This ivory horn embellished with decorative silver overlay is likely an amulet vessel or case, as it does not have holes for use. It does, however, appear to have a cavity for storing amulets or snuff, and is similar to examples seen in the recent exhibition and publication Visions from the Forests. Many of them have similar chains, a decorative band around the center, as well as the ends, and the twisted decorative bands. Two unique aspects of this amulet case are the incised horn design, and the spherical chain connector.
The ringed horn or case is similar to those seen cresting Mende Sande society masks, and could be recalling this, symbolizing "good medicine," or it may echo as a sign of office, chieftaincy or elder status. If this is indeed a snuff horn or an amulet case, it would have been a prestige object for use by male notables, or if owned by a woman, to be worn as part of the Sande society.
A very similar horn is pictured being worn by women in T. J. Alldridge's "A Transformed Colony, Sierra Leone" with the caption "After Leaving the Bundu," thus tying it to the Sande women's society. The same publication notes "young maidens...all attired in their best...displaying an immense profusion of long country-worked silver chains, silver combs, and numerous silver-mounted ram's horns and large fetish silver plaques slung by more heavy silver chains around their necks." (227-228) This amulet case could emphasize a newly adult woman's pride in her identity, beauty and fertility after emerging from the forest to take her place in society.
Alldridge, T. J. 1910. A Transformed Colony, Sierra Leone, As It Was, And As It Is, Its Progress, Peoples, Native Customs and Undeveloped Wealth, With Sixty-Six Illustrations & A Map. Philadelphia: Lippincott.
Ivory horn-shaped vessel with silver bands, crescent finial and a handmade suspension chain.