. 

The discovery of the art of purple-dyeing has been 
attributed to the Tyrian tutelary deity Melkart, who is 
identified with Baal by many writers. According to Julius 
Pollux ("Onomasticon," i., iv.) and Nonnus ("Dionys.," XL., 
306) Hercules (Melkart) was walking on the seashore 
accompanied by his dog and a Tyrian nymph, of whom 
he was enamoured. The dog having found a Murex with 
its head protruding from its shell, devoured it, and thus 
its mouth became stained with the purple. The nymph, 
on seeing the beautiful colour, bargained with Hercules 
to provide her with a robe of like splendour. He obtained 
the shell-fish, extracted the purple, and dyed for her the 
first robe of Tyrian purple, thus acquiring her favour. In 
the exergue of some of the coins of Tyre is represented 
this discovery of the purple-shell by the hound of Her- 
cules. 

In Coleman's " Mythology of the Hindus," (London, 
1832), a remarkable picture is given (Plate 5, fig. 2) of the 
fish-incarnation of Vishnu with an animal resembling a 
dog issuing out of a conch-shell at his feet. The asso- 
ciation of a dog with Vishnu and his most sacred chank 
is hardly likely to have been invented by the worshippers 
of Vishnu, for to the Hindu the dog is unholy and an 
object of dread. This idea could hardly have originated 
in India itself, but was bi'ought there along with a host of 
other bizarre conceptions. 

In the legend of the discovery of the purple dye we 
have seen the mystic association (or companionship) of 
the god with the conch-shell and the dog. In the Indian 
picture we see a representation of the identical conception. 

In the foot-notes to Rawlinson's " History of 
Herodotus " (London, 1858, vol. ii., pp. 414-5, footnote 2), 
there is a reference to a shell in the hand of a statue of a 



196 Appendix. 

Phoenician goddess [Astoreth?], found by Mr. Moore in 
Syria. In Calmet's " Dictionary of the Holy Bible " 
(1841, vol. 4, p. 37 ; vol. 5, pi. liv., fig. 5), there is a figure 
of a Phcenician medal on which a female deity — half- 
human, half-fish — holds a concha marina, or sea-shell,- in 
her left hand. It is impossible t(3 identify the shells in 
these cases, but whether Buccinum or Murex, purple-shell 
or shell-trumpet, matters little. The chief point of interest 
is the association of a conch-shell with the deity — in one 
case a fish deity — recalling the like association of the 
chank with the Hindu god, Vishnu. 

It is not a little curious to find that one of the purple- 
yielding shells {Purpura lapillus) is commonly known as 
the " dog-whelk." According to Lovell (" Edible British 
Mollusca," 1884), and other authorities, Buccinum unda- 
tum, L. is the common whelk, or buckie, the Ran and 
Buccinonde of the French. " In Anglo-Saxon whelk is 
JVeo/c, but 2V£o/c is said to mean i/tai whicli gives the 
purple dye (therefore it would apply better to the dog- 
whelk-, Buccinum lapillus, or Purpura lapillus, which yields 
a purple dye) ; thus, embroidered loitli purple is weolc- 
basn-hezven ; scarlet dye is zveolc-read" (Lovell, op. cit., 
p. 200). 

The following survival of an ancient method adopted 
in shell-fishing is worthy of note. At the present time 
whelks are taken in great numbers in wicker baskets 
baited with offal. Pliny (" Nat. Hist." bk. ix.) and Pollux 
(" Onomasticon," bk. i., ch. iv.) describe the taking of 
" purple fish " by a similar method, viz., in a kind of osier 
kipe, called Nassis, baited with cockles. 

In dealing with the use of Triton shells for horns or 
trumpets in the Mediterranean region no mention was 
made of the practice of this custom nor of the presence of 
these shells in Ancient Egypt. I now find that the Triton 
was regarded by the Early Egyptians as an object worthy 
of a place among the articles deposited with their dead. 
J. de Morgan, in his " Recherches sur les origines de 
I'Egypte,"^ records the discovery of two TV/Zwi-shells 
from the Red Sea (probably T. tritonis') in the Royal 
Tomb at Nagada, probably of proto-dynastic date.^ It 

?; Pt. II., Ethnographic prehistorique et tombeau royal de Negadah, 
Paris, 1897, p. 160. 

= Ftde Dr. G. Elliot Smith. 



Appendix. 197 

is not stated whether they were perforated for use as 
trumpets. 

Ill G. A. Wainwright's account of "The Excavations 
at Balabish,"' a number of objects are figured from " Pan- 
Graves," amongst them the Triton-s\\€i\, apparently not 
perforated, together with Strombus and other Red Sea 
forms. 

These facts seem to suggest that in Egypt these shells 
must have served some definite cultural purpose, such as 
has been described (p 33) in the ceremonies observed in 
Crete and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. 

Amongst a number of pamphlets entitled " Colonies 
Francaises," published by Ludovic Baschet, Paris, without 
date, there is an article by Max Leclerc on Madagascar, 
in which is given a coloured illustration of a Triton-sh&W 
trumpet, but whether it is " end-blown" or "side-blown" is 
not certain. The picture suggests the former. According 
to Ratzel,^ the musical instruments of the Malagasies "are 
eminently Malayan in character. The Antsiva or shell- 
trumpet of the Malays and Polynesians is regarded as 
very important. A great sea-shell, with a hoarse note, 
which only kings may legally use, serves to call the 
soldiers to arms." 

Rumphius, writing in the early part of the 1 8th century, 
refers to the employment of Triton-sh&Ws, with a hole on 
the side of the spire, as trumpets by the Alfurs of Ceram. 
He also noted the use of great numbers of the white " egg- 
shell" — Ovuluin ovum — as ornaments for the neck and 
hair, by the same people. " 

In addition to the reference already given on p. 51 of 
the use of shell-trumpets in the Babar Islands in calling 
down the sun-god to accept offerings, Mr. W. J. Perry has 
very kindly sent me a communication from Dr. A. C. 
Kruijt, of Posso, Central Celebes, stating that Triton-'i\\&\\ 
trumpets are much used in almost every village of Central 
and> North Celebes. They were formerly kept in the 
temple (lobo) together with strings of other shells. They 

^ Journ. of Egyptian Archeology, Vol. II., Oct. 1915. PP- 202 et seq., 
pi. XXV., f. 2. "Pan-Graves" are Nubian interments in Egypt and 
may belong to the period from 2000 B.C. onwards. 

* Ralzel, "Hist, of Mankind," vol. i., 1S96, p. 457. 

' G. E. Rumphius, " D'AmVjoinsche Rariteitkamer," Amsterdam, I74I> 
pp. 94 and 115. 



1 98 Appendix. 

are taken on warlike expeditions and blown when an 
enemy has been killed. Sometimes bamboo trumpets 
are used. Some Toradjas say that bamboo is employed 
only when shells are not available. Shell-trumpets are 
also blown to warn the village of the approach of an 
enemy, and at eclipses of the sun and moon, when the 
temple drum is sounded ; also when the bush is set on fire 
to clear it for agriculture. The employment of shell- 
trumpets at eclipses recalls their identical use in Bengal 

(P- 36). 

Van der Sande,' describes and figures two types of 
shell-trumpets in use in Dutch New Guinea. One of 
these is made from the Triton-^€i\, and is provided with 
a circular blow hole on the second whorl of the spire, 
outside the third varix ; the other is made from the wing- 
shell, Strontbus maximus, and has the blow-hole at the 
apex of the spire, as observed by Moseley at Humboldt 
Bay ("see p. 40). Both forms, according to Van der Sande, 
were offered to him inside a temple, " but had not to be 
concealed from the women. In fact they are also used 
outside, as also reported from elsewhere, a.s instruments 
of call, producing a very loud sound when blown. In 
British New Guinea [Fly River] they are used also to 
drive away evil spirits."" 

In his " Note on the Use of the Wooden Trumpet of 
Papua,"' W. N. Beaver gives some interesting references 
to shell-trumpets. " Naturally," so he says, " the coast 
tribes use the ordinary conch shell as a trumpet, and the 
people of the hinterlands obtain their shell instruments 
from them in the way of trade ; but the further one 
penetrates inland, the more difficult it becomes to obtain 
shells." 

He reports the use of the conch, together with the 
wooden trumpet, " among the Sangara on the northern 
side of Mount Lamington, among the Huhurundi living 
inland from Holnicote Bay, and among the Howajega, 
Asingi, and Tohani, all bordering about the main 
Kumusi River." In the trans-Kumusi region, towards 

" Van der Sande, "Nova Guinea," III., Leyden, 1907, pp. 307 — 8, 
314, pi. xxix , f. 22 and 24. 

' Ibid., see also Chapter II., p. 41, and Chalmers, in Joiirn. Anlltrop. 
Inst., vol. 33. 

" Man, Article 16, Feb., 1916. 



Appendix. 199 

the Yodda Valley, among the Autembx) and other tribes, 
the wooden trumpet is apparently used more frequently 
than the conch. " The ordinary conch shell trumpet 
varies in size up to about 20 inches long and about 9 inches 
across in the largest part [apparently Triton tritonis\. A 
hole from i inch to | inch in diameter is made about 
3 inches from the apex. Over water the reverberating 
note can be heard a very considerable distance." 

The details of the notation of trumpet blowing, given 
by this writer, are of considerable interest. It is based 
upon the long-short blast system ; and the significance 
varies according to the district. Examples are given of 
shell-trumpet calls from the Binandele tribes of the 
Mamba and Gira rivers, the significance of which, accord- 
ing to notation, are : " killing in a fight when in camp or 
dancing"; "calling to a fight"; "conveying the news 
of a death " ; " men are bringing a pig." The second 
example, which consists of a " long blast, short, short, etc., 
and repeat," is generally used nowadays " to call in the 
people from their gardens, say, for example, on the arrival 
of European or other strangers, or, again, half-a-dozen 
long blasts may convey the news that a Government 
party or Europeans are approaching." 

The use of shell-trumpets, in Peru, Samoa, and else- 
where, to herald the approach of some important per- 
sonage, has already been described (antea pp. 45 and 46). 

It is important to note that the photograph of the 
native blowing a wooden trumpet, reproduced by Beaver, 
shows the man wearing a string of large white " cowries " 
{Ovuluni ovum). 

From Malinowski's recently published account of the 
natives of Mailu Island, off the coast of New Guinea," it 
is apparent that certain shells, including shell-trumpets, 
play an important role in the " magico-religious " practices 
of these people. More especially is this the case at the 
Maduna^" or great annual feast of the Mailu, which is 
connected, amongst other things, with agricultural activi- 
ties. Elaborate preparations are made, and a number of 

• Trans, and Proc. Roy. Soc. S. Australia, xxxix., Dec, 1915, pp. 494 
seq. 

1° Madiina means distribution, the allusion being to the distribution of 
foods which forins an essential feature of the proceedings (Malinowski, 
p. 665). 



200 Appendix. 

minor feasts held, before the main feast, while certain 
forms of Gora^^ or taboo, are exclusively practised in 
connection with the same. The most important ceremo- 
nial role of one of the smaller feasts is the erection of a 
small gallows, ornamented with a large white shell called 
by the natives Moto [Ovulwii ovum : the " so-called " 
white cowry). This is an indication that the Gt}vz dance 
(the most important and most sacred dance) will be per- 
formed at the JMadiina. It is also a token that as many 
pigs are already pledged for the feast as there are shells 
on the G6ra, each shell representing one pig promised by 
a man of the Madi'ma giibina (master of the feast). The 
association of this shell with pigs is remarkable and per- 
haps significant, when it is recalled that cowries are widely 
known as pig-shells. By the French they are called 
Porcellana, or " pou-de-mer," and by the Romans porci 
and porcuUy^ 

Following this ceremony, according to Malinowski 
" comes the Oilobo feast, apparently the most important 
preliminary event, which certainly contains the greatest 
amount of magico-religious element, and probably even 
more than the main feast. It marks the beginning of 
the fasting or Udini period, and is held some two months 
before the main feast * * * This feast also is called 
Boroa evaur^, Boroa meaning mango. In the morning of 
the feast-day a dance called Laige is performed in the 
village, both men and women taking part in it. The 
women hold * * Eldki^^ in their hands, the men beat 
the drums and blow the conch-shells while dancing."" 
The later ceremonies take place in the afternoon, when 
the men go out into the bush, bringing back with them 
mango saplings and creepers, which form part of the pig 
magic. " They come in state, forming a procession, which 
is headed by a man blowing the conch {Bogigt) made of 
a Triton-s\\^\\. He is followed on both sides by two men, 
also with conch shells." The remainder of the procession 

' ' G6ra, in its broadest and most abstract meaning, means taboo, rule, 
prohibition ; it is distinctly the conception covering what we call law in our 
society. (Malinowski, p. 587). 

'^ See also Chapter IV., p. 126, re this subject. 

^' Eldki: folded mats of pandanus leaves. 

'* Malinowski, op. cit., p. 670. 



Appendix. 20 1 

is composed of the master, or masters, of the feast, and 
assistants bearing the mango saplings. 

Before the holding of the main feast, word is sent 
round to the various villages, and the natives leave in 
their canoes for the ceremony, blowing conch-shell 
trumpets and shouting loudly to announce the event. 

The ceremonial use of shell-trumpets by the Mailu 
in connection with agricultural and other activities forms 
a striking parallel to similar practices in Malabar and 
Siam, described in Chapter II., (p. 37). In Samoa, the 
Society, and other Pacific Islands, we also find shell- 
trumpets associated with processions and times of prayer 
and fasting. From Aztec pictorial manuscripts we learn 
that identical customs were carried out by the ancient 
Mexicans, as already noted in previous pages. The 
blowing of the conch-shell among the Guaymis of the 
Chiriquian region of Panama to announce the arrival of 
guests to a feast is another noteworthy example of 
identical usage (p. 47). 

According to F. W. Christian," the " side-blown " 
shell-trumpet is also used in the island of Ponape, Caro- 
line Islands. In describing the musical instruments of 
Ponapeans he tells us that " the Chaui (Fijian Davui) or 
shell-trumpet — the Pu of the South Polynesians," is used 
as a signal of war or assembly, like the Atabal of the 
ancient Mexicans. Close by the pointed end of the shell 
a circular hole is bored. Some of these are of very large 
size, and are often picked up amongst the foundations of 
old houses." Pearl-shell fish-hooks and Ovuluni ovum 
are also used in this island ; the latter as ornament for 
the prows of canoes. 

Some details of the use of another cowry-like shell — 
Ovulum verrucosuin — have already been given. I have 
since found that this shell is employed in New Caledonia 
as an ornament for witchcraft packets, great value being 
attached to the shell, especially for its believed powers of 
rendering persons invisible." 

I have been unable to trace the actual use of the 
Triton-shell as a trumpet in New Caledonia, but it is 

^^ /ourn. Anthrop. Inst., Vol. 28, p. 298. 
'" For a good figure of this see Ratzel, op. dl., i. , p. 255. 
^ ' Le Pere Lamberl, " Moeurs et Superstitions des Neo-Caledoniens," 
Noumea, 1900, p. 3 (Fig.). 



202 Appendix. 

evident that it is regarded with some significance, as 
in the Berlin Museum there are three poles strung with 
7W/o«-shells from this' island.'^ In Ratzel's " History of 
Mankind " (vol. i., p. 260) there is a figure of one of these 
7V?Vo«-decorated poles surmounting the roof of a New 
Caledonian hut. It is interesting also to note that a 
bunch of Ovidum ovum shells is attached to the base of 
the pole. That the Oimlmn shell is regarded in Oceania 
as having an intimate connection with cosmogony is 
gathered from its association with the god Tangaroa, who 
is revered even in the remoter islands, such as Taaroa and 
Kanaloa. " A Raiatean legend gives a grand picture of 
his all-pervading power ; how at first, concealed in an egg- 
shaped shell, he hovered around in the dark space of air, 
until weary of the monotonous movement, he stretched 
forth his hand and rose upright, and all became light 
around him. He looked down to the sand on the sea- 
shore, and said : 'Come up hither.' The sand replied : ' I 
cannot fly to thee in the sky.' Then he said to the rocks : 
' Come up hither to me.' They answered : ' V\'e are rooted 
in the ground, and cannot leap on high to thee.' So the 
god came down to them, flung off his shell, and added it 
to the mass of the earth, which became greater thereby. 
From the sherds of the shell were made the islands. Then 
he formed men out of his back, and turned himself into a 
boat. As he rowed in the storm, space was filled with 
his blood, which gave its colour to the sea, and, spreading 
from the sea to the air, made the morning and evening 
glows. At last his skeleton, as it lay on the ground with 
the backbone uppermost, became an abode for all gods, 
and at the same time the model for the temple ; and 
Tangaroa became the sky." " 

According to Pickering,"'" war-conchs, made of Triton- 
shells, were met with at Aratika, in the western Paumotu 
Islands. In this group, also, and especial!)' in Manihiki, 
ornamentation by means of pearl-shell is very character- 
istic, canoes and their paddles, clubs, and bowls, being 
inlaid with discs of this shell.'' The associated use of 
pearl-shell and Triton-^€i\ trumpets is also present in the 

^' Bernice Pauhi Bishop Museum, vol. i. , No, i. , Honolulu, 1898, p. 18. 

^' Ratzel, ol>. cit., i., pp. 308-9, 

•^» "Racesof Man" (Bohns Ed.), 1850, p. 56. 

-' Bern. Pauht Bish. Mus., op. cit., various pages. 



Appendix. 203 

Marquesas Islands, as well as elsewhere in the Pacific. 
In the Marquesas, skulls have the eyes replaced by pieces 
of pearl-shell, and the lower jaw fastened to the upper by 
cords,'" as in the islands of the Torres Straits. 

One of the most important additions to our knowledge 
of the employment of shell-trumpets in ancient Peru is 
contained in Chas. W. Mead's article on " The Musical 
Instruments of the Incas.""' The discover}^ in Peru of 
pre-Columbian trumpets made from the shells of Strombus 
galeatus has already been mentioned (p. 48). The pottery 
and other objects found in the ancient burial places of the 
Incas, and now transferred to the American Museum of 
Natural History in New York, has enabled Mr. Mead to 
provide more positive evidence of the use of shell-trumpets 
by the ancient Peruvians, for, certain of the artifacts, 
especially the pottery vessels, are decorated with pictures 
of human beings in the act of playing upon such instru- 
ments. Among other objects of interest described and 
figured by this author is a gold ornament found in a pre- 
historic grave at lea, Peru, on which are depicted two 
human beings blowing trumpets. One of these is a shell 
probably intended to represent a Strombus : it is blown 
through a hole at the apex of the spire. A remarkably 
fine example of a shell-trumpet, "end-blown," made from 
Strombus galeatus, is also shown on Plate III. (fig. i) of 
Mead's paper ; it has a copper mouth-piece, and is orna- 
mented with an engraved figure of a warrior. Another 
figure on the same plate (fig. 2) depicts a trumpet made 
of terra cotta : it is one of several in the collection in 
which the shell form has been reproduced in clay. 
Classed with the flutes by Mr. Mead are three other 
trumpets. One is made from a shell {Fasciolaria princeps) : 
it has two vents, one through the top of the spire, the other 
on its side, the two others being imitations of shells in 
terra cotta. The double perforation in the Fasciolaria- 
trumpet is of very great interest as being the only example 
of its kind that I have met with in my researches. 

The shell-trumpets of the Mediterranean region, of 
India, Borneo, China, Japan, and Central America, are 
all, so far as I have ascertained, "end-blown," i.e., they 

= - Dall, in Bureau of Ethnology (United States), iii., 1884, p. 95. 

'"American i\Iiiseuin Journal ( Supplement ),\'u\. Ill,, No. 4, July, 
1903, Guide Leaflet No. II. 



204 Appendix. 

have the tip of the spire of the shell knocked off. In New 
Guinea and in Melanesia "end-blown" trumpets are in 
use, as well as others of the " side-blown " type, ie., with 
the blow-hole on the side of one of the upper whorls of 
the shell. The ap^x in the latter is left perfect. It would 
appear, therefore, that the Peruvian example is a combi- 
nation of the two types. 

The reproduction of the shell form in clay is another 
interesting point linking Peru with the Mediterranean 
region. As mentioned on an earlier page (p. 34), clay 
models of the Triton-sheW were found in 1903 in the 
excavations at Knossos, in Crete. Mosso also records 
the discovery in Minoan sites of reproductions of shells 
in alabaster and other materials.-'' 

According to Mead, the trumpet is frequently men- 
tioned in the earlier accounts of Peru, such as those of 
Garcilasso and Alonso de Ovalle, in connection with 
battles between opposing armies. Prescott also states 
that at the siege of Cuzco (1536) "the Spaniards were 
roused by the hideous clamour of conch, trumpet, and 
atabal, mingled with fierce war-cries of the barbarians." " 

This association of the conch-shell trumpet with war 
was also met with in the lands bordering the north-eastern 
part of the Gulf of Mexico, for on the appearance of 
De Soto's soldiers in 1539 the Indians of Florida and the 
Chickasaw country were roused to action by the blowing 
of horns and conch-shells, and the beating of drums."" 

The custom of placing pearls and other objects in the 
mouth of the dead in China, described in an earlier chapter, 
is also found in Korea. In his article on " Mourning and 
Burial Rites of Korea," E. B. Landis^' gives a list of 
articles used at encoffining the corpse, which includes, 
amongst others ; rice ; pieces of Haliotis shell ; three 
pearls, etc. A little rice is first placed in the mouth of 
the dead, then a pearl, in the left, the centre, and the 
right side of the mouth. 

Dr. Elliot Smith informs me that in the course of 

°* Mosso, "The Dawn of Mediterranean Civilization," 1910, p. 364. 

" W. H. Prescott, " History of the Conquest of Peru," vol. II., 1855, 
P- 32. 

^' Grace King, " De Soto and His Men in the Land of Florida," 
London, 1914, pp. 39 and 1S7. 

^'' Journ. Atithrop. Inst., vol. 25, pp. 346-7. 



Appendix. 205 

excavations in the Soudan Mr, F. LI. Griffith found large 
numbers of cowries and metallic representations of cowries 
in graves at Napata and elsewhere, which are referred to 
Early Christian and pre-Christian times. Many of these 
cowries were rubbed down in the way so often mentioned 
in this book. 

An interesting addition to the series of localities where 
the cowry is put to a cultural use is furnished by Ellis 
H. Minns, in his " Greeks and Scythians." ^' In describing 
the contents of ancient Scythian graves in the Kiev dis- 
trict, he says: "Those who could not afford the precious 
metals used beads, either home-made of clay or stone, or 
of glass imported from the Mediterranean area ; even 
cowrie shells found their way so far north." 

In his account of " Some Japanese Charms connected 
with the Making of Clothing," =" W. L Hildburgh states 
that " a plentiful supply of clothing and the securing of 
good-fortune in general is thought to be assured by the 
placing of a cowry-shell {koyasiigai) with the laid-away 
clothing, because, according to [his] informant, of the 
koyasugai s well-known significance as a symbol of good 
fortune, or by the placing of obscene pictures with the 
clothing." In further explanation of this remarkable 
custom he adds : — " I have been told by an informant 
from another part of Japan that people wishing to be 
lucky in lotteries sometimes carry pictures of the vulva 
(of which the cowry-shell noted above is a well-recognised 
image)." (See also antea, p. 183). 

These additional scraps of information serve to 
emphasise the general conclusions that emerge quite 
definitely from the mass of data impartially set forth in 
this book. All the cultural uses of shells are intimately 
related the one to the other. In whatever part of the 
world shells are employed for such purposes, the same 
peculiar and wholly arbitrary significance is attached to 
them. They confer the blessings of fertility in women 
and crops. They cure sterility and facilitate parturition. 
They bring good-luck in games and more serious enter- 
prises. The\' avert the evil eye. They secure the preser- 
vation of the dead and bring resurrection and life. They 

^' Cambridge, 1913, p. 64, quoting Count A. A, Bokrii.skoj, " Smela," 
ii., v., I. 

" Man, Feb., 1917, 17- 



2o6 Appendix. 

are the parents of mankind and the dwelling-places of 
gods. They can summon the gods to be present at 
ceremonies of initiation, at deaths and burials, in battle 
and in harvesting. Whether as cowry-amulets or blasts 
upon the shell-trumpet they are used to convey messages 
of war and death, or to summon the people from agricul- 
tural occupations, or to greet important strangers. As 
medicine they can restore the "soul-substance," the loss 
of which is responsible for illness or death. 

These remarkable attributes of shells are found wide- 
spread in the Old World and the New, and afford the 
most positive and unequivocal evidence of the migration 
of early culture along certain well-defined routes around 
the earth. 



APPENDIX II. 

The following interesting Information has reached 
us as we are going to press. 

What appears tO' be an addiitional instance of the cultural 
use of the money-oO'Wry in the New Wiorld is to be seen in 
a picture reproduced by S. H. C. Hawtrey, in " The Lengua 
Indians of the Paraguayan Chaoo."i In Figure 2 (p. 282) 
this writer shows the head of a Lengua Indian with a re- 
markable headdress on which money-cowries are distinctly 
visible arranged in rows. No reference to these is made in 
the text. iSuch a type of cowry-ornamented headdress 
recalls those 'of the East African people described in 
Chapter IV. (p. 142) of this book. 

I That shells were cult-objects in early times in Egypt 
seems certain, from their occurrence in numbers in ancient 
Egyptian sites. But too Jittle attention has been paid to 
these discoveries and their true significance has not been 
appreciated, investigators having too little knowledge of 
shells and their habitats tO' realise the importance of their 
pnresence in ancient tombs. Nearly all the shells recorded 
as found in Egyptian tombs are species which inhabit the 
Red 'Sea and the adjacent African coast. (Hence it is 
probable that all these shell-cults had their origin in this 
region, that is they were developed by a maritime people, 
or people having ready access to the sea. Suggestive 
evidence of this is furnished by the fact that Red Sea' 
Pteroceras-shells \Pteroceras bryonia, Gmelin) figure as 
designs on statues of the phallic god Min found on the site 
of the temple of Kopitos. Some authorities think these 
statues belong to the Predynastic period, but others, regard 
them as the earliest work of the dynastic people. Their 
presence at Koptos has been claimed as providing " a 
powerful argument to those who wish to bring the dynastic 
Egyptians 'from the land of Punt, situated on the east coast 
of Africa, on the borders of the Red Sea."^ But diffusion 
of culture can explain the facts vnthout dragging into the 
discussion these purely hypothetical and utterly misleading 

^ Journ. Anthrop. Inst., 31, IQor, pp. z?iO et seq. 

Petrie, " Koptos," 1896, pp. 7 — 9, pi. iii., iv. ; also Capart, " Primi- 
tive Art in Egypt," 1905, pp. 222—224, figs. 166—167. 

(207) 



2o8 Appendix II. 

interpretations, of the racial pnroblem. There are many 
indications of intercourse with the East African littoral in 
Proto- as well as in Predynastic times. 

Whatever view is taken as to the source and date of 
the Min statues, it does not in any way affect the question 
of the introduction of sea-shells into Egypt : as these were 
already in use there in Predynastic times. Whether origi- 
nally brought by migration of people or introduced by 
trade relations, does not concern us in this discussion, but 
the evidence at our disposal points very definitely to the 
Red Sea coast as the chief source of supply. Thus there 
must have been some kind of intercourse between Egypt 
and this region at a very early p>eriod. But strange as it 
may seem, there is as yet no earlier evidence than the Sixth 
dynasty for the use and appreciation of the marine jiearl- 
shell, though hosts of other Red Sea shells had been in 
use for centuries before that date. 

Of extraordinary interest is the presence in Egypt of 
mummified shell-fish. Lortet and Gaillard^ ref>ort the dis- 
covery of two shells (Area auriculata, Lam. and Cardium 
edule, L.) prepared " pour la momification par le natron 
r^sineux conservateur " in a tomb of the necropolis of 
G6b^l6n, in Upper Egypt. These must have been carried 
across the desert from the shores of the Red Sea in a 
mummified state, since it would not have been possible for 
them ito have remained in a fresh condition in so warm a 
climate during the journey to G6b616n. 

The full significance of the role played by shells in the 
religion of the Egyptians awaits elucidation, but it is certain 
that some symbolic virtues were assigned to them. They 
may have been associated with some deity, just as we 
have seen the cowry to be associated with Venus. Doubt- 
less a closer study of EgyptJ^an texts and monuments would 
result in elucidating this interesting subject. 

= 4>'ch. Mks. d'Hist, Nat. de Lyon, vol. lo, 1909, pp. 116 — 117. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY OF OTHER 

RECENT MEMOIRS DEALING WITH THE 

THEORY OF THE MIGRATIONS 

OF EARLY CULTURE. 



A. — The following Papers on the Theory of the Migrations of 

Early Culture have been published by 

"Professor G. Elliot Smith : — 

1. "The Ancient Egyptians and their Influence upon 
the Civilisation of Europe," Harper Brothers, 
London and New York, 191 1. 2/6 net. 

2. "Megalithic Monuments and their Builders," Re- 
port, British Association, 191 2, p. 607. 

3. " The Evolution of the Rock-cut Tomb and the 
Dolmen," in " Essays and Studies presented to 
William Ridgeway," Cambridge University Press, 
1913, p. 493. 

4. " The Migrations of Early Culture," Manchester 
University Press, 1915. 5/- net. 

5. "The Influence of Ancient Egyptian Civilisation 
in the East and in America," Manchester Univer- 
sity Press, 19 16. i/- net. 

6. " The Origin of the Pre-Columbian Civilisation of 
America," Science, August nth, 1916, p. 190. 

7. "Pre-Columbian Representations of the Elephant 
in America," Nature, November 25th and Decem- 
ber i6th, 191 5, And January 27th, 1916. 

8. " Ships as Evidence of the Migrations of Early 
CuXture" Manchester University Press, 1 91 7. I /-net. 

TO BE PUBLISHED SHORTLY. 

9. " Incense and Libations " and 

10. "Dragons and Rain-Gods," in the Bulletin of the 
John> Rylands Library, and also separately, Man- 
chester University Press. 

11. "Primitive Man," in the Proceedings of the British 
Academy, Oxford University Press, 191 7. 

(209) 



210 Bibliography 

B. — Other Publications on the same subject issued by 
the Manchester University Press : — 

(i) Memoirs by W. J. Perry. — 

" The Megalithic Culture of Indonesia," with illustra- 
tions. (In the press.) 

" The Relationship between the Geographical Dis- 
tribution of Megalithic ]\Ionuments and Ancient 
Mines," Memoirs and Proceedings of the Manches- 
ter Literary and Philosophical Society, November 
24th, 191 5. 1/6 net. 

" The Geographical Distribution of Terraced Culti- 
vation and Irrigation," ibid., April 15th, 1916. 

1/6 net. 

(2) Memoirs by J. Wilfrid Jackson. — 

" The Money Cowry as a Sacred Object among 
North American Indians," ibid., May 17th, 1916. 

i/- net. 

"The Aztec Moon-cult and its relation to the 
Chank-cult of India," /*/^., May 17th, 1916. i/-net. 

*" The Geographical Distribution of the Shell-Purple 
Industry," ibid.. May 22nd, 1916. 1/6 net. 

*" Shell-Trumpets and their Distribution in the Old 
and New World," ibid.. May 22nd, 1916. 1/6 net. 

*"The Geographical Distribution of the use of 
Pearls and Pearl-shell," ibid., September 6th, 1916. 

1/6 net. 

*" The Use of Cowry-shells for the Purposes of 
Currency, Amulets, and Charms," ibid., December, 
191 6. 2/6 net. 

*Reissued with new plates and additional informa- 
tion in " Shells as Evidence of the Migrations of Early 
Culture." Price 7/6 net. 



INDEX. 



Amulets. See Cowries. 

Aztec gods. Shells associated with, 
51-55 ; compared with Hindu gods, 
53-55' 57-58. with Maya gods, 56-57; 
adorned with pearls, 118. See also 
Tecciztecatl, Tlaloc, and Tonatiuh. 

Aztec Moon-cult, 35, 52-55. 

Babylonian Fish-god, 61, 78. 
Blood-letting. Shell-trumpets used at, 

51 ; cowries used at, 160. 
Buccinum-aheXis, as trumpets, 4, 32 ; 

purple dye obtained from, 4-7, 196. 

See also Purpura-shtWs. 

Cassis-sheWa, as trumpets, 38-40, 43, 
51 ; found in Mentone cave, 136 ; 
found in pre-Columbian burial in 
Ecuador, 121. 

Chac, Maya Rain God. Conch-shell 
associated with, 57 ; compared with 
Tlaloc, the Mexican Rain God, 57 ; 
appears as the Maya Moon God, 57 ; 
claimed as the American form of the, 
Vedic god, Indra, 57-58 ; tortoise 
associated with, 60 ; compared with 
the stag-headed dragon in Japan, 63. 

Chank-cult of India, 35-38, 53.55, 58- 
59, 195-196. 

Chank shells. As trumpets, 35-38, 53- 
55 ; used by Hindus and Buddhists, 
35. 38, 53-54 ; reversed, prized by 
Hindus, 35, by Chinese, 38 ; Vishnu 
associated with, 35, 53, 58-59, 61, 
195-196 ; calcined for making lime, 
84, 91-92 ; references in Classics to, 
88; fisheries of, 88-89; pearls found 
in, 90 ; in prehistoric sites in India, 
164-165 ; bangles made from, 165. 

Charms. See under Cowries. 

Circumcision. Shell-trumpets used at, 
37;" cowries used at, 159. 

Classical Literature. Purple mentioned 
in, 3-4. 7. 10-15/ 81, 195; shell- 
trumpets mentioned in, 30, 32; pearls 
mentioned in, 73, 77, 81, 83, 87-88, 
93-94. 96. 104. 



Clay idol found in Ca.rjzi-shell in Ten- 
nessee, 64. 

Clay models of shell-trumpets, 34, 47, 
203-204. 

Cowry, The. Derivation of name, 126; 
Greek name of, 126; Roman name 
of, 126, 200; French name of, 126, 
200; Sanskrit name of, 126; Portu- 
guese name of, 126; Arab name of, 
126; Siamese name of, 126; Chinese 
signs for, 180-182; Japanese name 
^ of, 183, 205. 

Cowry-shell, The. Known as " Concha 
Venerea," 138; as the parent of 
mankind, 176; as the source of life, 
182-183, 185-186. See also Cowries. 

Cowries. Death, associated with, 74, 
100, 128-138, 145, 147, 153-154, 159- 
161, 164, 169-170, 182-183, 186-194, 
205; placed in mouth of the dead, 
100, 182-183, 186; as currency, 123, 
126, 130, 140, 142, 147-164, 165-169, 
171, 174-175, 177-181, 183; asamu- 
lets, 123, 127-129, 139-143, 146-164, 
169-172, 183, 194, 205-206 ; in 
games, 126, 154, 157, 159, 170-171; 
as hunting and fishing charms, 127, 
157-158, 173-174; as charms against 
the evil eye, 127, 140, 152-153, 158, 

169, 183; as fertility charms, 127, 
133, 139, 142, 145, 152-153, 157-158, 

170, 183-184; marriage, associated 
with, 127, 142, 145-146, 153, 157, 
164, 172; imitated in stone, 128, 
174, in ivory, 176, in metal, 178, 
205; in caves, 134-138; for divina- 
tion and soothsaying, 140-141, 145, 
155, 158-159, 161, 170 ; head- 
hunting, associated with, 142, 160, 

, 172, 174; as eyes for idols, 149-150, 
158, 173, 176; initiation ceremonies, 
associated with, 154-155, 184-186; at 
circumcision, 159; as symbolic mes- 
sages, 161-163, 190-191 ; as war- 
signals, 161, 190-191. 

Cowries. Use of : Africa, 141-164; 
America, N., 184-193; Arabia, 139; 
Bosnia, 131; British Isles, 133, 140, 



(=") 



212 



Index — continued. 



194; California, 193-194; Caucasus, 
130-131: Ceylon, 170; China, 177- 
183; Crete, 134; Ecuador, 194; 
Egypt, 74. 128-130, 138, 140-141, 
163, 205; France, 133-135; Ger- 
many, 130-134; Greece, 140; Hawaii 
Islands, 174; Hungary, 140; India, 
140, 164-170; . India, Further, 171- 
172; Indonesia, 172-174; Italy, 133, 
136-137; Japan, 183-184, 2oSj Mal- 
dives, 167-168, 171; Melanesia, 175; 
Micronesia, 175; Montenegro, 140; 
Norway, 140 ; Nubia, 128-129 ; 
Paraguay, 207 ; Persia, 140; Philip- 
pines, 174 ; Polynesia, 175-176 ; 
Russia, 131, 139, 205; Sicily, 139; 
Spain, 134; Sweden, 130; Thibet, 
172. 

" Crab-stones," or " crab's eyes," 92, 
96. 

Crete. Early discovery of shell-purple 
in, 9; early use of shell-trumpets 
in, 33, 61; cultural use of cowry in, 

134- 
Currency. See Cowries; also Pearls, 
Haliotis, and Tortoise-shells. 



Death. Shell-trumpets associated with, 
37-38, 41, 44; pearls ditto, 89-90, 
loo-ioi, 106, 112-117, 204; cowries 
ditto, 74, 'loo, 128-138, 145, 147, 
153-154, i59-:6i, 164, 169-170, 182, 
183, 186-194, 205. 

Divination. Cowries used for, 140-141, 
145, 155, 158-159, 161, 170; tortoise 
used for, 182. 

Dog, The. Unholy to the Hindu, 195; 
associated with Hercules (Melkart), 
195, with Vishnu, 195; whelk named 
after, 196. 

Dragon, The. Stag-headed, in Japan, 
63; emerging from conch-shells, 67- 
68; pearls associated with, 102-104. 



Early purple-fishery, 9, 195. 
Ear-piercing. Shell-trumpets used 



at, 



51- 



J'- 

Evil eye, charms against. See Cowries. 
" Eye-stones," or opthalme, 92. 



Fasciolaria-shcWs, as trumpets, 50-51, 
203; associated with Mexican gods, 
51-52; associated with Maya gods. 
56. 

I'crli'ily charms. See Cowries. 



Fish Incarnations. See Vishnu. 
Fishing charms. See Cowries. 
Fog-horns. ^Miaj-shells used for, 39. 
Fresh-water pearls. See Pearls. 
Fusus-^e&s, as trumpets, 39-40; found 
in Japanese shell-mounds, 19. 

Gaetulian Purple, 15. 

God in the Shell, 44, 52-58, 64-68, 

177- 
Gods represented by shell-trumpets, 44. 
Games. See under Cowries. 



Haliotis-&hel\. Known as Ear of Venus, 
xii; as currency, xii; cultural use 
of, 49, 106-107, 110, 122, 193; 
pearls found in, 106-107, 122; found 
in ancient burials, 122; placed in 
mouth of dead, 204. 

Harvest-rites. Shell-trumpets used at, 
36-37. 49-51- 54. 198-201. 

Head-hunting. Shell-trumpets associa- 
ted with, 41; cowries associated with, 
142, 160, 172, 174. 

Hercules (Melkart). Discovery of pur- 
ple dye attributed to, 195; dog 
associated with, 195. 

Hindu chank-cult, 35-38, 53-55, 58- 
59, 19S-196. 

Hindu gods. Shells associated with, 
35. 53-55. 58-59. 6r, 195-196; com- 
pared with Aztec gods, 53-55, 57-58. 
with Maya gods, 58-61, with Japan- 
ese gods, 62-63; tortoise associated 
with, 59-60; adorned with pearls, 87. 
See also Vishnu, Siva, Indra, and 
Varuna. 

Human beings emerging from shells, 
55, 62, 65-67. 

Hunting charms. See Cowries. 

Indian Fish-god. See Matsya. 

Indra, Vedic god, 58, 68; compared 
with Tlaloc, the Mexican Rain God," 
58, with Chac, the Maya Rain God, 

57-58- 
Initiation. Shell-trumpets associated 
with, 41-42; pearls and pearl-shell 
associated with, 87; cowries associa- 
ted with, 154-155, 184-186. 



Japanese god. Shell associated with, 
62; fish incarnation of, 62; com- 
pared with the Hindu god, Vishnu, 
62-63; tortoise associated with, 63. 



Index — continued. 



213 



Kava drinking and shell-tnimpets, 41- 

42. 
Krishna. An incarnation of Vishnu, 

S9; discovery of pearls attributed 

to, 87 ; Panchajanya, conch-shell 

trumpet of, 59. 
Kurma, tortoise incarnation of Vishnu, 

59-60, 63. 



Laconian Purple, 12. 



Marine pearls. See Pearls. 

Marriage. Shell-trumpets associated 
with, 32, 37; pearls ditto, 70, 8i- 
82; cowries ditto, 127, 142, 145-146, 
IS3> 157. 164, 172. 

Matsya, fish incarnation of Vishnu, 



58-59, 195. 
Maya gods. 
55-58, 68; 
gods, 58-61, 



Shells associated with, 
compared with Hindu 
with Aztec gods, 56-57; 
60. See 



tortoise associated with, 
also Chac. 

Maya manuscripts. Shells figured in, 
55-58. 

Maya Rain and Moon God. See Chac. 
. Medicine. See Pearls; also Pearl-shell. 

Megalithic Culture. Purple associated 
with, 14, 25, 27-28, 72 ; shell- 
trumj>ets associated with, 14, 25, 27, 
29, 72; pearls associated with, 14, 
25, 27, 29, 72, 77, 90; cowries 
associated with, 74. 

Mexican manuscripts. Purple dye used 
in, 25-26; shell - trumpets figured in, 

50-55- 

Mexican Moon God. See Tecciztecatl. 

Mexican Rain God. See Tlaloc. 

Minoans. Invention of purple dye 
attributed to, 9; shell-trumpets used 
by, 33-35, 61; shell-trumpets figured 
on seals of, 33-34; shell-trumpets 
found in Sanctuaries of, 35. 

Money-cowry, The. Regarded as sacred 
by North American Indians, 184-186; 
found in N. American mounds, 186- 
190. See also Cowries. 

Moon, The. Conch-shell as emblem of, 
52; influence of, on women, 52, 69, 
on crops, 53, on shell-fish, 68-69; 
Hindu god of, 53-55; Aztec god of, 
56; Maya god of, 57; Japanese god 
of, 62. 

Mother-of-Pearl. See Pearl-shells. 

Mummified shell-fish found in Egypt, 



Murex-^tWs. Purple dye obtained 
from, 5-6, g, 12-14; used as symbol 
on Tyrian coins, 5, 195; used as 
trumpets, 35, 49-50. 

Mycenaean use of Triton as ornament, 
34- 

Mytilus-^e\\s. Pearls found in, 89, 
108. 



Ovulum ovum (Indo-Pacific shell). In 
Gothlandic tomb, 134; as canoe 
ornament in the Pacific Islands, 175, 
20I; associated with use of shell- 
trumpets, 199-200; Moto, the Mailu 
name for, 200; in " pig-magic " in 
New Guinea, 200; Raiatean legend 
of its association with the god Tan- 
garoa, 202; on Triton poles in New 
Caledonia, 202. 

Ovulum verrucosum (Indo - Pacific 
shell). In Californian graves, 192; 
as an amulet in Pacific Islands, 192; 
rubbed down on back like money- 
cowry, 192; as ornament of witch- 
craft packets in New Caledonia, 201. 



Panchajana. 59. 

Panchajanya, 59. 

Pearls. Megalithic Culture associated 
with, 14, 25, 27, 29, 72, 77, 90 ; 
commerce in, 70, 72, 77, 88-89, 93" 
95, 97-99> 107-109, 112-113, 120; 
superstitious reverence of, 70, 81, 
86-87, 92, 100-103; medicinal use of, 
70, 89, 91, loi; said to be con- < 
gealed dew-drops, 70, 72, 81, 85, 

90, 120; as symbols of purity, 70; 
Phoenician influence and the ap- 
preciation of, 72-73, 76, 79, 82, 84- 
85, 9S, 97-99 ; artificial production 
of, 73, 104-106, 113; references in 
Classics to, 73, 77, 81, 83, 87-88, 
93-94, 96, 104; as earrings, 75, 
78-81, 87-88, 109, 115, 1 19-120; 
influence of thunderstorms on breed- 
ing of, 77; in nose-rings, 78, 80, 
120; solar origin attributed to, 78; 
on coins, 79-80, 83; drilling of, 80, 
86-87, 89, loi, 106, 112-117; refer- 
ences- in Scriptures to, 82; colour 
of, 83, 86-87, 94, 106; discovery 
of, attributed to Krishna, 87; as 
eyes for idols, 87; associated with 
sharks, 88, 104; in making lime, 89, 

91, 93-94; placed in mouth of dead, 
89-90, loo-ioi, 106, 114, 204; as 



214 



Index — continued. 



currency, 95, 115, 178; supposed 
germination of, 95; associated with 
dragon-protectors, 102-104; in North 
American mounds, 112-117 ; as 
"eggs" of shell-fish, 121. 

Pearls. Use of: America, North, 112- 
117; America, Central, 117-118, 120 
Assyria, 78; Astrakhan, 80; Baby 
Ionia, 78-79; British Isles, 83-84 
Ceylon, 93; China, 95-106; Crimea, 
80 ; Cyprus, 79 ; Ecuador, 121 
Egypt, 75-76; Europe, 85-86; Greece 
79-80; India, 87-89; Italy, 81-83 
Japan, 106; Korea, 204; Malay 
Archipelago, 94-95; Mexico, 118- 
120; Pacific Islands, 109; Palestine, 
82; Persia, 78; Peru, 121; Siberia, 
109; Syria, 79; Venezuela, 120. 

Pearl-Fisheries. Africa, East, 76-77; 
Alaska, 122; America, North, 112- 
117; British Isles, 83-85; Cali- 
fornia, 118; Ceylon, 93; China, 96- 
99; Ecuador, I2i; Europe, 85-86; 
' India, 88-92; Japan, 106-107; Kamt- 
chatka, 108; Manchuria, 107-108; 
Malay Archipelago, 94-95; Mauri- 
tania, 76; Mediterranean, 83; Mergui 
Archipelago, 94 ; Mexico, 118 ; 
Pacific Islands, 109-112; Panama, 
120; Persian Gulf, 77-78; Red Sea, 
73; Siam, 99-100; Siberia, 109; 
Venezuela, 1 20. 

Pearl-shells. Medicinal use of, 70, 91, 
loi; in graves, 74, 77, 84, no, 122: 
commerce in, 74-75, 88-89, 93"95' 
98-99; as breast ornaments, 74-75, 
111-113, 118-120; receptacles for 
paint, 76; in making pottery, 84; 
calcined for making lime, 84, 91; 
superstitious reverence of, 87, 92, 
109-112; as fish-hooks, 109-110,201; 
as temple offerings, no-iii; as eyes 
for idols, HI, 119; as eyes for 
mummies, 111, 203. 

Pearl-shells. Use of ; Alaska, 122; 
America, North, 117; British Isles, 
83-84; California, 122; China, 98- 
99, 101; Ecuador, 121; Egypt, 73- 
75; India, 87; Italy, 14, 82; Malay 
Archipelago, 94-95; Mexico, 119-120; 
Nubia, 74; Pacific Islands, 109-112, 
201-203; Palestine, 82; Peru, 121; 
Rhodesia, 77, 84; Siam, 100. 

Pearl-shellfish-hooks. As currency, no; 
used for transmitting messages, no. 

Phoenicians. Purple trade by, 3, 5, 
10-12, 14, 93; discovery of purple 
dye attributed to, 9, 195; purple 



dye manufactured by, 6-7, 10-13,17; 

pearl-fisheries inaugurated by, 72-73, 
76, 84-85, 99; pearl trade by, 79, 
82, 97-99; known to Chinese as 
Hormuzian or Hwang-tchi (yellow- 
fingered) sea-traders, gg; skilled in 
drilling pearls, 106; goddess of, with 
conch-shell, 196. 

Placuna-&\\t&s. Fisheries of, 8g, g3, 
g5, 107; pearls found in, 8g, 93, 
9S. 107. 

Pregnancy. See Cowries; also Snail- 
shells. 

Pteroceras-^&\Xs, as cult-objects in 
Egypt, 207 ; associated with phallic 
god Min, 207 ; as trumpets in India, 
38. 

Purple Dye. Chief centres of production : 
America, Central, 20-24; America, 
South, 21, 25-27; British Isles, 15- 
17; Mediterranean, 10-15; Mexico, 
23-26. 

Purple Dye. References in Classics to, 
3, 4, 7, 10-15, 81, 195; trade in, by 
the Phcenicians, 3, 5, 10-17; process 
of dyeing, 3, 6, 21-25; methods of 
extraction, 3, 21-25; photogenetic 
property of, 4, 5, 23; references in 
Scriptures to, 7, 11; as paint, 8, iS, 
19, 25, 26; as rouge, 8, 26; probable 
first discovery in Crete, 9; associated 
with megalithic culture, 14, 27-28. 

Purple Dye. Molluscs whence derived; 
Bticcinum, 4-7, Ig6; Murex trun- 
iiilus 5, 6, g, 14; Murex branderis, 
5, 6, 12, 13; Purpura lapillus, 4, 
5, 6, 15, 16, ig6; Purpura hamas- 
toma, 5, 13, 14, 20, 134; Purpura 
patuld, 20-21. 

Purple Dye. Use of: America, Central, 
20-24; -America, South, 21, 25-27; 
Babylonia. 7 ; British Isles, 4 5, 
15-18; China, ig; Egypt, 7, 9, 11; 
France, 14, 18; Japan, 19, 20; 
Malaysia, 19; Mediterranean, 3, 7, 
8, 14, 20, 81, 134, 195; Mexico, 23- 
26; Norway, 18. 

Purple robes, 7, 18, 24-26, 87, 93, 97, 
195- 

Purple-shell. On Tyrian coins, 5, 195; 
found in caves, 13, 14, 82. See 
also Purple dye. 

Purple-shell fisheries. See Purple dye, 
centres of production. 

Purpura-^tWs, purple dye obtained 
from, 4-6, 13-16, 20-21, 134, 196. 



Index — continued. 



2IS 



Ranella-^tWs,. As trumpets, 40. 



Scriptures. Purple mentioned in, 7, 11; 

pearls mentioned in, 82. 
Seed-pearls. See Pearls. 
Shell God. S|6e God in the Shell. 
Shell-purple. See Purple dye. 
Shell-money. See Cowries. 
Shell-mounds, British Isles, 15, 16; 

Chile, 26; Japan, 19; Mediterranean, 

6, 9-13- 

Shells regarded as the birth-place of 
human beings, 65-67, 176-177; re- 
garded as the dwelling place of the 
deity, 44, 64-66, 177, 202. 

Shell-trumpets. Cave discoveries of, 
13. 34-35> 82; on coins, 30; refer- 
ences in Classics to, 30, 32; as war- 
signals, 30, 33, 39, 41, 44-46, 197- 
199, 202, 204; in religious ceremonies, 
32. 33. 35-36, 44-45, 47-51, 54, 66, 
198-201; at marriage ceremonies, 32, 
37; in summoning the divinity, 34, 
35! 5I' 197; in harvest rites, 36-37, 
49-51, 54, 198-201; in devil-driving, 
36, 37, 41, 43, 198; at eclipses and 
earthquakes, 36, 198; at death cere- 
monies, 37, 38, 41, 44, 199; in 
foundations of old houses in Ponape, 
201. See also Initiation, Kava drink- 
ing. Head-hunting, etc. 

Shell-trumpets. Shells used tor : 
Buccinum, 32; Cassis, 38; Cassis 
cornuta, 40, 43, 51; Cassis tubero' 
sum, 39; Fusus, 39; Fusus probo- 
scidijerus, 40; F asciolaria gigantea, 
50, 51; F asciolaria prince fs, 50; 
203; Murex (Phyllonotus) radix, 
49, 50 ; Murex trunculus, 35 ; 
Pterocera, 38; Ranella lampas, 40; 
Strombus, 40; Strombus galeatus, 
48, 49, 203; Strombus gigas, 47; 
Strombus goliath, 48 ; Strombus 
maximus, 198; Triton nodiferus, 
30, 32-34; Triton tritonis, 39-45, 
197-202; Turbinella pyrum (the 
Chank), 35-38, 53-55; Turbinella 
scolymus, 50. 

Shell-trumpets. Use of : America, 
Central, 47, 203; America, North, 
48-49; J3razil, 48; British Isles, 32; 
Ceylon, 38; China, 38-39, 203; Cor- 
sica, 33; Crete, 14, 33, 204; Elba, 
33; France, 33; Greece, 30; India, 
35-38, 53-55' 203; Indonesia, 39-41, 
197-201, 203; Italy, 14, 32; Japan, 



39, 203; Laccadive Islands, 38; 
Madagascar, 197; Melanesia, 41-43, 
204; Mexico, 49-53; Micronesia, 46; 
Peru, 46, 48, 203r204; Philippines, 
40; Polynesia, 41, 44-46, 197, 201- 
203; Russia, 32'; Sicily, 32-33; Siam, 
37; Thibet, 38. 

Siva, Hindu god. Chank shell associa- 
ted with, 53. 

Snail-shells. Pregnancy associated with, 
52, 54, 56; superstitious reverence 
of, 92. 

" Snail-stones.'* 92. 

Stro7nbus-^^?t, in Egyptian graves, 
197; as trumpets, 40, 47-49, 198, 
203; pearls found in, 90, note 56. 

Superstitious reverence of shell-trumpetsj, 
44, 66; of pearls, 70, 81, 86-87, 92, 
100-103; of snail-shells, 92. 



Tecciztecatl, Mexican Moon God. 
Conch-shell associated with, 52, 56; 
compared with Vishnu, S'i'SS'-' com- 
pared with Maya Moon God, 56. 

Tlaloc, Mexican Rain God. Conch- 
shell "associated with, 52, 54, 57; 
compared with Varuna, the Hindu 
god of the waters, 54; compared 
with Chac, the Maya Rain God, 57; 
claimed as equivalent to the Vedic 
god, Indra, 58. 

Tonatiuk, Mexican Sun God, associated 
with fasting man blowing shell- 
trumpet, 51. 

Tortoise, The. Anthropomorphic figures 
of, 56; Vishnu associated with, 59- 
60; Maya gods associated with, 60; 
Japanese god associated with, 63; 
Chinese symbol for, 181 -182; used 
for divination, 182. 

Tortoise-shells. As currency, 130, 178- 
182. 

Totemism and shell-trumpets, 42. 

TritOA, Neptune's trumpeter, with concfiu 
30. 

Triton-^tWa. As symbols on Tyrian 
coins, 5; in caves, 13, 34-35; as 
trumpets, 30, 32-34, 39-45. 197-202; 
on Minoan seals, 33-34; as designs 
on Mycenaean pottery, 34; clay models 
of, 34; in Minoan .Sanctuaries, 35; 
in Egyptian graves, 196-197; on 
ceremonial poles in New Caledonia, 
202; 

Tridacna-s\ie\\s. Pearls found in, xii; 
axes and other tools made from, xii. 



2l6 



Index — continued. 



Turbinella-sh.e\]s, as trumpets, 35-38, 

So> 53-55; see also Chank shells. 
Tyrian Purple. See Purple dye. 



Varuna, Hindu god of the waters. 
Chank shell associated with, 53-54; 
compared with Tlaloc, the Mexican 
Rain God, 54; characters of, assumed 
by the Vedic god, Indra, 58. 

Venus. ^a/z'o^ii-shell known as Ear 
of, xii; cowry-shell consecrated to, 
xii; shell associated with birth of, 
55; British pearls dedicated to, 83; 
cowry-shell known as " Concha 
Venerea," the shell of, 138. 



Vishnu, Hindu god. Chank shell as- 
sociated with, 35, 53, 58-59, 61, 
195-196; incarnations of, 58-60, 63, 
195; dog associated with, 195; com- 
pared with Mexican gods, 53-55, with 
Maya gods, 58-61; with Japanese 
gods, 62-63. 



War-signals. Shell-trumpets used as, 

30, 33. 39> 41. 44-46, 197-199' 201- 
202, 204; cowries used as, 161, 190- 

191- 
White cowry. See Ovulum ovum.