On 4 February 1870 Pitt-Rivers (or as he was then, Lane Fox) exhibited a firearm at the meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute. This is what was recorded in the proceedings:

'Col. A. Lane Fox exhibited a matchlock of the seventeenth century and of peculiar construction, lately found at Inverness, and illustrated it by others from his collection. He remarked,- "My object in exhibiting this matchlock is to ascertain the opinion of the archaeologists present, whether it is of European or Oriental manufacture. It was kindly added to my collection by the Rev. James Joass of Golspie. My first impression upon seeing it was that it must be oriental, from its resemblance to some of the Chinese and Japanese matchlocks in my possession. It differs, however, from any oriental arms that I have seen in the details of its construction; the serpentine, instead of passing through the stock and out of the top behind the barrel, makes a twist in the stock and comes out on the right side immediately behind the pan, and an oblong hole is cut in the stock to allow the movement of the serpentine when pressed towards the pan; the spring is on the outside, and presses upwards on the bent part of the serpentine, where it issues from the oblong hole in the stock; the wire staples which fasten the spring to the stock are, no doubt, recent additions; the barrel is  5 ft 2 in. in length, octagonal on the outside; the bore is 1/2 in in diameter; the wooden shaft appears to have extended up the whole length of the barrel, but only half of it remains; the pan had formerly a brass cover, turning upon a pivot; the breech is secured by means of a brass band, about an inch in width; the butt curves downwards, in the form of a Scotch pistol. In this respect it resembles some of the Japanese arms; but the same form also occurs in the European Demi-haque of the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth. The form of the serpentine resembles the oriental ones, in being constructed of one piece, the match-holder moving forward to ignite the charge, whereas in the European matchlocks the match-holder, being provided with a trigger, was made to move backwards, in which position the operation was brought more under the eye of the firer, and he was enabled to blow his match immediately before firing. This, however, appears to have been an improved form of matchlock, those used up to the middle of the sixteenth century being constructed of one piece in the same manner as the oriental ones. [Note: Observations on the History of Hand Firearms etc by Samuel Rush Meyrick Esq., LL.D. F.S.A. Archaeologia, vol xxii.] The position in which the matchlock was found would lead to the inference that it may be of native manufacture. It was found in a sunk cellar, a few feet under the surface of the earthen floor in No 15, High Street, Inverness.

"This weapon appears to be of interest as affecting the question, which I think can hardly be considered definitely settled, whether the matchlock, in its simplest and earliest form, was a European invention, or was derived from intercourse with the East. That some of the more advanced forms of oriental matchlocks are copied from European matchlocks is evident; but, on the other hand, the earliest form of matchlock must probably have been used in China before it was known in Europe, and may have been communicated like other improvements of the same period, through Arab commerce with the East."

Col. Fox then described a series of eight oriental matchlocks, showing the successive improvements from the most improved patterns. Some of these are evidently copied from the Spanish flintlock. The latest improvement exhibited consisted of a Japanese gun, in which the percussion principle was adapted to a weapon of the matchlock form.

Mr. BERNHARD SMITH remarked that he was in possession of a large heavy matchlock, with a boss under the stock, and of about A.D. 1630, which was certainly of European make. It had the serpentine coming towards the shooter. He thought the example found at Inverness was also European, an opinion in which Mr Hewitt concurred.' [... the meeting moved onto other business]

This object is presumably 1884.27.6, described as:

Accession Book IV entry - 1884.27.1 - 92 - Firearms Match-lock, short stock curved to a right angle, with barrel which is very long and taper [sic], octagonal primitive serpentine and trigger in one piece without spring ?Chinese ?Oriental [X7]

Additional Accession Book IV entry - Found in foundations of a house in construction Edinburgh [sic]

Black book entry - Specimens illustrating developments in the form of hand firearms. 1128 Matchlock of peculiar form found in digging the foundations of a house in Edinburgh [sic] Probably Oriental

Delivery Catalogue I entry - Specimens illustrating the development of hand fire arms European and Oriental Tricker matchlock X7 Screen 190 191

Card Catalogue Entry - As accession book

It is not clear why the name of the donor appears to have been lost, and also why the item was said to have been found in Edinburgh rather than Inverness.

This object is not on display at the Pitt Rivers Museum.

See Fox, A.H. Lane. 1870. [e]. 'Remarks on a XVII century Matchlock from Inverness’, Archaeological Journal, 27 (1870) pp. 134-135.

In addition to this item Pitt-Rivers exhibited flints from Cissbury - details in volume XXV, p. 154

AP October 2011 [I am most grateful to Alice Stevenson for identifying the items displayed by Pitt-Rivers at the Archaeological Institute]

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