MAN and SHELLS: Molluscs in the History

Handicrafts and the Kitsch

Author(s): Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti, Mauro Doneddu and Egidio Trainito

Pp: 93-103 (11)

DOI: 10.2174/9781681082257116010009

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


Since Palaeolithic times, the shells of the molluscs, eaten as food, then became small pots or were used to make necklaces, neckbands, bracelets, ear-rings, or to decorate objects. People used shells available in nature: tusk shells, cockles, scallops in the Mediterranean, abalones, clams, and thorny oysters in Americas, cones and cowries in Africa, pearl oysters and cones in Polynesia. Still today, abalones in New Zealand still adorn many objects with their iridescent na-cre.

Many American Indian tribes used mussels, scallops, and clams, queen conch or whelks to create scrapers, knives blades, spoons, while the columellaof the larg-est gastropods was used to make earrings. In the Pacific area, the Puka shell jew-ellery, the use of worked shells to create ornaments, is widespread.

Bivalve valves have been and are still being used as a support for small paintings both in Asia, in America and Europe. Of course, the value of these small paint-ings depends on the ability of the artist: in Maine (USA) it is still common to decorate the Christmas tree with painted oyster and scallop shells.

The use of shells to achieve the most varied compositions became widespread especially among sailors. At the beginning of the 19thcentury, especially in Bar-bados, Sailor's Valentinescame into fashion: they were wooden tablets, generally octagonal in shape, which show romantic designs and emotional expressions by gluing small shells. Those sailors wore them as gifts from their beloved.

Keywords: Abalones, baler shells, Bursa, Cardium, clams, cockles, cones, cow-ries, Dentalium, Haliotis, handicrafts, kitsch, Mercenaria, molluscs, Neptunea, Pecten, Puka jewellery, red whelk, Seba, Sailor's Valentines, scallops, shellcraft, pearl oysters, Spondylus, Turbo, Tridacna, tusk shells, window pane shell.

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