We got a correct answer this week in the form of a comment on the blog! As commenter John guessed, this artifact is an old currycomb.
What’s a currycomb? A weird utensil for eating curry? No. I don't think so...
Currycombs are actually tools used to groom horses. Our artifact is made entirely of wood, but modern ones are usually made of rubber and look something like this:
What are they used for? Well, the comb is rubbed (or curried) on a horse’s skin to loosen bits of dirt, dead skin, and hair. After that is done, the horse can be brushed with a bristled brush to get rid of the loosened debris.
There are also metal versions of currycombs that look a little closer to the mystery artifact in terms of shape, like this one:
|Those teeth! Eep.|
These are a little different from the rubber type of currycomb. They are used to get rid of tougher bits of caked on mud or manure, since the metal teeth can hurt the horse’s skin if they touch it directly. However, both of these are only meant to be used on the horse’s body, as the face and bony legs are more sensitive and likely to be irritated by the currycomb. If you’re curious, here’s a Wiki-How article about how to use a currycomb.
This use of the word "curry" has pretty much nothing to do with the Indian food, as that word comes from Tamil -- a language spoken in parts of India. This form of curry in the word currycomb has its roots in an Old French word meaning “to put in order." It does seem to be the reason we use the saying “to curry favor.” If you’re interested, here’s an explanation of that idiom’s etymology. I found it rather interesting.
That's all for this week, but stay tuned for more mystery artifacts. And please come visit us to see the artifact up close!