Cilician treasure 13th – 14th century; Drinking vessel made of Seashell


This drinking vessel made from a seashell is the most interesting item from the Berdniansk Hoard found in the Taurida (Crimea) province in 1892. The silver festoon-shaped handle, produced in Armenian Cilicia around the middle of the 13th century bears a relief depiction of a predator with the mane of a lion, but paws like a snow leopard. In the centre of the shell is a silver medallion containing a depiction of a ram and, around the edge, the Armenian inscription: “Shakhuk, servant of God”. The rim of the shell is fringed with silver that bears traces of gilding. Remnants of an Armenian inscription remain on one section of the mount. In mediaeval Europe the shells of the giant scallop (Pecten maximus) became associated with pilgrims who had visited the Holy Land. Those making the journey would sew such shells onto their clothing as a symbol of divine protection.

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