In the 1970s excavations at St. John’s, numerous mysterious objects were recovered. One was this copper alloy object. It was nearly 30 years later when its function was determined.
Copper alloy artifact from St. John’s.
This object represents part of the frame for a purse. It may have been used by either a man or women. Purses were an essential element of attire when one was wearing clothing that lacked pockets. The purse from St. John’s would have had either a cloth or leather pouch attached using the small piercing holes obvious in the picture. We generally only recover the stable parts of a complex, composite artifact such as a purse. The organic parts will decay in the soil. In archaeology, we only find that which does not rot.
The detail from a 16th-century drawing by Pieter Breughel the Elder depicts a peasant woman with a purse using a similar type of frame.
Modern purse with metal frame.
Very similar purse frames are still available for individuals who want to craft their own purses.