This is a whale’s ear bone, also known as a tympanum. It has been hand-painted to look like somebody’s face, a common practice as the shape of the bone lent itself to the profile of a human head. It was most likely painted by somebody involved in the 20th century whaling trade.
Whaling became more efficient in the 1900s. After it had been killed, most of a dead whale’s body was used to make money in contrast to earlier, more wasteful methods. Modern methods meant that difficult to reach bones like this became more available for painting.
During the 1970s the world began to realise that many species of whale were becoming endangered with extinction. Since then, legislation to protect whales and marine mammals has saved many from harm. However, some countries argue that whale populations have recovered and want the ban on whaling to be lifted.
This whale’s ear bone can be seen on display at Hull Maritime Museum.
Whale Ear Bone can be viewed at Hull Maritime Museum