A Curious Find in Shipton: 1985

Here is a short item from the very first Wychwoods History journal from 1985. Sometimes it seems we are never far from the curious and mysterious, right under our feet. This article was written by the late Norman Frost. A PDF of the full contents of our Journal No 1 is here to download.

Flight Lieutenant and Mrs Fair of The Hawthorns, Station Road, Shipton are two newer residents in Shipton and in the course of tidying a very neglected garden have made many interesting finds like, for example, Victorian bottle dumps.

Recently they made a most interesting discovery. They found about thirty cigar-shaped objects, each 3-4 inches long which tests proved to be calcareous in origin. They baffled every member of the Society who looked at them and were not identified until they were finally matched with a collection in the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. It appears they are sea urchin spines (Heterocentrotus Mammillatus) which are found in the Indian and Pacific oceans where they were used as a form of coinage or for making necklaces and other decorations.

The hat decorated with seashells and sea urchin spines

Pitt Rivers Museum produced a photograph of one of their exhibits – a wooden hat from Polynesia decorated with seashells and sea-urchin spines around the brim. The hat was carved from a single piece of wood and was used as a form of ceremonial headgear by the local kings. It was presented by the King of Sonsoral Island to a visitor when the SS Medora visited the island in 1884. So at last we know what they are! I hope no one asks how they got here.