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Maireener Shell Necklaces Tasmanian Indigenous People Australia


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Collection No. Tasmania Shell Necklaces
Size Length 80cm to120 cm
Maireener Shell Necklaces Tasmanian Indigenous People Australia
Maireener Shell Necklaces Tasmanian Indigenous People Australia
Maireener Shell Necklaces Tasmanian Indigenous People Australia
Maireener Shell Necklaces Tasmanian Indigenous People Australia

These beautiful Shell Necklaces were made by the indigenous women of Tasmania. The Necklaces are 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.

These five strands are 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 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, travelling 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 colonisation, 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 Oceanic Art.

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