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Janus Faced Spear Finial Malekula Island Vanuatu

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Collection No. TB-19
Size 38cm
Janus Faced Spear Finial Malekula Island Vanuatu
Janus Faced Spear Finial Malekula Island Vanuatu
Janus Faced Spear Finial Malekula Island Vanuatu
Janus Faced Spear Finial Malekula Island Vanuatu

This fine old Spear Ornament is from Malekula Island in Vanuatu. Collected in the late 19th Century which would make the Spear Ornament from the mid 19th Century or earlier.  The actual full length spear would have been 3 meters long and near the top of the spear is where this ornament would be placed. Often the top of the head had a Sting Ray spine attached which gave it a sharp serrated point.  The Janus Head represent ancestors who would give supernatural power to the spear and warrior. The faces are quite cubist looking with wide flaring nostrils, the side view shows both faces in profile and a concentric diamond design at the top of the sides of the head.  These old ornaments were kept as family heirlooms when the spears were broken and no longer used.   I have always thought that these faces look like Kanak  Masks from New Caledonia.

Provenance Ex Tost & Rohu Collection Sydney Australia late 19th Century.  Tost & Rohu were two women taxidermists selling stuffed native animals and native curios from the Pacific Islands,

Visitors to Sydney were enticed to visit the shop boasting ‘the largest stock in Australia of genuine native implements and curiosities, carved emu eggs and other beautiful souvenirs, skins of foreign and Australasian birds, beasts and reptiles, live snakes (non-venomous), entomological specimens & requisites, birds and animals mounted in life-like style, fancywork goods and glass domes.’  There was something there for everyone. The taxidermists won at least 20 medals for their meticulous craftsmanship at international trade exhibitions.
Between the 1870’s and 1920’s the Australian Museum kept a watchful eye on goods being offered at ‘the queerest shop in Australia’, as it came to be known, acquiring about 130 ethnographic items from them as well as other, natural history specimens. Tost and Rohu artefacts can be found today in museums in Australia, New Zealand, England and Ireland.

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