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20th C. Gilbert Island Wooden Knife - Tiger Shark Teeth

Oceania, Micronesia, Gilbert Island, ca. early 20th century CE. A beautiful hand-carved wooden knife blade repurposed from an 18th century spear point. The knife has a stocky handle, a thin ovoid guard, and a tapered triangular knife "blade" with a tiered finial. The edges of the blade are lined with ten pierced tiger shark teeth secured with string, each with pointed tips and finely-serrated edges. Knives like this example were typically used for hand-to-hand combat, though the small size of the knife and downward orientation of the teeth suggests this was a defensive implement. Covered in a lustrous patina, this is a fabulous example from Micronesia! Size: 2.25" W x 9.375" H (5.7 cm x 23.8 cm).

Some researchers have noted the similarities in shape between these weaponized shark teeth and traditional Gilbert Island canoe sails. This type of knife was used during ceremonial warfare, when ritual duels took place in order to maintain honor. Along with these weapons, warriors ware suits of armor made from thickly-woven coconut fiber and a belt made from stingray skin, as well as a helmet made from a hollowed-out, dried puffer fish. Shark teeth were sewn into the backs of the armor gloves for when the fighting got close. Some historical photographs of the full costume are available here: https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/BBCollabSupport/An+Ethnographic+Analysis+of+a+Kiribati+Shark-Toothed+Sword

Condition: Surface wear and minor abrasions commensurate with age, small losses to finial and bottom of handle, with minor chips and nicks across most wooden surfaces, and some light yellowing to teeth. Nice lustrous patina across most wooden areas. Old inventory sticker on handle.

Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-private Hawaii, USA collection

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