Ship surgeon William Anderson noted them during Cook’s Third Voyage while on Atiu in 1777, writing: “The clubs were about six feet long or more, made of a hard black wood launce shap’d at the end but much broader, with the edge nicely scallop’d and the whole neatly polish’d.”
An example measuring 7ft 4in (2.25m) came for sale at Wessex Auction Rooms (17% buyer’s premium) in Chippenham on April 2. It showed signs of having been dry stored in an outbuilding for many years – bird droppings included – but might well have been a 19th century survivor.
If the guide of just £30-40 struck potential buyers as a late April fool, then the final bid of £38,000 was certainly no joke.
Thomas R Callan sold a similar pair of clubs in Ayr in December to a buyer from Belgium at £40,000.
Tennants’ (22% buyer’s premium) March 23 Ethnographica sale at Leyburn was topped by a 19th century Aboriginal wood shield. It had been brought back to Cumberland in 1937 by a farmer after a dozen years working in Australia and was consigned by his grandson.
With deeply incised bands of wave decoration filled with pale pigment and central pierced holes securing the bent wood handle, the shield is typical of the art of south-east Australia. With only minor chips and warping, it attracted international interest at its £6000-8000 estimate and sold at £32,000.