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Whale's Tooth Tabua with Sinnet Cord
late 19th century

length of tooth: 10.5cm

This tooth, most probably sperm whale ivory, is pierced with holes at both ends to allow the attachment of a sinnet cord, allowing the tooth to be worn from the
neck. Single whale teeth such as this example were called
tabua (pronounced 'tambua') and were used as presentation items at weddings, funerals and other
important events in Fiji.

tabua were acquired by chiefs from European traders in the nineteenth century and became important for dynastic exchange by which chiefs could
increase their power and influence.

References: Hooper, S., Pacific Encounters: Art & Divinity in Polynesia 1760-1860, The British Museum Press, 2006.

Provenance: from a UK private collection.

Inventory no.: 850

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