VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Tattooing comb
Oz 346
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This piece belongs to the earliest documents of Tahitian tattooing. The tattooing comb consists of a wooden handle with a comb-like blade made from bone at right-angles to it, rather like an adze. The handle, made of dark brown wood, is almost triangular in cross-section and widens towards the grip end. The blade, composed of two flat, almost symmetrical fragments of bone, probably had about thirty teeth; however most of these are broken off. Both halves of the blade are tightly fastened to one another with strings made of plant fibers threaded through two perforations situated each at the same height. The lashing joining the shaft to the blade is made of the same brownish fibers. The blade and parts of the lashing, as well as the handle where it meets the blade, are all dyed black.

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. Specimen Oz 436 is the largest of the four tattooing combs (Oz 436-439) from the Humphrey catalogue and the Forster legacy.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Wood, bone, plant fibers 
Measurements
15,5 cm (handle), 3,3 cm (blade) 
Creator name
unkown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
France; French Polynesia; Tahiti 
Geography
France; French Polynesia 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 18th century 
Creation date
18th Century 
Function
Tattooing tool 
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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