Carved Seahorse

A friend of mine made a wonderful discovery last winter. She found several pieces of wood and animal horn scattered in the snow. Whatever the original had been, it had obviously been run over by a car and abandoned in the street. She showed it to me before our choir rehearsal, and several of the other singers gathered around.

The horn pieces were hollow, with intricate patterns incised on the curved surface. The wood pieces had also been carved. The pieces fit together roughly, but it was clear from gaps in the structure that there had originally been much more to the piece. We were impressed by the carving, and encouraged her to sift through the snow to find the missing bits. She did, and her husband fit the pieces together:

carved seahorse

Carved seahorse reconstructed from pieces found in the snow

(Sorry for the dish towel; the dark horn didn’t show up well against the table.)

I’m posting it here in the hope that someone can help us identify it. Here’s what little we know:

  • There is a small adhesive tag on the horn that said “Made in Indonesia.”
  • The wooden head fits into the wide end of the horn, and seems to have been attached with two pegs (now missing)
  • The cord on the tail is cotton.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any artist’s name on it, unless it is worked into the carving on the horn.

My friend would like to know whether this is a representation of a mythological creature, and whether it is from a particular region or culture in Indonesia. I couldn’t find anything like it in books on Indonesian art in our local library. Any information would be helpful.

Here are some more detailed photographs. (Click on each photo to see a larger version.)

Seahorse head, side 1

Seahorse head, side 1




The mane of the seahorse is a row of four kneeling men.






Head, side two

Seahorse head, side 2

For an idea of the size of the carving, that is my hand at the bottom of the picture.





Kneeling men

Kneeling men (close-up)


Here is a close-up of the kneeling men.





incised horn

Incised horn


Close-up of the carving on the horn.



The tail carving (shown below) may be a female.



Tail carving and cord

Tail carving and cord


If you can provide any information about this wonderful art work, please leave a comment.


About Kat

Cat lover, singer, early music addict, reads a lot. Former R&D chemist with an obsessive need for variety. Now active as a freelance technical writer and editor, web designer, photographer, computer coach, and trainer. Owner, MasterWork Consulting (
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2 Responses to Carved Seahorse

  1. Jo Adams says:

    I think this work was meant to hold a curved dagger. It may have been a tourist piece
    meant for the Yemeni tourists. The sad thing about many of those were carved out of
    rhino horn. I will pass the request for information along to a friend from Central Asia
    who may be able to add more about the piece.
    Jo Adams, Retired Librarian

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