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A Superb Old Australian Tasmanian Indigenous Maireener Shell Necklace19th C


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Collection No. Tasmania Shell Necklaces
Size Length 87cm as a necklace or 174cm as a single strand
Oceanic Arts Australia buys and sells tribal New Guinea art

A Superb Old Australian Tasmanian Indigenous Maireener Shell Necklace from the 19th Century 

This very beautiful Shell Necklace is made from the tiniest Shells by the indigenous women of Tasmania. The Necklace is made from the Maireener Shells or Rainbow Kelp Shells.  These iridescent shells were collected, dried, and strung into necklaces by Tasmania indigenous Women from ancient times until today.

Dating from the Victorian period in the mid to late 19th Century, they were very popular as souvenir memories from Tasmania and Australia in general.  These are strung on the strong cotton thread & are still in very good original condition.  Some of the colours like purple were dyed but the translucent shells are natural.

The National Museum of Australia  states

” Early European explorers remarked on the beauty of these treasures, and the esteem in which they were held. The French naturalist Jacques Labillardière, traveling with the d’Entrecasteaux expedition of 1791–94, observed women wearing ‘strings of brilliant pearly blue spiral shells upon their bare heads’.

In 1802 his countryman Jean-Baptiste Leschenault de la Tour, botanist on the Baudin expedition of 1800–04, was given a necklace ‘of small shells of glistening mother-of-pearl, threaded on a small cord made of bark and grass’ by a man from Bruny Island whom Leschenault thought was a chief.

The Baudin expedition artists Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas Petit both drew shell necklaces. Petit’s portrait of Baraourou, a young man from Maria Island, shows him wearing a tight necklace.  Other 18th and 19th-century images show Tasmanian Aboriginal people wearing necklaces, including a photograph taken around 1866 of the leader and spokeswoman Truganini, who also made necklaces.

After colonization, women started making longer necklaces. In 1835, Benjamin Duterrau sketched Tanleboneyer, ‘a native of the district of Oyster Bay’, and Bruny Island man Woorraddy, Truganini’s husband, with long strands looped around their necks.

Provenance: Old Collection Australia.  The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea Oceanic Art.

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