Our museum is temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read a message from our director, and check our website and social media for updates.

Cowrie Shell Necklace

Cowrie Shell Necklace

Usage conditions apply
Downloads
Description (Brief)
One (1) cowrie shell necklace with one hundered and eleven (111) cowrie shells
Description
Seashells circulated as a medium of exchange in Asia, Africa, Oceania, and North America. The cowrie shell, in particular, was a form of currency in West Africa during the transatlantic slave trade. West African cultures valued cowrie shells from the Indian Ocean and they became an accepted form of currency in the region. An estimated 344,000 people were captured in Africa and transported directly to mainland North America by 1776 and cowries facilitated these transactions alongside coins, manillas, and other local objects of exchange.
Object Name
alternative currency
date made
n.d.
Physical Description
shell (overall material)
string (overall material)
white (overall color)
yellow (overall color)
holed then strung (overall production method/technique)
Measurements
overall: 27 cm x 19 cm x 2 cm; 10 5/8 in x 7 15/32 in x 25/32 in
ID Number
1979.1263.00525
accession number
1979.1263
catalog number
79.112.OC014
collector/donor number
OC014
Credit Line
The Chase Manhattan Bank
See more items in
Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection
Many Voices, One Nation
Exhibition
Many Voices, One Nation
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.

Comments

Add a comment about this object