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Ceremonial Paddle

Three heads on the pommel are chipped. CULT unknown Raivavae, Austral Islands Polynesia The paddle has a round shaft which flares slightly at the pommel and narrows toward the round pointed blade. The shaft of the paddle has been decorated with carved diagonal crosses, with a single band of arrowheads at the centre point. The face of the paddle is also decorated with diagonal crosses and has a central panel of open triangles. The reverse face of the panel is similarly covered in a cross-hatching pattern, with a raised central line of arrowheads and two sun motifs at the base where the paddle joins the shaft. The pommel consists of a circle of eight anthropomorphic heads with two rows of scalloping underneath. The heads have rows of triangles on the top and a deep hollowed out space in the centre.
Such paddles are usually thought to be post-contact articles made for the tourist market, however they may have originally been used as dance paddles, being too fragile for practical use.
The paddle has been included in the Robertson catalogue as 'William Hunter From Captain Cook', however Adrienne Kaeppler could not confirm that Cook was the collector. Its coating of black varnish suggests it was once in the Old Hunterian collection, in which case it may be one of the 'Canoe-Paddles' mentioned by Laskey in his 1813 account.