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Mourner's dress
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This polynesian dress would have been worn by the chief mourner after the death of an important person. He would also have carried a menacing long club edged with shark teeth, and led a procession of mourners through the local area, attacking people, sometimes fatally. This 'reign of terror' could last for up to a month.

The main section of the dress is made from barkcloth, with a feather mantle at the back and feather tassels at the sides. The face mask is made of pearl shell surmounted by tropical bird feathers. Pearl shell also decorates the wooden crescent-shaped breast ornament from which a chest apron of pearl shell slivers is suspended. The barkcloth waist apron is decorated with coconut shell discs.

In 1774 Captain Cook recorded that he had been presented with a complete mourner's outfit; it is thought to be this dress, which was donated to the Museum by Cook.

Mourner's dress


From the Society Islands, French Polynesia, pre-18th century
AD Ht214cm
Сollected on the second voyage of Captain James Cook (1772-5)



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