Spear

oceania | Admiralty Islands

Spear

Admiralty Islands

Carved wood, fibers, obsidian point
19th century
Height: 62 in. (158 cm)

Ex collection William Downing Webster (1868–1913) in 1898
Ex collection Pitt Rivers Museum
Ex collection J.P. Morin, Paris

Amirauté spear ex Webster / Galerie Flak Price on request
The Admiralty islands lie to the north of Papua New Guinea and have been inhabited for at least 5,000 years. The primary weapons of Admiralty Islanders were spears and daggers made from obsidian. Obsidian has been used for projectile points since immemorial times. Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed from rapidly- frozen lava. The Bismarck Archipelago, off the north-east coast of Papua New Guinea, is a rich natural resource of obsidian; in particular, the islands of Lou and Manus in the Admiralties from where the obsidian blade of these spears was probably sourced.
A comprehensive study/typology of Admiralty Islands spears was notably published by Robin Torrence. "Obsidian-tipped Spears and Daggers: What can we learn from 130 years of museum collecting" in Christian Kaufmann, Christin Kocher Schmid and Sylvia Ohnemus, eds. Admiralty Islands Art from the South Seas. Zürich: Museum Rietberg, 2002, pp.73-80).
The iconography of this 19th century spear is highly characteristic of ancient Admiralty Islands art with the depiction of human figure emerging from the mouth of a crocodile.

Documentation

Pitt Rivers Museum archives

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