Conus ebraeus

The Hebrew Cone

Conus ebraeus is found across both the Indian and Pacific oceans, from the east coast of Africa to Hawaii. This worm-hunting, or vermivorous cone snail can be very common in some localities. The Hebrew cone has a striking pattern and was used for jewelry in ancient times. Strong evidence for this cone snail is provided by an archeological dig in what is believed to be the first human settlement, in the city of Uruk, founded by Gilgamesh. This cone shell was apparently strung as a bead by making a hole at the top of the spire and then worn as jewelry; a reconstruction of the Uruk necklace is shown below.

In addition to Conus ebraeus, another small species called Conus parvatus is also found in the necklace. Conus parvatus is found off the coast of Iraq, which is down river from the city of Uruk, but the closest locality for Conus ebraeus is either at the tip of the Arabian peninsula or in the Indian Ocean, many hundreds of kilometers away.  Clearly then, there was a trade that brought the shells of Conus ebraeus to the Mesopotamian river valleys from the earliest times.            

uruk-necklace

Classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumMollusca
ClassGastropoda
OrderSorbeoconcha
FamilyConidae
GenusConus
SpeciesConus ebraeus
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Exploring Cone Snails and Science