Ugly Object of the Month – May

BY SUZANNE DAVIS, Curator of Conservation, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Are you ready for swimsuit season? No? Me neither, which is just as well because it’s SHARK MONTH at the Kelsey. This is one of the all-time cutest, weirdest, made by the most-amazingly-skilled craftsperson Ugly Objects ever: a mosaic glass fish head.

 

Ugly_May

Fish head inlay fragment. Mosaic glass. 1st c BCE – 1st ACE. Egypt. Gift of Alexander G. Ruthven. KM 1965.3.135.

 

What do we know about this tiny bit of a scary-looking fish? Not much, because it’s got zero excavation provenance. One, I do know that whoever made it had enviable motor control. Mosaic glass is made of small pieces of colored glass rods, or canes, which have been sliced up, placed close together, and then fused with heat. Two, inlays like this one would have decorated Roman Egyptian walls or furniture.

Three, former UM graduate student Lindsay Ambridge wrote an article about this object, in which she discusses the meanings of fish in ancient Egypt. Bottom line: fish were important for many reasons, chief of which was as a food source.

To me, this fish looks more like predator than prey – check out the pink gums and very, very pointy teeth. See it in all its splendor in the Upjohn Exhibit Wing – look in the glass case on the south side of the back hall.

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One Response to Ugly Object of the Month – May

  1. Caroline says:

    Suzanne, this is the most adorable, yet rather mean-looking fish! I love it!

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