Tolai Currency

oceania | New Britain

Tolai Currency

New Britain

Gazelle Peninsula, Bismarck Archipelago

Shell, fiber
First part of the 20th century
Diameter: 35 in. (90 cm)

Exhibited and published:
The Louvre Museum, A Brief History of the Future
(Sept. 2015 – Jan. 2016)

According the Pitt Rivers Museum, among the Tolai, shell money was called tabu or tambu, made by stringing the shells onto lengths of rattan. When the shell string became very long (as much as several hundred metres), it was rolled into a ring and bound with leaves. The rings represented a man's wealth and were stored in a special house. An increase in wealth through the acquisition of additional tabu meant an increase in status as well.

Source: Pitt Rivers Museum Body Arts | Warrior’s shell collar
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