National Geographic : 1969 Mar
Talents of two artists-man and nature produce a delicate cameo carved in a hel met shell preserved by the Smithsonian. More than a century ago, an unknown Euro pean craftsman worked the design on this five-inch Cypraecassisrufa from the Indian Ocean, cutting through layered hues of the thick orange-red shell to create the portrait. Man's interest in unusual shells, together with his many uses for them, dates to antiq uity. Pompeii's ruins yield cowries and cones from the Indian Ocean. Aztec and Maya In dians of early America decorated their bodies and their temples with shells that symbolized water. Many 16th- and 17th-century Euro pean navigators brought home chests full of colorful Pacific species.