SUSS-05BC17: Late Medieval - Post Medieval prosthetic nose

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MEDICAL IMPLEMENT

Unique ID: SUSS-05BC17

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Finely moulded copper-alloy nose with two pointed-oval nostril slits at the base and a flattened rim around the top and sides. There are broken circular attachment holes at the top and at the centre of each side and a groove, which appears to be caused by wear, across the top. In plan it appears slightly curved, with the sides projecting back slightly more than the middle. The reverse is hollow and well finished. It is 45.3mm long, 36.9mm wide and 23.7mm deep, and weighs 37.94g.

Photographs of the nose have been examined by curators at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, who do not feel it belongs to armour; armour is mostly made of iron, for strength reasons. They suggested it may have come from a statue. Other experts who have examined it have disputed this interpretation, as the nostril slits and attachment holes are not usual on sculpture, although the fine moulding would be suitable for this source.

It has been suggested that the object is a prosthetic nose, worn to replace one that had been lost due to accident or illness; syphilis can lead to loss of the nose and was common in the post-medieval period. Similar prosthetic noses, of copper as well as beaten silver and gold, are known from documentary sources, most famously worn by Tycho Brahe, the Danish astronomer (1546-1601) who lost his nose in a duel. Although Tycho Brahe was said to wear a silver nose, when his grave was excavated in 1901 copper staining was found on the skull and it was suggested he had an 'everyday' nose of copper as well as the silver example.

There are prosthetic noses in the Hunterian Museum (RCSIC/R 6 - silver and painted, with attached glasses for fixing it to the face) and the Science Museum (one in ivory and one in silver). The Beddingham nose is not identical to any of these examples, but curators from both museums have examined photos and feel that it is likely to also be a prosthetic. A very similar example was published in Ambrose Pare's Oeuvres, a 16th century collection of writings on medicine and surgery (kindly pointed out by Sarah Pearson, Curator at The Hunterian Museum). It seems likely that the Beddingham nose dates from the post-medieval period, perhaps 16th or 17th century.

Notes:

I am grateful to the curators at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons and at the Science Museum, London for their help in identifying this find.

Part of a large collection found over a period of about 30 years.

Find of note status

This has been noted as an interesting find by the recorder.

Chronology

Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Subperiod from: Early
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL
Period to: POST MEDIEVAL
Date from: Circa AD 1500
Date to: AD 1700

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 45.3 mm
Width: 36.9 mm
Thickness: 23.7 mm
Weight: 37.94 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Monday 9th November 2009

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Ms Laura Burnett

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Completeness: Incomplete

Spatial metadata

Region: South East (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: East Sussex (County)
District: Lewes (District)
To be known as: Beddingham

Spatial coordinates


Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Grassland, Heathland

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: SUSS
Created: 8 years ago
Updated: 6 years ago

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