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Treasure box

Treasure box

Place: Tahiti & Society Islands
Category: Jewellery & adornment

wood, probably uru (breadfruit), Tahiti and the Society Islands, l. 97 cm, w. 21 cm, h. 15 cm, Inv. Oz 349

Forster Register B.2: ‘a wooden box from Otaheiti’

The box of medium-brown wood has been made from a hollowed-out tree trunk and has a rectangular opening (c. 40 x 8.5 cm). Both ends of the cylindrically-shaped object are tightly sealed with a board c. 1 cm thick and made of the same wood, held in place by coconut fibre strings and cut to correspond to the shape of the container. The strings, arranged in five pairs connect the two end pieces to the container. Both lateral surfaces have a dense, chip-carved pattern of zigzag lines running more or less parallel. There are three knobs c. 8 mm high along each long side of the container opening, carved out of the wood with more or less visible chip carving.

Wooden boxes such as this served as ‘treasure boxes’ on the Society Islands (Kaeppler 1978a: 135). As a rule, they were made from the wood of the breadfruit tree, uru (Artocarpus Incisa). Mostly smaller ornaments were kept inside them, as well as the particularly valued red feathers (cf. Moschner 1955: 178f). Apart from the rare treasure box in Göttingen there are two further comparable pieces in collections in Oxford and Vienna. Gundolf Krüger

Sources

Kaeppler, Adrienne L, ‘Artificial Curiosities’ Being An Exposition of Native Manufactures Collected on the Three Pacific Voyages of Captain James Cook RN [Exhibition catalogue], Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, 1978a.

Moschner, Irmgard, ‘Die Wiener Cook-Sammlung, Südsee-Teil’, Archiv für Völkerkunde, Vienna and Stuttgart, 1955, vol. 10, pp. 136-253.