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Fishing net upea

Fishing net upea

Place: Tahiti & Society Islands
Category: Fishing & hunting

purau fibre, sticks, coconut fibre, coral, Tahiti and the Society Islands, l. 900 cm, w. 95 cm, Inv. Oz 402

Forster Register B.8: ‘2 fishing nets from Otaheiti’

One of two fishing nets made from whitish parau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) that feature numerous weights made of white coral tied with strands of plaited coconut fibre along the lower long sides, and floats of small parau sticks along the upper long sides. They are in an extremely fragile condition and therefore have neither been taken out of safekeeping in the storeroom nor described any further below.

Handy (1927, 1971: 110-15) reported in great detail on the technique of net making with the help of netting needles, au ta upea. In addition to smaller hand and bag nets used for fishing in the lagoons and in rivers, there were large casting nets and drop nets for fishing on the reef. The two Göttingen examples were no doubt large nets (cf. Handy 1932: 84-89 and Bunzendahl 1935: 180f.). In addition to those of Hibiscus, the fibres of the roa or romaha stem (Pipturus argenteus) in particular appear to have been used as a material for net making (cf. Parkinson 1773: 44 and Henry 1928: 52). Bunzendahl (1935: 180) referred to other materials as well. The inhabitants of entire districts participated in the making of the large nets, upea ara, which were owned exclusively by the chiefs. The inhabitants were rewarded for their efforts with a festive pork meal (Ellis 1830, II: 289f.).

Kaeppler (1978b: 119f.) gave more detailed information on a comparable piece in the Berne Collection. Gundolf Krüger


Bunzendahl, Otto, Tahiti und Europa: Entdeckungsgeschichte der Gesellschaftsinseln, Studien zur Völkerkunde, Leipzig, 1935, vol. 8.

Ellis, William, Polynesian Researches During a Residence of Nearly Eight Years in the Society and Sandwich Islands, London, 1830-1853, vol. 4.

Handy, ES Craighill, Polynesian Religion, Bernice P Bishop Museum Bulletin, vol. 34, Honolulu, 1927.

Handy, ES Craighill, Houses, Boats, and Fishing in the Society Islands, Bernice P Bishop Museum Bulletin, vol. 90, Honolulu, 1932.

Henry, Teuira, Ancient Tahiti, Bernice P Bishop Museum Bulletin, vol. 48, Honolulu, 1928.

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

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

Related artefacts

Fishing net upea, Inv. Oz 403


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