Chest ornament

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Registration number
Item name
Chest ornament 
Indigenous name
Associated cultural group
Pacific > Papua New Guinea > New Ireland Province > Kavieng District > Mussau (Stormy) Island
Mr White 
Acquisition date
October 01, 1949 
Acquisition method
Donated by Mr White 
Raw material
clam shell (Tridacna sp.), turtle shell, plant fibre string
H: 220 mm W: 79 mm L: D: 5 mm Circum:


Item 3849 is an object of personal decoration which consists of three parts – a shell disc (possibly giant clam) as a base; an overlay of openwork carving; and string. The carving lies flat on top of one side of the shell disc, and is loosely fixes by a string through a hole in the approx centre of both the carving and the disc. The circumference of the shell disc is approx. 250 mm. Slightly convex in shape, the max thickness is no more than 3 mm. The colour of the base is a neutral tone, an off-white creamy – beige. Its surface is smooth and has a dull shine. The carved overlay (possible from the ventral plate of the Hawksbill turtle) has a circular shape. Its circumference is approx 162 mm and its thickness is less the 1 mm. It appears to be a single piece. The pattern is made up of an inner circle ringed by three bands and a border. The inner circle displays a pattern called ‘mataling’. This is comprised of a small (diameter of 11 mm) circle with four elongated ovals, or petals radiating from it at right angles. These petals are 9mm long and bisected by a bar across their width. The first band to encircle the inner circle is 2 mm wide and has four bars across it where it meets the petals. The second band is slightly irregular. Its width varies from 4 to 6 mm. The third band is also irregular, varying in width between 4 and 5 mm. The irregular bands display patterns from tapered triangles, to more obtuse ones, and some resembling pentagons. The string which attaches the openwork carving to the shell disc is 189 mm long, 27 mm of which is a single strand, while the rest of this is quadruple. It is knotted at the front. One the end of the string is a small shell (perhaps a cone shell). It is white with brown spots, 12 mm long and conical in shape [Jane Willcock 1999].

Research notes

From the UQ Anthropology Museum exhibition 'Musical Landscapes of Lihir' March - August 2013, curated by Dr Kirsty Gillespie and the Lihir Cultural Heritage Association with Dr Diana Young.

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