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Breast ornament (gorget) taumi

Breast ornament (gorget) taumi

Place: Tahiti & Society Islands
Category: Jewellery & adornment

cane, coconut fibre, Tahiti and the Society Islands, w. 51 cm (max.), h. 43 cm, Inv. Oz 426

Forster Register C.I: ‘3 large collars and a smaller one from Otaheiti (cf. Hanover 1850 (?), No. 1)

The horseshoe-shaped, collar-like gorget is incomplete. It consists of a latticework made of some thirty cane slips running lengthwise and eleven running crosswise, held together by twisted plant fibre strings and serving as the base for a weave of light-brown and reddish-brown coconut fibre, niu, or ha’ari (Cocos nucifera) sewn on to it. The plaited strap made of coconut fibre to fasten the ornament around the neck is attached to two longer cane slips running crosswise from the inside to the upper edge. The ornamental elements of the complete object Oz 431 are missing in this gorget.

Because of its firm and rigid basic material, it may be that the taumi served not only as war ornaments but also as breastplates for warding off spear attacks (cf. Forster 1783: 393f.). A taumi acquired by J.R. Forster is, according to his son, the same piece that he bought from a local ‘commander’ in Huahine in September 1773 (Forster 1989,1: 310).

Because of its width, this is unlikely to be the smaller gorget mentioned above, but instead one of the three larger ones. As previously noted, only the two objects Oz 426 and Hanover 1850 (?), No.1, remain of the gorgets mentioned above. The twenty ‘breast gorgets’ documented by Kaeppler (1978a: 128f.), found in collections in St. Petersburg, Dublin, Vienna, Stockholm (Sparrman Collection), Oxford, Berne, Wellington (New Zealand), London (British Museum), Cape Town, Cambridge, Sydney, Wörlitz, and Göttingen, include the two missing pieces from the Göttingen Forster Collection. However, the reference to a Tahitian ‘circular collar’ in the Herrnhut Collection (cf. Augustin 1993: 108ff.) is missing in Kaeppler’s list, so that a total of nineteen pieces of this type of breast ornament, taumi, can in fact be proven to be in the collections listed. As well as Augustin, Moschner (1955: 209f.), Kaeppler (1978b: 16, 47f.) and Söderström (1939: 33) have also described such taumi in detail. Gundolf Krüger


Augustin, Stephan, Kunstsachen von Cooks Reisen - Die Sammlung und ihre Geschichte im Völkerkundemuseum Herrnhut, Museum für Völkerkunde, Dresden,1993.

Forster, Georg, Bemerkungen über Gegenstände der physischen Erdbeschreibung, Naturgeschichte und sittlichen Philosophie auf seiner Reise um die Welt gesammlet. Uebersetzt und mit Anmerkungen vermehrt von dessen Sohn und Reisegefahrten Georg Forster, Berlin, 1783.

Forster, Georg, Reise um die Welt, 2 Teile, in Georg Steiner (ed.), Georg Forsters Werke (2 und 32 und 3), Sämtliche Schriften, Tagebücher, Briefe, herausgegeben von der Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR, Akademie-Verlag, Berlin, [1777] 1989.

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.

Kaeppler, Adrienne L, Cook Voyage Artifacts in Leningrad, Berne and Florence Museums, Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, 1978b.

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

Söderström, Jan, A. Sparrman’s Ethnographical Collection from James Cook’s 2nd Expedition (1772-75), New Series, Publication no. 6, The Ethnographical Museum of Sweden, Stockholm, 1939.

Related artefacts

Breast ornament (gorget) taumi, Inv. Oz 431


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