Arts and Crafts of the Cook Islands
Pearl-shell breast ornaments were found throughout the Cook Islands and in other Pacific areas. The coil of many strands of human hair braid from which the shell was suspended is recorded from areas outside the Cook Islands, but some were used without additional ornament and others with different; ornaments. From the distribution, it appears that the pearl-shell ornament and the human-hair coil were introduced in the first period and the local varieties in technical details developed in the second period.
The study of local variations in the pearl-shell breast ornament is limited, because the only old specimens available are from Mangaia. In the Aitutaki specimen (fig. 66, a ), the suspension coil is of dyed cords of bast material, a substitute for the hair coil seen by Bligh's second expedition. Bligh and Lieutenant Tobin both reported collecting a number of these ornaments in Aitutaki, and their collection should be somewhere in England. Pearl-shell ornaments with the suspension coil completely decayed have been reported from burial caves in Atiu and Mauke, and native informants state that Rarotonga had such ornaments.
Figure 267.—Pearl-shell breast ornaments. a, Mangaia (Fuller coll.): outer rim border (1); free ends of coil (2) not seized; horizontal strands of hair braid (3) out side of lashings; lock of human hair (4); for details of similar ornament, see figure 65. b, Tahiti (British Mus., Tahiti case): three shells of different sizes, largest and smallest with edges serrated, largest and middle with strip of outer rim border; attached to human hair coil by cord through two holes pierced through all three shells; one end of hair coil seized with single coir fiber in five sections to form large open eye (1) and other end seized with coir fiber in one close loop (2), evidently to form plug for insertion into open eye. c, Tahiti (British Mus., Tah. 160): similar to b, with three shells attached to hair coil through two holes with strip of tapa; one end of coil seized in five sections with single coir fiber (as in b, 1) but other end fitted with wooden cylindrical plug (1) with longitudinal hole (2) lashed to coil (3) with fine sennit as shown in figure, d, Marquesas (Peabody Mus., Salem, E. 5,283): large shell cut with upper curved edge, pierced with 16 holes; narrow strip of outer surface (1) left along rim and notched with close transverse lines; hair coil lashed to shell with three courses of fine sennit; ends of coil seized to form eyes (2) for attachment cord. e, Tuamotu (Bishop Mus., C9152): nine pieces of shell of varying sizes attached to human hair coil by a single human hair braid passing through bored holes in shell and wound spirally around coil.
McKern (ms. in Bishop Museum) states that a single valve of pearl shell (called tofeloa) suspended on a fine braid of human hair was used as a breast ornament in Tonga. A specimen in Bishop Museum (9913) is perforated at each end of the hinge portion. A length of fine human hair braid is passed through the holes and the ends are looped upward and attached to the ends of a curved piece of whale ivory which rests against the back of the neck when the ornament is worn. This ornament differs from those of the central area in that the projecting hinge of the shell is intact. McKern states that the shells were sometimes inlaid with ivory.
I have not seen any pearl shell ornaments from Samoa.
The braided human hair suspension coil was used in Hawaii with a whale-ivory hook-shaped ornament suspended from it. Pearl shell was not used, though pearl oysters were abundant. The Hawaiian coil differs from the three-ply braid of the other island groups in being composed of a square plait with eight plies.
The hair coil of Tongareva was ornamented with finger nails. Though pearl oysters were plentiful in the lagoon, the shell was not used for ornamentation.
The ivory ornaments described for Mangaia, with the exception of the ball ornament of Atiu, seem confined to that island. The Mangaian and Atiuan ball ornaments are so similar in all details but size that there must have been diffusion between the two islands, probably from Mangaia to Atiu. Atiuans suspended the ball ornament from a coil of braided hair (fig. 61); but, though the Mangaians used the hair coil to suspend pearl shells, they invented a different technique to display a number of ivory ornaments more effectively (fig. 59).
The animal figure in ivory on Mangaian necklaces (fig. 58, h-l) appears on a unique whalebone bowl figured by Oldman (54, vol. 47, pl. 22). The shape of the bowl is characteristic of Austral Islands bowls. Nine small human figures carved on either side below the rim are identical with the small figures on the Rurutu wooden god (25, vol. 2, frontispiece, no. 1) now in the British Museum and localize the bowl as belonging to Rurutu. At the broad end of page 441the bowl two animal figures (fig. 268, a-c) which form a handle are practically identical with the Mangaian necklace figures. Another artifact, in the United States National Museum, cataloged as Marquesan, was figured by Krieger (45, pl. 13) as a dagger and by Linton (47, pl. 70, C) as a harpoon point. It is ornamented with animal figures similar to those on the Rurutu bowl and the Mangaian necklaces. This wooden implement has a flanged end for lashing to a longer shaft, similar to flanges on spear points from Raivavae in the Austral Islands. If such spear points had been made in Mangaia, they would have been collected from that island which was rich in other material. The animal motif has not been recorded from the Marquesas; and, in spite of the record on an original label "The head of a lance or spear of the Marquise Island, by Capt. Aulick, Aug. 1837", the spear head must be attributed to Rurutu (fig. 268. d-f).
Figure 268.—Carved animal figures, Rurutu: a-c, whale bone bowl (Oldman coll., 476); d-f, ironwood spear point (U. S. National Mus., 5345). a, upper view of bowl: length, 14.5 inches; greatest width, 6.75 inches; backs of two animal figures (1) at broad end and upper ends of human figures along outer edges of rim. b, side view of bowl: height, 2.6 inches; side view of animal figures (1) and full face views of human figures which average 0.75 inches in height, c, enlargement of animal figures on bowl: back view showing front flange (1) with end enlargement representing ears or eyes, second flange (2), and truncated pitted tail (3). d, side view of spear point: length, 18 inches; part (1) for joining to shaft by lashing; base enlargement (2) with eight animal figures, one of which (3) has tail part broken off; middle part with four rows of three figures (4) and chevron incised carving; distal enlargement with six animal figures (5) like those at base; point (6). e, enlargement of base animal figures, showing sharp snout (1), front flange (2) with ear or eye enlargements, second flange (3) dnd truncated tail (4) with small circular pit (5) and larger semicircle on head side of figure, f, section of point showing smaller figures which consist of two animal heads facing in opposite directions each with ear flange and hollow between.
Figure 269.—Distribution of haft types, with literature citations. References for Polynesia are as: 1, toe haft: New Zealand (6, pp. 383, 393); Hawaii (11, pl. 60); Marquesas (47, pl. 48, A); Tuamotu (Emory ms.); Easter Island (Bishop Mus. Hafts); Manihiki-Rakahanga (75, pp. 144, 145); Tongareva (74, p. 180) Niue (48, pl. 8, A); Samoa alternate form (73, p. 362); Austral Islands alternate form (1, pp. 158, 159). 2, medium haft: Samoa (73, pp. 360, 361); Tonga (Bishop Mus. Coll.); Pukapuka (3, p. 165); Futuna (17, pl. 128); New Zealand, specialized form in some jade adzes (13, p. 16, fig. 8). 3, heel haft: Society Islands (13, p. 153, fig. 134); Austral Islands (13, pl. 13, fig. 5, d); Cook Islands (figs. 106, 111). For the neighboring parts of Oceania, the type hafts were obtained from specimens in Bishop Museum.
Thus an identical motif of unique form was present in Mangaia and Rurutu. In Rurutu, the form was produced in bone and wood and formed part of another object, whereas in Mangaia, it was produced in whale ivory as separate ornaments for attachment to a necklace. The similarities are a pointed head, raised ear flange, raised shoulder flange terminating below in forelegs, long body, hind legs, and truncated tail with central pit directed upward. Such details cannot be regarded as having originated in each island independently. The pig, absent in Mangaia, was present in Rurutu, hence, if an animal origin for the motif is necessary, the motif probably orginated in Rurutu.
The wide distribution of tattooing must have accompanied the Polynesians into the Pacific from Indonesia. The use of a form of charcoal to make the pigment is universal, and probably in central Polynesia, the soot from burning candlenut kernels was discovered as the most suitable form. A piece of serrated bone attached to a wooden handle at an angle and a stick for tapping the bone comb must have accompanied the first settlers into the Cook Islands. No information is available as to any differences in details of the instruments.
The differences in the tattooing motifs of the various islands indicate either that no set patterns were introduced from the Society Islands or that the patterns have been abandoned. During the period of occupation each island has developed its own tattooing motifs.