VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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'akau-ta
Oz 131
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This is a well-designed and very early example of a war club. The club is made of brown wood with a handle that is round in cross-section. Towards the upper end, the club becomes wider and the cross-section rhomboid. The upper end is ornamented with rhomboid, triangular, and linear patterns. There are also two representations of human figures. The ornamented part of the club is divided into different sections by four groups of bulged rings, some of which are damaged. The handle is plain. A wrapping of a plant material covers 3.5 centimeter of the lower end of the handle. Concerning the decorated clubs, John Mariner explained that the Tongans “only ornament those clubs which are considered good on account of their form, or the quality of the wood, or those which have done much execution: to the latter it used to be the custom to give a proper name”. Edwin Ferdon therefore concludes that “[d]ecorated clubs were not necessarily a symbol of the high rank or status of their owners”. Concerning the decorated clubs, Irmgard Moschner is inconclusive as to whether or not they were used in battle, had a symbolic function, or were needed for religious purposes. The latter function was also emphasized by Enrico Giglioli, writing that “very ornate Tongan clubs with carvings were not always used as weapons, but symbolized the God of War; in this case they were kept covered with ngatu (bark cloth) and were carried at the head of the army to assure victory.”

History of the Object
This object, among others, was collected during James Cook’s three voyages through the Pacific Ocean (1768-71, 1772-75, and 1776-79/80). The items presented in the Goettingen Collection are of fascinating preservation and – in consideration of their age – irreplaceable items of the past.

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Type
Weaponry 
Materials
Wood 
Measurements
121 x 16 cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Tonga 
Geography
Tonga 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 18th century 
Creation date
18th Century 
Function
Club; used as weapon, sometimes in symbolic or religious contexts 
Acquisition
Part of the Cook/Forster Collection 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Ethnographic Collection, Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, Georg-August University Goettingen, Germany 
Museum
Ethnographic Collection of the University of Göttingen 
Credit line
 

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