Bag from Tonga

Contributed by The Hunterian

This bag is from the collection of William Hunter who collected all kinds of things. He collected animals so that he could find out more about the natural world. He also collected coins, books, rocks, insects and a diverse variety of other things. This basket has been identified by the international expert Adrienne L. Kaeppler as an object collected on the voyages Captain James Cook. Captain Cook is one of Britain's most famous explorers and navigators. On his three great voyages he visited the islands of the Pacific including Tonga, one of the "Friendly Islands" so-called because of the gentle people who lived there.

This bag is roughly rectangular with rounded corners. A pattern of brown zones has been painted on after the bag was complete, and these dark areas are edged with rows of small white shells. The bag has two layers for increased strength; the inner lining is broad strips of leaves woven together in a simple criss-cross pattern. Bags like this were for keeping important or valuable things in. Lots of these baskets were collected on Cook's voyages. Their striking appearance and excellent craftsmanship made them very popular collectibles.

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Tonga, Western Polynesia


Mid 18th century


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