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Place: Tahiti & Society Islands
Category: Mats

purau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) fibre, Tahiti and the Society Islands, l. 123, w. 150 cm, Inv. Oz 422

Humphrey No. 113: ‘Another [Mat], very fine, from ditto [Society Isles].’ (= Oz 422)

Mat Oz 422, though made of the same finely plaited plant material, is unlike Oz 148 in that it does not have a fringed border. Instead, it ends in a fine, braid-like plaited bulge.

There is an indication in Banks (1896: 153) that mats were generally used for sleeping on. In particular, the very fine mats made from Hibiscus were also made into garments (presumably tiputa). In addition, Bunzendahl (1935: 132f.) listed the following uses: as a floor covering, for sitting on, as partitions or curtains, sails and sacrificial offerings for deities. As with balls of barkcloth, they were otherwise stored as rolls of mats, giving an indication of the owner’s wealth. Handy (1971) gave a very detailed description of the plaiting techniques used. A specimen very similar to the fringed mat Oz 148 is located in the collection in Berne and is depicted by Kaeppler (1978b: 51, Fig. 92). Other pieces are present in the collections in Oxford, Cambridge, and Wörlitz (cf. Kaeppler 1978a: 131). Gundolf Krüger


Banks, Joseph, Journal of the Right Hon. Sir Joseph Banks During Captain Cook’s First Voyage in H.M.S. Endeavour in 1768-71 to Terra del Fuego. Otahite, New Zealand, Australia, the Dutch East Indies etc., by Sir Joseph D Hooker, London, 1896.

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

Handy, Willowdean Chatterson, Handcrafts of the Society Islands [1927]. Bernice P Bishop Museum Bulletin, vol. 42, New York, 1971.

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.

Related artefacts

Mat, Inv. Oz 148
Mat, Inv. Oz 423
Mat, Inv. Oz 424


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