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Late 19th C. Fijian Wooden Cannibal Fork - Near-Choice

Oceania, Fiji Islands, ca. late 19th century CE. A grim yet fascinating memento from the days of tribally-endorsed cannibalism, this hand-carved wooden fork was employed by servants or slaves to feed morsels of human flesh to rulers or religious leaders deemed too holy to physically handle their own food. The elongated ovoid handle boasts a register of incised linear and zigzag patterns along the midpoint - in order to increase the grip - and a petite, flared pommel enabling the fork to be set upright. Above a discoid shoulder are four integral, gracefully-curving prongs which gradually drift inwards and upwards to a point. Though the prongs do not touch, their tight spacing enabled the servants to pluck only the most desirable portions for their master to consume. An elegant, macabre, and meticulously-crafted example covered in lustrous caramel-hued patina. Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 13.25" H (33.7 cm); 14.5" H (36.8 cm) on included custom stand.

The Fijian cannibal fork, known locally as an "iculanibokola," became a symbolic means of displaying one's power over those they ruled over or controlled. The more elaborate the utensil, the greater the influence one had over those around them. Despite the morbid reality of cannibalism, it was not as prevalent a practice as one would believe. Chieftains would generally only consume members of rival tribes which were captured in battle, and would associate doing so as a component of important post-conflict ceremonial meals and celebrations.

For a similar example, please see the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, object number 18199A: https://www.penn.museum/collections/object/162678

Condition: Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age and use, light wear to prong tips and handle, and minor fading to incised details, otherwise intact and near-choice. Light earthen deposits as well as gorgeous caramel patina throughout.

Provenance: private Newport Beach, California, USA collection; ex-Michael Hamson collection

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