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Tattooing mallet

Tattooing mallet

Place: Tahiti & Society Islands
Category: Tools

wood, Tahiti and the Society Islands, l. 46.5 cm, l. 13.2 cm (striking surface), w. 5.6 cm (max.), Inv. Oz 440

Humphrey No. 179 (continuation of text on Nos. 176 to 178) ‘a kind of battledore, having a long shank which is held between the Thumb and forefinger of the right hand, placed one on each side of the Centre of the broad part, which being made very thin, acts like a spring, and gives an additional force to the blow. This operation is attended with much pain, and leaves indelible Stain, which they call Tataow ...’

The tattooing mallet is made from a piece of brown wood. Its long rounded handle thickens at the holding end and tapers towards the striking surface. The flat striking surface is slightly concave and has the shape of a spoon. The carefully smoothed tattooing mallet shows traces of use and, in various places, is covered with blackish-brown dye. In contrast to the following object Oz 441, the striking surface of Oz 440 has been split lengthwise and stuck together again. The tattooing mallet depicted in Parkinson (1773: 75, Pl. 13, No. 2) from Cook’s first voyage differs from the Göttingen objects because its striking surface is more rectangular and appears smaller in relation to the handle. Comparable objects are located in the collections in London (British Museum and London School of Economics), Cambridge, Oxford, Vienna, Berne, Florence, and Wellington, New Zealand (cf. Kaeppler 1978a: 135; Kaeppler 1978b: 120).


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.

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

Related artefacts

Tattooing mallet, Inv. 441


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