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A rare, well formed and beautifully engraved late 17th century Highland Scottish powder horn dated 1692. The patterns present on horns of this type are similar to other Celtic / Gaelic motifs which appear on contemporary targes, dirk handles and plaid brooches which are associated with “Highland” craft manufacture and art.
The horn is fashioned from the pointed end of a cow horn which has been heat-flattened and pressed into shape. The outer side is profusely decorated with panels of typical Celtic / Gaelic interlace, scrollwork and fans within lined borders. The reverse side is decorated with two bands of cusped, arched and interlace ornamentation with the spaces between left vacant.
The wooden base plug is secured with small nails tapped through the horn base. The base plug is fixed – powder was poured into and out of the horn nozzle. Adjacent to the nozzle on the top concave side of the horn a raised ribbed shoulder has been formed through which a suspension loop has been bored. One frontal panel near the nozzle is applied with the date 1692 with the initials “R D”, probably the owner, in the panel above.
For further examples of Highland powder horns see “The Swords and the Sorrows”, National Trust for Scotland, 1996, pages 73 to 75, and the accompanying article by Jackie Mann. Horns like this were made by horners settled in the Highlands and around the fringes, near markets, and on established drove roads, in a period when firearms were gaining great popularity in the Highlands.
The surviving dated horns indicate that the peak period of the best quality manufacture was from the 1670s to the 1690s. This horn corresponds to “Type A”, in Whitelaw’s classification system, which are “Horns with their surface divided up by cross bands of interlace and fan ornament, with one or two square or oblong panels”.
Overall the horn is in very good condition compared to its surviving contemporaries. The overall length, measured from extremity to extremity is 11.5 inches (29 cm). The base is just under 3.5 inches across (just over 8.5 cm).
Provenance: The horn is illustrated in “The Scottish Pistol, Its History, Manufacture and Design” by Martin Kelvin, Gygnus Arts, 1996, page 47.