Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A Tongan Fishing Net

The Forster collection at the Pitt Rivers includes a fishing net from Tonga, 1886.1.1426.  It is No. 60 in the 'Catalogue of Curiosities sent to Oxford', where it is described as 'a fishing Net'. It is possible that the net has not been fully opened up in the museum before as its length has never been recorded.

The net photographed in 1970

The net when taken out of storage last week

Small coral stones, used as weights,  are tied to a coconut fibre cord which forms the bottom edge of the net. The top edge of the net uses coconut fibre cord to tie in pegs of a lightweight wood, possibly hibiscus,which act as floats.  The net was made from a fine, two-ply plant fibre cord with a netting needle. The mesh was knotted around a gauge which was used to keep the mesh size even and regular.

Detail of the mesh

This net would have been made communally by  a whole community, and would have been kept by the chief.

Last week I  opened the net up and stretched out to its full size, which is about 8m long by 1.1m wide.

The net stretched out in the lab

The main conservation issue with a net of this size is how to store it.  If they are folded, nets become tangled, and are not easily available for study.  We decided to attach the net, by sewing around the edges, to a conservation approved backing material and to roll it for storage.

The net after sewing to a backing fabric