Africa, Madagascar, ca. 16th century CE or earlier. A large piece of shell from an egg of an amazing elephant bird (Aepyornis maximus). Although just a fragment, this shell perfectly demonstrates the enormous scale of the egg, which is 200 times larger than a typical chicken egg! The shell is mounted within a display case with artifical moss to create a natural nest context. The box also contains a printed sheet with a label as well as a skeletal model of the massive elephant bird. The case has a metal hook for mounting, and is ready to be displayed. Elephant birds went extinct sometime before the 17th century, either through over-hunting or disease. A wonderful framed diorama of natural history! Size (display case): 11" L x 4.5" W x 11.125" H (27.9 cm x 11.4 cm x 28.3 cm); (shell): 5" L x 3.5" W (12.7 cm x 8.9 cm)
Elephant birds are the largest bird to have ever lived; they grew to 10 feet tall and weight around 1,000 pounds. They were ratites (flightless birds), related to cassowaries, ostriches, and emus. Their name originated from a description written by Marco Polo, who had never seen the birds but had certainly heard of them. He wrote, "The people of the island [Madagascar] report that at a certain season of the year, an extraordinary kind of bird, which they call a rukh, makes its appearance from the southern region. In form is said to resemble the eagle, but it is incomparably greater in size; being so large and strong as to seize an elephant with its talons, and to lift it into the air, in order to drop it on the ground and in this way kill it." Of course, elephant birds did no such thing - they were flightless and herbivores - but their size was clearly legendary!
Provenance: ex-private Illinois, USA collection
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Piece is a fragment of a larger shell. Some scratches and stains to surface. Securely mounted inside a display case with artifical moss and skeletal model of an elephant bird.