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Conchology Section
Auckland Museum Institute

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Newsletter - September 2006

President's Report
For those who weren’t at our last meeting, you missed a most interesting evening — "Man’s relationship with mollusca and its significance to religion, culture, history and art". A big THANK YOU to Patricia Langford for giving us a different perspective on something we all have a passion for. We enjoyed your stories and learnt heaps in the process.
Thank you to those who brought in shells to share. Sharing our shells is one of the important parts of our meetings.
Looking forward to seeing you at the museum for our next meeting.
Happy shelling.

October Meeting
Our October meeting on Tuesday, 10th October will be held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Please meet at 7:20pm on the front steps ready to go in the door on the left of the main door right promptly at 7:30pm. For security purposes we do need to all go in together at 7:30pm.

Wilma Blom and Margaret Morley will be our hostesses for the evening! We shall be viewing the New Zealand and World Wide dry collection and a section of the wet collection. If anyone has a preferred family of shells that they would like to view then please let Margaret know as she will be at the Museum on the Monday before the meeting and may just be able to get them ready for us.

Please telephone Heather on 524 5068 or Margaret on 576 8323 if you intend to be there. Heather already has a list of 14 names collected at the last meeting.

See you at the Museum at 7:20pm on Tuesday, 10th October 2006.

Assistance with Transport
If you live on the North Shore and would like to attend this special meeting at the museum but require transport, then please give Jan a call on 444 8460 and I’d love to assist if possible.

Shell Show
Don’t forget to check out details on our web site for shell show listings, rules, transport and accommodation details.

Molluscs and Man — Patricia Langford
At various sites around the world, we can observe old midden layers of a range of edible molluscs collected by man and used for food. Until recently, the earliest known associations of Cro-Magnon man and molluscs, for other purposes, have been excavated graves of cave dwellings where pierced shells have been found, either attached to fragments of animal skins used by human clothing, or strung as decorative necklaces. A man of significant standing in his clan, was buried in Southern France, with a Cassis rufa and two large cowrie shells, all believed to have come from the Indian Ocean, and indicative of long journeys or successive trading, to acquire such rarities, at that time.

Very recently, a cave in southern Africa revealed early hominid remains and a necklace of modest, brown/yellow pierced Nassarius kraussianus, dated between 80—90 thousand years — an exciting find indeed!

Throughout the ages, men and women have been fascinated with shells for a host of reasons — extensive use as money, mainly the small, abundant cowries, or scarce Dentalium, which were easily threaded, or pieces of bivalves cut into cylindrical shapes and made into strings. Large gastropods were often used as ceremonial or war trumpets, others were prized for their beauty and rarity as princely badges, such as the Cypraea aurantium in Fiji, and the Spondylus princeps in Central America (used mostly by Mayan and Aztec Royalty). Some were carved into artistic treasures, such as the cameo helmet shell, Cassis rufa, or featured in religious ceremonies, examples being the Hindu sacred chank, Xancus pyrum, the scallop, with its many religious associations, particularly with pilgrimage (St James of Compostela, in Spain) or scallop-sculpted church ceilings and fonts. Artistically, the scallop was a favourite, with its classical symmetry and pure lines, also being the symbolic craft that floated Boticelli’s Venus, gently to shore.

Seminole Indians in Southern USA used the patterns of Liguus tree snails as templates for their woven blanket designs, scallop emblems were popular in heraldry, associated with the crusades, small cowries were beaded onto body adornments by African and Pacific peoples.

The valuable royal Tyrrian purple dye was acquired at the cost of millions of lives of various Mediterranean Murex shells. In contrast to this squandering of life for a mere drop or two of dye secretions, the South American Indians of coastal tribes learned a gentler way of harvesting the mucous flow from their living Murex and Thais, returning the molluscs to their rocky homes for future use.

With the advent of voyages of discovery, many exotic, wondrous shell specimens were brought to Europe and Britain, fetching astronomic prices and starting the shell collecting craze. Wealthy ladies spent years creating shell grottos and pavilions, or humbler shell boxes and pictures, with increasing volumes of imported shells.

Revenues from such businesses actually launched the Shell Oil Company, with its well-known scallop emblem — lesser known is the fact that their first tanker was named Murex!

Just a few fascinating links in the historical chain binding Molluscs and Man.

Shell collection for sale
Email received from J Scott in abbreviated form: "After many years of collecting shells around the Pacific I find I now have to dispose of my collection of several thousand pristine shells. The shells are in labelled clear plastic boxes and are in their original collected conditions not having been exposed to strong light. The collection is very strong in Cypraea (over 50 species and each species ranging from a few to dozens) and Conidae (over 80 species ranging from a few to dozens of each species — many are quite rare). As well there is a wide ranging collection of Mitre, Murex, Strombus, Oliva, Enginia, Nassarius, Pyramidella, Buccincea, Clams, Corals (brain and mushroom) and some very large Conch shells. Anyone interested can contact me on (09) 428 1133 (phone or fax) or email"


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