Our instruments without a trace

We chose three artifacts for display in the “Instruments Without a Trace” case, for which we have little or no information regarding their use.  Photos of these mysterious items and their exhibit labels are shown below.  Maybe you can help us identify them.  Please share your ideas with us!





Sometimes traces left on instruments can actually provide more confusion than clarity.  This piece of wood seems ordinary but it was wrapped and labeled ‘Keep | Of historical interest | FAB’.  It is unknown if this refers to the piece of wood itself or an object that the piece of wood was part of.  It might have come from Oxford’s Radcliffe Observatory because it is likely FAB refers to F. A. Bellamy who worked at the Radcliffe Observatory in the late 19th century.  If not for the label, this piece of wood would have not made it into the museum’s collection.  In this instance, the trace created an unknown historical object rather than helped with the identification process.


Islamic Gauge


This gauge dates from circa 1200.  The writing on the side of the gauge tells us the name of its maker followed by an inscription stating ‘There is no god but God [and] Muhammad is the Prophet of God.’  It is numbered along the side from 1-19 and so may have been used as a measuring device.  An object might have been placed between the two end-stops, which have the ability to rotate 270°.  However, neither the shape of the instrument nor the inscription give any hint as to what it was used to measure.


Unidentified Pivoted metal Plates


The name really says it all for this mysterious instrument.  The two bars can snap together or be separated.  Is something supposed to be pressed in between?  Why do the holes in one plate align with six dimples below?  The questions are numerous, the answers few.



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