We are looking for some help identifying objects recently offered to our museum (see attached imaged).
They were purchased by the donor at a garage sale nearby (northern Indiana) with no addition information. The are reminiscent of torc-style jewelry but seem too heavy and plain to be adornment. However, the fact that they appear to be brass or bronze seems like an odd choice if they are meant to be utilitarian. One idea we had was that they may be souvenirs from a blacksmith vendor at a living history event that takes place near where these were purchased but that's just a blind guess.
Does anyone recognize these or have any suggestions on who we could ask?
Michelle Nash Curator of Collections Elkhart County Historical Museum
"Museum collection storage is both a physical space and an ongoing process."- NPS
These look like they might be a form of manilla, a type of currency made by French, Portuguese, British, and Dutch merchants for use in Africa, from at least the 15th century through the mid-20th century. There are some in the collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
On the other hand, they may be something completely different!
Sorry I can't be more helpful.
Thank you, Martha! That does seem like a possibility, especially if it is a replica from the living history event; they reenact mostly 18th and early 19th century Europeans there. As you say, it could be something else entirely but your suggestion makes sense as to why it is a soft metal but not really jewelry. Thank you again!
They do look reminscent of late Roman - early medieval penanular brooches...but there's no obvious wear from a pin. Also, these types of brooches tend to have a narrow gap between terminals. Even if they were replicas I'd say they are more likely to be the manilla that Martha mentioned. They could also be some kind of strap distributer.
Thank you, Chris! We also wonder if it might not just be a very specific thing a local farmer made for some purpose we can only guess. ^_^
Really not my area, but could these be bull or oxen rings?
Thanks for weighing in, Joan! They certainly look like it but they would need some sort of clamp to hold them in place if they are not going through the septum (which it doesn't look like these would). Does anyone know how these might have been secured if they are nose rings?
In looking at many images of oxen with nose rings, all of them are circular, and, crucially, they are not as heavy as the objects in your picture appear to be. The metal--usually stainless steel, since they're modern--is quite thin in diameter, and they are sharp, rather than blunted, at the ends, and have a joint in the middle so that the ends can meet and form that circle. An example is on this page, from an English farm supply company.
Here's an example of another form of manilla (at the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures at the University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign). The ones you've been offered are cast bronze, not cast iron or made by a blacksmith.
Given the lack of provenance and the uncertainty of what they are, I'd strongly suggest declining the gift, unless they fit into your collections plan.
On the contrary, Marhta, you've been extremely helpful!
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