"Currency Tambu Culture Tolaï, Bismarck Archipelago, New Britain"EXCHANGE CURRENCY Tambu
Tolaï Culture, Gazelle Peninsula, Bismarck Archipelago, New Britain
First half of the 20th century
Nassa shells and plant fibers
Diameter: 32.5 cm
Important Tambu exchange currency composed of a circular structure in wickerwork of vegetable fibers and pearls of white nassa shells (nassariida shells). These shells, after having been collected on the shore or in the seabed, were dried in the sun and then separated from their pointed end to give them an annular shape. They were then threaded onto strips of fibers and assembled on several floors to form a solid ring of large diameter.
These traditional compositions, which can be found in different diameters, were considered as exchange currencies: the larger the object, the more its value increased. It could be used to settle territory or sometimes be offered to the family of a young bride as compensation. Members receiving a Tambu could segment it into units according to their daily needs.
These coins were kept in a foil wrapper for protection.