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Ray sting foto

Ray sting foto

Place: Tonga
Category: War

Tonga, l. 13 cm, Inv. Oz 217

Humphrey No. 285 & 286: ‘Two spear heads being the Stings of a flat fish, called the Sting Ray, from the Friendly Isles.’

The longer of the two stings, Oz 218, is broken off at the flat and thickened end. The Humphrey label with the number 285 is stuck on next to the broken-off edge. The thinner sting, Oz 217, with the Humphrey number 286, has a hole at the flattened end, through which a plaited band of coconut fibres (niu, Cocos nucifera) runs, torn immediately next to the hole.

Bones from the backbone of the stingray (Trygon) were used in parts of Polynesia and Micronesia as spear or arrow points, small darts and daggers.

Ellis (1830, II: 488, 497) reported for Tahiti that that ray stings (airo fai) were used as secret weapons, hidden in bundles of leaves. While the ray sting daggers were always fitted with a cord, and therefore featured a hole (cf. Oz 217), the ray stings used as spear heads and small javelins were apparently left unmodified (Kaeppler 1978b: 122). A ray sting of the latter type is depicted by Parkinson (1773:75, PI. 13, No. 27) for Tahiti, which he designated as a spear or arrow point.

Ray stings may be found in collections in Cambridge, Vienna and Florence, where they are listed as being not from the Tongan, but from the Society Islands (cf. Kaeppler 1978a: 154 and Moschner 1955: 158f.). Kaeppler (note on file card Oz 218) was convinced that such stings were used in Tonga in the same way. Samwell (in: Beaglehole 1967, Illb: 1037) already emphasised for Tonga: ‘...spears which are generally printed with the Tail of the Sting Ray ...’. Georg Forster (1989, I: 349) remarked similarly. It can therefore be gathered from Humphrey’s annotation that the two Göttingen pieces are in fact very rare Tongan examples from Cook’s voyages. Inken Köhler, Ulrike Rehr, Gundolf Krüger


Beaglehole, John Cawte, The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776-1780, Hakluyt Society, Extra Series, 36, 1 u. 2. vol. 3, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1955-1967 IIIa and IIIb.

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

Forster, Georg, Reise um die Welt, 2 Teile, in Georg Steiner (ed.), Georg Forsters Werke (2 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 and Stuttgart, 1955, vol. 10, pp. 136-253.

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

Related artefacts

Ray sting foto, Inv. Oz 218


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