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Shells: A Natural and Cultural History (Hardcover)
Echoing with the sounds of the sea, an exquisite survey of the science and customs of conchs, clams, coquinas, cowries, and much more.
Shells have captivated humans from the dawn of time: the earliest known artwork was made on a shell. As well as containers for food, shells have been used as tools, jewelry, decorations for dwellings, and to bring good luck or to ward off spirits. Many Indigenous peoples have used shells as currency, and in a few places, they still do. This beautifully illustrated book investigates the fascinating scientific and cultural history of shells. It examines everything from pearls—the only gems of animal origin—to how shells’ diverse colors and shapes are formed. And it reveals how shells have inspired artists throughout history, how shells have been used in architecture, and even how shells can be indicators of changing environmental conditions. Also including two essays by shell expert M. G. Harasewych, emeritus curator of gastropods in the Smithsonian’s Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Shells is an authoritative exploration of the deep human connection to these molluscan exoskeletons of sea, lake, land, and stream.
About the Author
Fabio Moretzsohn (1964–2020) was visiting assistant professor in the Department of Life Sciences, Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. He is coauthor of Encyclopedia of Texas Seashells and, with M. G. Harasewych, The Book of Shells.
M. G. Harasewych is research zoologist and curator of marine mollusks at the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., which houses one of the world’s largest mollusk collections. He has discovered and described dozens of new genera and species, written widely for scientific journals and periodicals, and is the author of Shells: Jewels from the Sea.
"Spanning both the history of science and visual culture, this book takes a broad approach to understanding humanity’s fascination with shells: from their use in architecture and jewellery, and their ritual or practical uses as tools and tokens, to the ways they have inspired artists across time."
"The author has used his own vast experience with shells, plus research on their history and uses, to look at the subject from all angles, resulting in a complete, interesting and attractive book. It is easily read and nicely presented on high-quality paper, and it contains lots of good illustrations throughout. . . . It will make an excellent addition to the gemmologist’s bookshelf."
— Journal of Gemmology
"Moretzsohn has crafted a laudable volume on shells and the animals that make them, the mollusks. There is a wealth of data on intriguing aspects of the biology and ecology of mollusks, and detailed yet little-known information on cultural practices involving shells. This book is a must-have in the library of any shell enthusiast!"
— José H. Leal, PhD, science director and curator, Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
"A well-researched and beautifully illustrated introduction to mollusks and their shells. The book takes the reader through the diverse interactions that we humans have with this amazing group of animals. With its broad span of biological, cultural, medicinal, and environmental topics, it is timely and of great general interest."
— Rüdiger Bieler, curator of invertebrates, Field Museum of Natural History