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Fishhook matau

Fishhook matau

Place: Tahiti & Society Islands
Category: Fishing & hunting

mother-of-pearl, cord, purau wood, Tahiti and the Society Islands, l. 4.1– 10 cm, Inv. Oz 378

Humphrey No. 258: ‘a large fish-hook made of a singular shape, made of a large dark purple pinna marina Shell, from the Society Isles.’ (= Oz 377)

Humphrey No. 259: ‘Another [fishhook ... made of a large dark purple pinna marina shell] less.’ (= Oz 378)

Humphrey Nos. 260 to 263: ‘Four small Fish-hooks made of the purple pinna Shell, differently shaped, from ditto [Society Isles].’ (= Oz 379, 384-386)

The six matau in this group are on average longer than other examples in the collection, and are all made from a different shell material, namely the red fan shell (Pinna). The iridescent colour of this shell ranges from (rare) whitish glossy to (more frequent) matt reddish-dark brown. In some of the examples, the curves from the shank to the hook are U-shaped, and in others they are circular. The shanks in particular have cross-sections of varying widths. All the examples have a support at the upper edge of the shank, where the line, a cord of twisted plant fibres, was attached.

The use of these matau was the same as for those described above. Fish-hooks of this type of material were specifically illustrated and described in Parkinson (1773: 75 and 77, PI. 13, Nos. 20, 21, 24).


Parkinson, Sydney, A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas in his Majesty’s Ship, the Endeavour, London, 1773.

Related artefacts

Fishhook matau, Inv. Oz 377
Fishhook matau, Inv. Oz 379
Fishhook matau, Inv. Oz 384
Fishhook matau, Inv. Oz 385
Fishhook matau, Inv. Oz 386