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Onycha, or Blatta Byzantina, is the fingernail-like operculum, or closing flap, of certain snails, including Onyx marinus, Strombus lentiginosus, and Unguis odoratus. It is the upper part of a shell called by the Latins Conchylium.These shells may be of different sizes, but their overall shape is that of a claw, which is the origin of the name Unguis odoratus. The name Blatta Byzantina is occasioned by its being usually brought from Constantinople, the ancient Byzantium.In antiquity, onycha was used as a spice or fragrance. Rubbed with an alkali solution prepared from the bitter vetch to remove impurities, it was then soaked in the fermented berry juice of the Caper shrub, or a strong white wine, in order to enhance its fragrance. Onycha, along with equal parts of stacte, galbanum, and frankincense was a pungent component of the holy incense used in the temple in Exodus.Exodus 30:34-36. Such formulas for holy incense and oil were not to be duplicated for nonsacred use.Exodus 30:33, 37-38.Also see: Operculum
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