Club, Marquesas Island
Ironwood (Casuarina equisetifolia)
length 58 3/4in (149.2cm)
Private Collection, England
Finely carved with raised decorations on both sides of the head of the club with rich, dark-brown glossy patina.
According to Carol Ivory (personal communication), "warfare was an integral component of life in the Marquesas Islands in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the result of territorial rivalries or the need to avenge insults and indignities. War was carried on either in pitched battles using clubs, spears, and slings, or in ambush situations. The pitched battles were usually pre-arranged and involved much ritual preparation and invocation to the etua, the gods, for success. The ambushes were usually forays into neighboring valleys in search of heana, human victims for sacrifice. Leaders in warfare, toa, were high-ranking and influential persons in Marquesan society.
Clubs such as this one are called 'u'u, and were a Marquesan warrior's most prized possession. They served as both a weapon in close combat and as a mark of high status within society. They are made from ironwood (Casuarina equisetifolia), also called toa by the Marquesans, a dense, heavy, hard wood. The clubs were buried in the mud of taro fields, then polished with coconut oil, to give them a rich, dark patina. Strands of braided sennit, with human hair attached, were wrapped around the handle area. The hair was usually that of relatives. They were designed with a curved notch on the top edge so that the warrior could put it under his arm and lean on it. As a result, they vary in size, between 4.5 and 5 feet, depending on the height of the owner."