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Cook Collection - Society Islands

 
The island of Tahiti, the largest of the 14 Society Islands, was where Cook had his first contact with Pacific Islanders. Samuel Wallis had visited Tahiti on HMS Dolphin in June-July1767. A brisk trade developed, and large quantities of iron nails and spikes were exchanged for barkcloth, fish hooks, pearls,shells, adzes and other tools. The Frenchman Bougainville also visited in 1768, and the artefacts and stories brought back to Europe from these 2 voyages helped to create the vision of Tahiti as a south pacific paradise.
The Royal Society chose Tahiti as a suitable place to observe the astronomical event of the Transit of Venus, and for this purpose Cook was sent on his first voyage. On 13 April 1769, after eight months at sea, the Endeavour arrived at Tahiti's Matavai Bay, the same inlet that the Dolphin had visited 2 years before (4 men from the Dolphin had joined Cook's crew). The islanders welcomed Cook and Banks with green banana branches, calling them TAIO or friend, and giving them gifts of perfumed cloth. Soon afterwards a procession of canoes entered the bay and 'Queen' Purea presented Cook with a pig and fresh food,which was reciprocated by Cook with beads and trinkets.
The nearby promontory which Cook named Point Venus was used to observe the Transit of the planet Venus across the face of the Sun on 3 June 1769. Although this phenomena was observed at 26 different points around the world, astronomers later realised that the telescopes of the day weren't precise enough to accomplish the task of accurately determining the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
Cook and Banks later circumnavigated the island of Tahiti and then visited the Bora Bora group, guided by a Tahitian priest Tupaia, who with his servant travelled on the Endeavour to Batavia, where he unfortunately became ill and died.
The Endeavour spent 3 months altogether in the Society Islands, and Cook's ships were to return 3 more times during later voyages (Aug-Sep1773, April-May1774,and Aug-Sep1777). During these visits there was a constant exchange of goods and gifts. Iron nails and axes were valued, and provisions, fish hooks, adzes and barkcloth were exchanged for these. A large number of objects were therefore collected, and many detailed drawings and maps of the islands were produced.
The items collected cannot be identified to a particular island or voyage, and before Cook arrived there had been a flourishing exchange of artefacts and ideas between the islands. Banks enjoyed the opportunities to witness and sometimes participate in Tahitian life. He took part in a HEIVA public dance ceremony, accompanied by drums and nose flute (seeH000143). He was also allowed to take part in a mourning ceremony and was fascinated by the costume worn by the chief mourner. According to Forster none of these were collected until the 2nd voyage, when parts of at least 10 were taken to England. [Kaeppler, 1978,p.121] Tha Australian Museum's collection has an example of the shell breast ornament component (see H000149). Semicircular breast ornaments, or gorgets, were commonly worn, and many were collected by the crew and valued as a special type of artificial curiosity (see H000105 and H000145). Barkcloth was presented in large pieces on several occasions to the visitors. Much of the cloth collected was cut into pieces and placed in books of barkcloth samples. The Australian Museum holds some thin cut strips and a three larger pieces.(see H00096-H000101, and H000214-H000218).
Barkcloth "was owned by the nobility in great quantities and hung on house posts, stacked up in a corner of the house or displayed to visitors as a sign of prosperity. Barkcloth was given to a bride at marriage, used as a symbol of peace or as a burial object" [JAMES COOK p162] Thatching and netting needles of various types were collected, and the Australian Museum holds one needle with a bundle of human hair in the process of manufacture (H000153-001 and H000153-002). Many hafted adzes were collected (see H000146). Fishing equipment collected included octopus lures and several kinds of fishhoooks. The Australian Museum holds five fish hooks of two kinds, composite, and one piece pearlshell (H000130,H000133, H000135, H000136, H000140)

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(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000086 - 27/8/1894, rattle, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000096 - 28/8/1894, bark cloth, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000097 - 28/8/1894, bark cloth, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000099 - 28/8/1894, bark cloth, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000100 - 28/8/1894, bark cloth, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000101 - 28/8/1894, bark cloth, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000105 - 28/8/1894, breast ornament, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000130 - 28/8/1894, fish hook, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000133 - 28/8/1894, fish hook, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000135 - 28/8/1894, fish hook, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000136 - 28/8/1894, fish hook, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000140 - 28/8/1894, fish hook, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000143 - 28/8/1894, flute, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000145 - 28/8/1894, breast ornament, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000146 - 28/8/1894, adze, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000149 - 28/8/1894, breast ornament, , Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000153-001 - 28/8/1894, needle, , , Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000153-002 - 28/8/1894, head ornament, , , Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000214 - 29/8/1894, bark cloth, , , , French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000215 - 29/8/1894, bark cloth, , , Society Islands, French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000216 - 29/8/1894, bark cloth, , , , French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000217 - 29/8/1894, bark cloth, , , , French Polynesia, Pacific

(c) assumed Australian Museum.

H000218 - 29/8/1894, bark cloth, , , , French Polynesia, Pacific
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