349 • Seven Hokata Shells

Solomon Islands, 19th century
Size: 14 cm – 6.7 cm

For smaller transactions in the Solomon Islands, too small for Bakia currency (see below), ground-down auger (Terebra) shells were used, which only took a few days to produce. One such shell was the standard payment for a night with a Solomon lady. Looking at these, one wonders whether size mattered. The lady would then either barter it next day in the market, or keep it until the following Sunday and deposit it in the collection plate at the evangelical church of the Melanesian Mission. It is to be hoped that these shell tokens allowed the missionaries in turn to enjoy the position of their calling. Hornshaw, from whose collection they came, was renowned as the first real expert on Aboriginal rock art in Australia.

Provenance: Bernard L. Hornshaw (1878–1937), archaeologist and collector