Artifact of the Day for May 23rd, 2017 — Fighting Conch shell

 


While not on par with some of our previous AotDs, today’s find is still quite interesting! While this isn’t technically an artifact, because it hasn’t been modified by humans, it certainly is a long way from its natural habitat!

Strombus pugilis 'Fighting Conch' shell, probably a juvenile.
Strombus pugilis ‘Fighting Conch’ shell, probably a juvenile. Could also be Strombus alatus ‘Florida Fighting Conch’

This artifact was found in the trench at the southern wall of the structure. Other artifacts found with it today include some blue edgeware ceramic pieces that date to approximately 1840s-1860s. While this is not definitive proof that the shell is this old, it does suggest that it is not recent in origin.

Strombus pugilis is a kind of sea snail, that lives on sandy and muddy sea bottoms, and its range is Bermuda, southeastern Florida, the Caribbean Sea, and southwards to Brazil. Because there is not much of a flare on the outer lip of this specimen (called alation), it was probably a juvenile individual. It could also potentially be a Strombus alatus, which, depending on who you follow is either a variant population of Strombus pugilis, or a closely related subspecies. Strombus alatus lives in slightly more northern distributions, from North Carolina, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, and Texas down to the east coast of Mexico.

Strombus alatus Gmelin, 1791; juvenile; Sanibel Island, Lee County, Florida, USA; Coll. Gijs Kronenberg no. 1661
Strombus alatus Gmelin, 1791; juvenile; Sanibel Island, Lee County, Florida, USA; Coll. Gijs Kronenberg no. 1661
Strombus pugilis Linnaeus, 1758; juvenile; Porto Belo, Santa Catarina State, Brazil; at 2-4 m on muddy sand; 3/1985; Coll. Gijs Kronenberg no. 0728
Strombus pugilis Linnaeus, 1758; juvenile; Porto Belo, Santa Catarina State, Brazil; at 2-4 m on muddy sand; 3/1985; Coll. Gijs Kronenberg no. 0728

Marine shell from the Gulf of Mexico has been found included in burials thousands of years old in Peterborough County. This indicates First Nations groups had thriving trade networks with more southern populations over millennia. Could this have  been a nineteenth-century find of a much older shell?

If not this old, could this shell be a souvenir brought back from a sea voyage? A well-travelled relative’s gift? Part of a Cabinet of Curiosities?

While we’ll probably never know how an ocean snail from the tropics ended up buried beside a wall in nineteenth-century Nassau Mills, it’s fun to think about, isn’t it?

 

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