This Katudababile necklace comes from Kiriwina in the Trobriand Islands, in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea, and played a minor part in the Kula trade ring. It would be traded alongside Soulava necklaces, which are more intricately designed, often named, and have greater social/trade value. It would have been a sign of wealth and connection within the community and between islands, as a person with many necklaces would have many trade links or many in-laws who may have made them for them. Katudababile are mainly worn by women, but it is men who take part in the Kula ceremonies.
The construction of such necklaces is well documented in the plates included in Malinowski’s (1961) Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Men break Spondulous shells into round pieces, which are ground flat on a sandstone by women, before being perforated with a pump drill, threaded, and again smoothed on the sandstone to create the beads. The banana seeds are also common necklace components, though it is not as common to find the waxy tubular beads, which are likely to be sugar cane. Tool marks can be seen on the tubular bead on Side A, ( Diagram 1) suggesting that the beads were cut to size from a longer cane.
The necklace came to UCL from The University of Cambridge, likely during the 1940’s when Daryll Forde, solicited donations from other museums to help build a teaching collection at UCL. Though as yet more specific details regarding the necklace’s provenance have not been able to be confirmed. It is possible that this Kula necklace came from Kiriwina to the Cambridge museum collection when anthropologist Gregory Bateson made donations to the university upon his return from field work in New Britain near the Trobriand Islands.
The primary significance of the necklace, as it is currently used, is as a teaching tool within the UCL anthropology department. Due to the fact that this is still an active teaching item and was handled by students between assessment sessions the weakened area of plant fibre cord, on which the beads are strung, has suffered further damage. If the necklace continues to be mishandled it is likely that the cord will snap entirely. Fortunately, due to the location of the current weakness, there are knots protecting the necklace against bead loss should the fibres break.
(plant fibre damage magnification 14/03/2016)
(plant fibre damage magnification 21/03/16)
(All images taken by author)
(All images taken by author)
· Malinowski, Bronislaw, (1961). Argonauts of the Western Pacific. New York, E.P. Dutton and Co. Inc.
This post refers to coursework done for ARCLG142 (2015-16), one of the core courses of the UCL MA Principles of Conservation. As part of their assessed work for this course, students were asked to investigate objects from the UCL Ethnography Collections at the UCL Department of Anthropology. Here they present a summary of their main conclusions. We hope you enjoy our work! Comments are most welcome.