A 19th century wooden paddle from the Austral Islands covered with intricately carved decorative motifs is set to be one of the highlights of Tennants Auctioneers’ Militaria and Ethnographica Sale on 30th June. The Austral Islands are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia, and such paddles were traded with Europeans who visited the islands on whaling ships during the first half of the century; it has been conjectured that they developed from earlier ceremonial paddles. The paddle is highly decorated, with crisply-carved repeating motifs including ‘toothed suns’, which comprise concentric circles surrounded by ‘niho’ or triangular teeth, a feature prominent in Austral Islands carving. Indeed, many such paddles would have been carved using sharks’ teeth. The pommel at the top of the shaft is encircled by stylised figures wearing alternating headdresses, and the paddle is offered with an estimate of £2,500-3,500 plus buyer’s premium.
Also hailing from Oceania is a 19th century Fijian Ula or throwing club (estimate: £700-800). The club has a large compressed globular head deeply carved with a band of raised diamond motifs and the top is inset with a star panel made of marine ivory. Such weapons were usually made from a type of ironwood, were either thrown as a missile or used in the hand as a club and were highly effective weapons.