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Cowrie

Turkmen girl's headdress decorated with cowrie shells, Afghanistan, late 20th century. Turkmen girl's headdress decorated with cowrie shells, Afghanistan, late 20th century. Courtesy Textiles Research Centre, acc. no. TRC 2008.0218.

Cowrie (also spelt cowry) is the common name for a marine gastropod of the genus Cypraea, family Cypraeidae. The word cowrie is often used to describe the shell of these snails. The shells are normally egg-shaped, with a flat underside. The term ‘porcelain’ is said to derive from an old Italian term for the cowrie shell (porcellana), on account of its translucent appearance.

The shell of the species Cypraea moneta ('money cowrie'), which is found in the Indian Ocean, was used as currency in parts of Africa and Southern Asia. Cowrie shells were and still are used in many places as jewellery and as applied decoration on clothing, headdresses and so forth.

SourceShorter Oxford English Dictionary: 'Cowry'

TRC online catalogue (retrieved 18 April 2017).

GVE

Last modified on Tuesday, 18 April 2017 16:48