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Place: New Hebrides (Vanuatu)
Category: War

wood, Vanuatu, l. 143.3 cm, Inv. Oz 1155

Humphrey No. 304: ‘a bow made of hard wood, somewhat like Mahogany from Malecolla.’

The bow has been very carefully made. It has a semicircular cross-section with a thickness of 1.6 cm in the middle, i.e. it is flat on the inside, and shaped like a broad segment (plano-convex) on the outside. The symmetrical tapering towards both sides ends in clearly contrasting mortice and tenon joints. These no doubt served to attach the bowstring. The colour of the bow is a very dark brown with only a slight reddish sheen.

The varnish-like patina is due to repeated rubbing with coconut oil for keeping the bow flexible when it was originally in use, as in Sparrman’s (1944) and G. Forster’s (1983) general reports on such New Hebridean objects. At the bow’s centre of gravity, there is a mark running all around, presumably added later. This is in the form of a very narrow and shallow incision, clearly distinguishable from the rest of the bow’s colour as a light greyish-brown strip. Volker Harms


Forster, Georg, Reise um die Welt, [1778/1780], hrsg. v. Gerhard Steiner, Taschenbuchausgabe, Frankfurt a. M, 1983.

Sparrman, Anders, A Voyage Round the World with Captain James Cook in the H.M.S. Resolution, Huldine Beamish (trans.), London, 1944.

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