The dish is decorated with the figure of a mermaid and symbols from an ideographic script known as Nsibidi, associated with mask-using secret societies. The mermaid is depicted with an English-style crown and is surrounded by other water-spirit motifs. Materials analysis has revealed that the dish is made from a recycled sheet of alpha-beta brass manufactured in the 1860s or 1870s. Sometimes called ‘Muntz metal’, this type of brass has added zinc for extra strength, and was often used to sheath ships’ hulls. Thus, it is possible that this dish was fashioned from metal recovered from a shipwreck, which may have given it extra significance. It had been collected by 1919 and was donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum by the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum in 1942.
Accession number: 1942.13.1089