About this object

A U-shaped 'taumi' breast ornament made from feathers, sharks' teeth, pearl shell and dog hair on a wickerwork base. Tahitian warriors wore taumi to show their high status and possibly as protective breast-plates in battle. Chiefs also presented 'taumi' to visiting Europeans in the late 18th century as high-status gifts.

The pictorial evidence suggests that ‘taumi’ were worn in pairs, across the front and back of the chest and shoulders, so that the head appeared to rise up and out of the jaws of a shark. White dog hair and disks of pearl shell were imported to Tahiti from the neighbouring islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago, while many hours of preparation were required for the capture of sharks in order to extract their teeth, alongside the gathering and grading of feathers from specific species of bird.

Object specifics

  • Type
    Textile/Clothing; Personal Ornament
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Oceania: Polynesia: Society Islands [French Polynesia]
  • Date made
    18th Century Late
  • Materials
    Hair Dog; Feather Bird; Tooth Shark; Fibre Coconut; Cane
  • Location
    Item currently on loan
  • Acquisition
    From the Collection of the Liverpool Royal Institution, 1894
  • Collector
    William Bullock
  • Place collected
    Not recorded
  • Date collected
    1894 before
  • Measurements
    700 mm x 670 mm x 5 mm; 27 9/16 in x 26 3/8 in x 3/16 in
  • Note
    A high-status ornament worn in the Society Islands at the time of Captain Cook. May have been collected on one of Captain Cook's voyages.
  • Related people
    William Bullock ( Collector, previous owner); Liverpool Royal Institution ( Previous owner); William Swainson ( Previous owner)

Ownership

Previous owners

  • Liverpool Royal Institution

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1894
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • William Swainson

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: Unknown or unrecorded
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • William Bullock

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1819
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
Object view = Humanities
Page load time: 257 ms