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Memento mori, Europe, 1689

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Jewellery like this brooch containing human hair is associated with mourning. The hair is almost certainly from a departed loved one. Objects such as these were called memento mori, or ‘reminder of death’. The skeleton holding an hourglass reminded the wearer of the shortness of their life. The brooch has two loops on the back to attach it to a belt or to put in the hair. It is engraved with the initials of the person who died, ‘W H’, and the date 1689.

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Glossary: human hair

used to define human remains as part of the NMSI/SMG human remains policy (from April 2007); Other terms used are 'blood' and 'human remains'

Glossary: hair slide

Decorative bar-shaped clasp to hold the hair in place, particularly for long hair to keep it away from the face. .

Glossary: memento mori

Symbols intended to remind the viewer of death. Memento mori are often objects such as skulls or hourglasses, but can also be written inscriptions.