Necklace of snake vertebrae, Europe, 1871-1916

Made:
1871-1916 in Europe
maker:
Unknown

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Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Necklace of snake vertebrae, amuletic, thought to protect against lumbago, Lovett collection, from North London, 1871-1916

The growing influence of biomedicine in the 1800s did not necessarily replace established forms of treatment based on belief and superstition. What could be referred to as folk medicine – customs that often went back generations – continued to be practised. For example, here the bones of a snake have been threaded on to string to make a rather uncomfortable looking necklace. It is thought that this amulet was used to protect against lower back pain – perhaps the fluid slither of a snake was thought to encourage the back muscles to stay supple.

The snake necklace was originally made in North London and then purchased in 1930 from Edward Lovett’s (1852-1933) collection of British amulets and charms. Lovett was interested in folk remedies all his life and began collecting from the age of eight.

Details

Category:
Ethnography and Folk Medicine
Object Number:
A665420
Materials:
string and vertebrae, snake
type:
necklace
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • costume
  • jewellery