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Place: New Caledonia
Category: War

wood. New Caledonia, l. 210 cm, Inv. Oz 845

Humphrey No. 330: ‘A Lance, from New Caledonia.’

This object called a ‘lance’ is a long thin branch that has grown quite unevenly. The only work done on it was evidently to plane it after removal of the lateral shoots and bark. However, the wood now has a varnish-like patina, i.e., after repeated rubbing with coconut oil, having been smoothed down with the appropriate abrasives, as with most weapons (cf. Sparrman’s descriptions in his report (1944: 135) on his participation in the Cook expedition). The roughly pointed front end had become split, and was repaired with wood glue in 1971. On this occasion, the still remaining cracks were filled in with brown plastic wood. Sarasin (1929: 192) called this kind of spear ‘light, one-pointed, smooth throwing lances’ and continued: ‘They are thin, round branches, 1.90 m to 2.20 m long, tapering towards the front end to a fine point, towards the back to a thin stick ...’ He illustrated spears similar to the Göttingen example in his PI. 56, Fig. 1a, b, c.

Humphrey’s original label (No. 330) is still to be found on the spear, proving that it belongs to the Cook Collection. Volker Harms


Sarasin, Fritz, Ethnologie der Neu-Caledonier und Loyalty-Insulaner, Munich, 1929.

Sparrman, Anders, A Voyage Round the World with Captain James Cook in the H.M.S. Resolution, Huldine Beamish (trans.), London, 1944.

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