This Ancient Mesopotamian "Fidget Spinner" Isn't Quite What It Seems

University of Chicago exhibit/calvinquisition/Reddit/@pardesoteric

James Felton 02 Aug 2017, 16:44

An image taken at a museum has gone viral over the past week. You've probably seen it quite a few times already. It shows a "spinning toy with animal heads" from thousands of years ago.

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The reason it's gone viral is because quite a lot of people think it looks like an ancient example of a fidget spinner. As a result, they joked that there are no original ideas any more and that the ancient toys were making a comeback. 

It even spawned a hashtag: yeoldefidgetspinner. 

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It's easy to see why people took it at face value. It does look like a fidget spinner, and the museum labeled it as a "spinning toy".

However, all is not as it seems. While the photo is real and the label isn't photoshopped, it's actually just a case of mislabelling.

The Verge contacted the museum to ask about the "toy" and were told by the Oriental Institute Museum chief curator Jean Evans that the object is actually probably the head of a mace. 

Evans told The Verge that though it looks a lot like a children's toy, it makes more sense if the object is a mace head. She said that when the object was first found in 1932, the team may have thought the object was a spinning astronomical device. 

However, she believes that since it was discovered near a temple, and maces were thought to be a "weapon of the gods" in ancient Mesopotamia, it's much more likely that it is a mace head.

The museum is updating all its labels, and this object will likely be moved to the mace head section when that takes place.

This isn't to say there are not familar-looking toys from that era. This toy, also on display at the Oriental Institute Museum, was discovered in Khafajah, near Baghdad. It dates from 2900-2330 BCE and is a Mesopotamian example of a pull toy, much like the pull toys still used by young children today.

The pull toy is made of clay and is extremely well preserved. It is on display at the University of Chicago. Daderot / Wikimedia Commons

 

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