British Museum collections, £12.99
Length: 138.500 cm
Width: 18.000 cm
Bequeathed by Thomas Boynton, 1920
Marquesas Islands, French
Late 18th/early 19th century AD
Clubs like this one were known as 'u'u and were used by warriors from the Marquesas Islands.
The form of these clubs was recorded during Captain Cook's second voyage (1772-5) and they are shown in nineteenth-century engravings such as the portrait of Mouina, chief warrior of the Tayehs by Captain David Porter of the US Navy ship Essex. The Essex arrived in the Marquesas Islands in 1813 where Porter recorded clashing with Mouina after the warrior refused to supply him with pork and fruit. His engraving shows an impressive man, his body completely tattooed, holding a tall, thin club very like this one.
The club is predominantly made out of ironwood, a very tough and heavy wood known as toa, which is also the word for warrior. It has a number of faces carved into either side of it at the top, which were thought to provide its owner with extra protection. It has a handle bound with coir and human hair. Its rich, dark patina is thought to have been achieved by soaking the club in taro swamps and polishing it with coconut oil.
Many examples of this kind of club were collected in the first half of the nineteenth century and around 200 are thought to have survived.
Dr S. Hooper, Pacific Encounters: Art and Di (London, The British Museum Press, 2006)