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A Tongan Tapua in the Pitt Rivers Museum: Historiographical Notes and Curatorial Reflections

Jeremy Coote

JPS, Vol 123, No 4 pg (399-420)


In a recent account, in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, of Tongan tapua—“polished ivory shrines”—Fergus Clunie refers to an example in the University of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum as being “tenuously provenanced” to Cook’s voyages. A detailed discussion of the tapua’s documentation is provided to demonstrate how this “tenuous” provenance has no basis in fact, before other possible histories are considered.


Tonga, tapua; whale teeth; museum collections; documentation

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