Mask made of turtle-shell plates which have been bent to form an elaborate human face, and sewn into place with fibre; shell eyes.
- Found/Acquired: Mer
- (Oceania,Australia,Queensland,Torres Strait Islands,Murray Islands,Mer)
- Length: 40 centimetres
This mask is discussed in Haddon's 'Expedition to the Torres Strait', vol 4, p.298, who suggests that it was of the kind used in funeral ceremonies; an accompanying sketch by a Torres Strait islander shows a mask being worn on top of the head, and certainly the shell eyes on this mask would prevent a wearer from seeing through them. An original label on the top of the mask says 'A Tortoise Shell mask from Murray's Island, Torres Strait' (best guess - the label is faded). (MOH,4/1996).Description from Extracts from the British and Medieval Register 1757-1878, p.184:
169. A mask made of tortoise shell long and narrow. L. 16 in. W. 9 inches. From Murrays Island, Torres Straits.Comment from Jude Philp, Senior Curator at the Macleay Museum in 2009 'wooden and turtle-shell masks often have 'eye' holes through the nose element'. This would enable the wearer of the mask to see out.
1993, London, Hayward Gallery, Aratjara: Aboriginal Art from Australia
1998, University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, Torres Strait Islanders
2015 23 Apr-02 Aug, London, BM, Indigenous Australia REQUESTED
2015-2016 Canberra, National Museum of Australia REQUESTED
Presented by the Lords of the Admiralty through Sir John Liddell, C.B. (the Museum of Haslar Hospital)
Africa, Oceania & the Americas
If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: email@example.com
Object reference number: EOC1677
British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.
The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.