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Lot 49117 View Catalog


Monodon monoceras
The Narwhal is one of the most unusual looking creatures to grace our planet. A native of the Arctic Ocean, its Latin name means "one tooth one horn" for the remarkable dentary growth of its left upper jaw - a long, helical tusk that inspired its nickname "Unicorn of the Seas". It was once thought that this distinctive feature was a tool for breaking through the thick ice covering its native waters, or that possibly it was for use in ritual conflict - typically the elongated tooth is found only in the male of the species, although some few examples of a female tusk have been recorded. Recent research suggests, however, that unlike the protruding horn-like teeth and tusks found in other mammals, that of the narwhal may in fact be a sensory organ; electron microphotography reveals millions of tiny tubules leading from the surface of the horn and apparently connecting to the nervous system. Such tubules are found in many species, but do not typically extend to the outer surface of healthy teeth. The narwhal's "horn" has long been the subject of wonder and highly prized: in 16th century England Queen Elizabeth I paid an astounding 10,000 British pounds for one carved and bejeweled example, for which money at the time she could equally have bought herself another castle. Elsewhere, two crossed narwhal teeth adorn the entrance to the Korninkaku Palace in Japan, and multiple examples comprise the frame of the Danish throne. This is a well preserved example, at 65 inches long, of which 13 inches is the well-formed, rugose root section, usually absent. In addition, it is unusually worn with an almost smooth surface, but still exhibiting the left-handed spiral groove and a well-defined helical twist throughout its length, presented upright on an octagonal wooden base. Comes complete with documentation allowing it to be sold within the United States. However, it is important to note that this lot cannot be exported outside of the United States and therefore we cannot accept bids from buyers outside of the U.S.

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Estimate $6,500 – $7,500
Starting Bid $5,000

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1:00 PM - Jun 12, 2011
Heritage Auctions


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