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A FIJIAN 'CANNIBAL FORK' AND SIMILAR LADLE, carved and stained, the fork 11.5", the ladle 13". Collected by Captain John Proctor Luce (1827-1869) Captain of HMS Esk during a visit to Fiji. In a cardboard box inscribed to the lid 'Cannibal fork, has been used, brought home from Fiji, 1857 by Capt J.P.Luce H.M.S. Esk
Provenance: The family of Captain John Proctor Luce, the vendors Great-Grandfather.
Captain J.P.Luce took command of H.M.S. Esk following the death of Captain Hamilton (after whom Hamilton in New Zealand is apparently named) at the battle of Gate Pah in the Maori Wars. The Esk left Auckland in July of 1867 and Captain Luce was paid off in October of that year, dying soon after.
Prior to taking charge of the Esk Luce was in command of HMS Wanderer a smaller vessel that is unlikely to have visited Fiji. A number of Captin Luce's journals are held at the Royal Anthropological Institute, others appear to have been destroyed during the Second World War. Consequently it is not clear exactly when the items were collected. What is clear is that Captain Luce gathered a fascinating collection of artefacts on his travels, a good number of which were donated to the British Museum by Margaret Luce. A number of these items are regularly displayed including such items as a collection of arrows, carved clubs and other Maori items.
Cannibal cutlery is unsurprisingly very rare, and to have items with a firsthand account of use must be more or less unique. Forks of this type were used to feed Fijian Chieftains the flesh of their enemies. The chief not being permitted to touch the flesh themselves, the length of the fork relating to the status of the chief. It is of course impossible to tell if this fork was used, however the ladle shows clear signs of damage to the rim almost certainly as a result of use
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