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Place: New Hebrides (Vanuatu)
Category: War

wood, Vanuatu, l. 134 cm, Inv. Oz 1258

Forster Register A. (7) 8: ‘7) a long bow, made of black wood, from New Zealand 8) 8 shorter [bows] made of brown wood’

The bow has a semicircular (plano-convex) cross-section. A strong cord made of three twisted strings is attached to it as a bowstring. It is probably made of hibiscus fibre. The colour of the bow is a dark reddish-brown (mahogany-coloured). At one end, it has a long, thin point about 6 cm long above a shoulder-shaped ledge where the string is fastened. Originally, both ends had such points; in 1967, however, one of these was shortened by about 4.5 cm, and given away for the wood type to be determined.

The bow poses certain riddles. Next to the ‘F.’ label is an additional glued-on label about 10 cm long. This evidently originated from a very early analysis of the Forster Collection and bears the inscription: ‘Forster no. ..(illegible) .. A bow made of brown (black?)... (scraped off) ... New Zealand’. With the help of this inscription, the object might be identified with number ‘7) a long bow made of black wood from New Zealand’.

The first problem with this identification is the colour, which is admittedly a dark reddish-brown, but definitely not ‘black’. Moreover, the bow itself with an original length of 138.5 cm is not ‘long’, at least not compared to other bows from the Forster Collection, designated in its Register as ‘8 shorter [bows] made of brown wood’.

The bow shows similarities (although not congruent in all points) with that shown on the plate in G. Forster’s travelogue (1983: 684a), and expressly listed as being from the ‘New Hebridean Islands’.

Because the bow can be identified as part of the Forster Collection by its ‘F.’ label, it seems most reasonable to consider it as one of the ‘8 shorter ones [bows] made of brown wood’ in the relevant Register, with the provenance New Hebrides. Volker Harms


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

Related artefacts

Bow, Inv. Oz 1217
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