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Within its intricate little silver case is a small piece of yew carved into a representation of Jesus Christ on the cross. Crucifixes are the traditional symbol of Christianity, but they are also worn and carried in the belief that they can provide protection. Yew trees can live for hundreds of years and are familiar features of Christian cemeteries. They are also symbols of immortality and are linked to the death and rebirth of Christ. The object was purchased for Henry Wellcome’s collection in 1930 by a Miss Kemp, probably in Pec, Serbia, in the now disputed Balkan region of Kosovo.

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Glossary: amulet

Small object or piece of jewellery worn as a protecting charm to ward off ill health and bad luck.