Venus Flower Basket

Known as the Venus Flower Basket, this artefact is actually the skeleton of a deep ocean sponge. It is made of silica, or glass, by the soft-bodied creature living inside.

  • Venus Flower Basket
In traditional Asian cultures it was given as a wedding gift (in its dead, dry state) because the sponge symbiotically houses two small shrimps, a male and a female, who live out their lives inside the sponge. In Japan they symbolise the idea of “till death us do part”.

When the shrimp’s offspring are tiny they escape to find a Venus Flower Basket of their own. Once moved in, the shrimp cleans the basket and, in return, the basket provides food for the shrimp by trapping it in its tissues and then releasing wastes into its body.

This unusual yet intriguingly beautiful cross-hatched specimen was extremely popular in Victorian England, and could easily fetch five guineas, the equivalent to over £500 today.

Did you know? During In a TV series hypothesising a Noah’s ark situation, David Attenborough chose the Venus Flower Basket as one of the amazing creatures he would save!


Period20th Century AD MaterialSilica

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Artefacts in exhibition case The Beaney Museum

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