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Pendants as breast ornaments ei

Pendants as breast ornaments ei

Place: Marquesas
Category: Jewellery & adornment

shell, bone or tooth, plant fibre, Marquesas Islands, l. 8.4–9.5 cm, w. 2–2.5 cm, Inv. Oz 167, 168, 169

Inv. Oz 167-169 (Linton 1923: 167)

Humphrey No. 104: ‘A pendant formed of the outer lip of a Bulls-mouth helmet Shell and worn at the Breast by the Natives of the Friendly Isles.’

The three objects differ only slightly with regard to the pendants made of shell, bone, or tooth material. The basic shape is that of a somewhat curved tooth, ending in a slightly pointed tip at the lower end, but with a horizontally sawed oval plane at the upper end. A few millimetres below the upper end there is a drilled hole (c. 5 mm in diameter), in the case of Oz 167 and Oz 169 with a thick twisted cord (between 35 and 70-80 cm long) (cf. also Linton 1923 PI. 78, A) or in the case of Oz 168 a piece of tapa threaded through. Linton wrote that this is a whale tooth which was highly valued as a breast ornament, and which had religious significance. Because the Marquesans did not hunt whales, the demand would have been far greater than the supply. According to Porter (1823), it was possible to buy a shipload of sandalwood for ten large teeth.

A pendant of this shape is listed in the Humphrey catalogue with the text printed above. Two of these objects may possibly be assigned to the Forster Collection. Brigitta Hauser-Schaüblin


Linton, Ralph, The Material Culture of the Marquesas Islands, Memoirs of the Bernice P Bishop Museum, Honolulu, 1923, vol. 8, no. 5.

Porter, David, Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean, by Captain David Porter in the United States Frigate Essex, in the Years 1812, 1813, and 1814, Bradford and Inskeep, Philadelphia, 1815, Wiley & Halstead, New York, 1822, reprinted and edited by RD Madison, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1986.

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