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Body armour and spear


The Gilbert Islands (in the Republic of Kiribati) are densely populated, and the islanders depend for their livelihood primarily on coconuts, pandanus and the products of the sea. Disagreements among so many people were once common, and often settled by armed combat between two warriors. Young boys, from an early age, were instructed in the arts of war, in particular how to handle swords and knives, the edges of which were lined with sharks’ teeth.

Special clothing, made from coconut fibre and woven into a suit of armour, protected the combatants. The dried skin of a Puffer Fish made an adequate helmet to protect the head during combat, while dried shark and ray skin provided protection for other exposed parts of the body.

Helmet (c. 1850)
 Helmet (c. 1850)

 Chest armour (c. 1850)

 Spear (c. 1850)


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Helmet (c. 1850), Puffer Fish
Dimensions H 34 x diam. 27 cm
Registration No. X 3093
Image source: Museum Victoria

© Museum Victoria Australia