James Cook: Celebrated North Country Explorer

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THEMES ~ OBJECTS

Many artefacts made and used by native peoples, from jewellery to boats, clothing to weapons, were recorded and examples collected to be taken back to Britain.

The arms of the people of Tierra del Fuego were described by Cook:
their arms are Bows and Arrows neatly made, their arows are bearded some with glass and others with fine flint, several pieces of the former we saw amongst them with other European things such as Rings, Buttons, Cloth, Canvas & ca. which I think proves that they must sometimes travel to the Northward, as we know of no ship that hath been in those parts for many years, besides they were not at all surprised at our fire arms…
(Cook, Journal I, p.45, 16th January 1769)

Objects were collected from Tierra del Fuego on Cook’s first and second voyages
Their ornaments of which they are extremely fond consist of necklaces or rather Solitaires of shells and bracelets which the women wear both on their wrists and legs, the men only on their wrists.
(Joseph Banks, Journal I, 227; 20th January 1769)

Many samples of bark cloth were brought back from Hawaii, Tonga and the Society Islands. These two pieces brought back by Cook from Tahiti were handed down by Mrs Cook through the Cook family and friends. Some examples were bound into volumes. The method of making the bark cloth was described by Joseph Banks:
When sufficiently soakd (ie.,the bark) the women servants go down to the river, and stripping themselves set down in the water and scrape the pieces of bark…dipping it Continualy in Water until all the outer green bark is rubbd and washd away and nothing remains but the very fine fibres of the inner bark.
(Banks, Journal I, 354, August 1769)

Joseph Banks described the method of making cloth after the bark had been soaked and scraped:
they lay it upon a long piece of wood one side of which is very Even and flat, which side is put under the Cloth; as many women then as they can muster or as can work at the board begin; each is furnishd with a battoon made of very had wood calld by the native Etoa these are about a foot long and square with a handle; on each of the 4 faces of the square are many small furrows of as many different fineness…with the coarsest then they begin, keeping time with their strokes in the same manner as smiths or Anchor smiths, and continue until the Cloth which extends itself very fast under these strokes shews by the too great thinness of the Grooves which are made in it that a finer side of the beater is requisite; in the same manner they proceed to the finses side with which they finish.
(Banks, Journal I, 354-5, August 1769)

This shark-tooth knife collected in New Zealand on the second voyage is probably the one obtained by someone on the Adventure and given to the Admiralty by Captain Furneaux. Furneaux’s collection was given by the Admiralty to the British Museum as early as 1775.

This shell trumpet was collected by the Forsters from a group of Maoris in Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand in 1773.
They also brought some musical instruments, among which was…(a) trumpet…made of a large whelk (murex tritonis), mounted with wood, curiously carved, and pierced at the point where the mouth was applied; a hideous bellowing was all the sound that could be procured.
(G. Forster, A Voyage round the World in His Britannic Majesty’s Sloop, Resolution…, 1777, 277)

Forster later gave it to a friend, Thomas Pennant, and it is now in the University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge.

Many weapons were collected on Cook’s voyages, including hand clubs made of wood, bone, whalebone, greenstone and basalt from New Zealand. Cook said of the Maori:
The Arms they use are Long spears or lances…they have short Truncheions about a foot long, which they call Pattoo Pattoos, some made of wood some of bone and others of stone, those made of wood are variously shaped, but those made of bone and stone are of one shape, which is with a round handle a broadish blade which is thickest in the middle and tapers to an edge all round, the sue of these are to knock mens brains and to kill them outright after they are wounded: and they are certainly well contrived things for this purpose.
(Cook, Journals I, p.200-1, November 1769)

Battle axes made… of a very hard wood about 6 feet long, the bottom of the handle pointed, and the blade which is perfectly like the blade of an axe but broader made very sharp…Darts about 8 feet long made of wood bearded and sharpned, but intended chiefly for the defence of their forts where they have the advantage of throwing them from a hight down upon their enemy…besides these the chiefs when they came to attack us carried in their hands a kind of ensign of distinction in the same manner as ours, or spontoons: they were either the rib of a Whale as white as snow carvd very much and ornamented with dogs hair and feathers, or a stick about 6 feet long carvd and ornamented in the same manner and generally inlayd with shell like mother of Pearl.
(Banks, Journal II, 28, March 1770)

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