Pair of Scrimshaw engraved with Marquesas Man and female

KINCM:2005.2289.1, KINCM:2005.2289.2, Hull Maritime Museum

One of this pair of decorated teeth shows an armed, tattooed warrior, with the inscription 'Marquesas Man' , with a scene, on the other side, of 'Indians Devouring their Enemies’ in which natives are depicted  sat round a camp fire, with three bound captives and another islander about to strike them with a club. The second tooth shows the more peaceful scene of a Marquesas woman in her village, wearing traditional dress and a sea view of what is most likely the Marquesas islands on the reverse. The Marquesas Islands were often encountered on South Sea whaling voyages, since a whaling station was located there. The islands represented an exotic contrast to life both aboard and back home, and such ‘ethnographic’ scene were frequently the subject of etchings, both on board voyages of discovery ships and whaling ships. Before the invention of photography, these represented supposedly authentic pictorial records of exotic, picturesque landscapes and peoples. As in the case of the Inuit, such encounters were highly problematic, with the whalers communicating various, often fatal, diseases to the local populations. Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick (1851) also spent time on Nuku Hiva, the largest of the Marquesas Islands and wrote abook Typee, first published in 1846, the year of Turner’s second pair of Whalers, based on his experiences there. Paul Gaugin would also famously be buried on the island in 1903, after spending a lot of time there and on nearby  Tahiti.

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Credit: Images are courtesy of the Hull Maritime Museum