Sperm whale tooth, 'tabua'

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Neck ornament, Tabua, 19th century
Polynesia, Fiji
Sperm whale tooth

Donated by Dr I Robertson, 1961
Museum number 1961-641-4

A tabua is the polished tooth of a sperm whale and is highly prized in Fijian society. Traditionally they were presented as gifts used in negotiations between rival chiefs, their acceptance being morally and spiritually binding. Originally rare items, their trade led to the development of the European scrimshaw, the art of decorating tusks.

Sperm whale tooth, 'tabua'
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