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Spinning top

Spinning top

Place: Tahiti & Society Islands
Category: Tools

coconut leaf rib, seed, Tahiti and the Society Islands, l. 15.5 cm, d. 5.5 cm, Inv. Oz 461

Humphrey No. 222: ‘an instrument formed of a large kind of Seed, a kind of bean with a thick dark brown Shell, thro’ which a hole is made and one end of a small stick put thro’ it. The use unknown. From the Society Isles.’

Very little can be added to Humphrey’s annotation. A short description of this spinning top was found in Henry (1928: 279): ‘Some tops they made of the fruit of the miro, by piercing it through the center with a piece of the rib of the coconut leaf, which protruded about a quarter of an inch from the under side and about four inches from the upper; this they spun by running the long stem briskly between the two hands and letting it go on a board or hard-trodden ground.’ The fruit of the miro tree (thepesia populnea) used for the spinning top mentioned by Henry, is applicable to the spinning top in the Göttingen Collection. It has twice the circumference of a walnut, but is flat and disc-shaped, and shines a deep, dark brown (cf. Parkinson 1773: 42 and Henry 1928: 58). Gundolf Krüger


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

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

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