These are large, heavy hardwood war clubs, circa 1880s with a genuine patina. They represent the two most important club types of the Gazelle Peninsula in New Britain, the primary club producing area. At over 4 feet (longest 142cm) long and weighing in at almost 3 kg each they would have required warriors of considerable strength to wield them effectively as fighting weapons.
The Parkinson photo (LEFT) shows there are three basic types of club from this area – all with conical terminals on the hand grip. There are two types of coastal Baining club - a long, slender spear shaped club, and the type with the bulbous head (numbers 1 and 2, 3 and 8, and one type from the Tumiup people who live further inland, which has a studded head, numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7). These clubs are examples of No 1. and No 8.
Possibly collected by a German settler in New Britain (then the German territory of New Mecklenburg) circa 1900. When Germany lost World War 1, all her Pacific possessions around PNG became League of Nations trust territories attached to British Papua and administered first by Britain then Australia. Many of the German settlers and officials had left before this happened, and many more sold up their plantations, businesses and tribal collections shortly after. These clubs were either purchased or “liberated” during this period, and this is how they ended up in Australia.
PINEAPPLE PANDANUS HEAD CLUB
Large and heavy 19th century war club with a faceted diagonal pineapple head, Tumiup people, Gazelle Peninsula, New Britain
Club B, from the inland Tumiup people, has a far more complex head than the Sulka club – with 10 rows of studs intersecting on the diagonal. Parkinson states that 10 rows is about as complex as these clubs get. (Interesting to note that the other versions, nos. 4, 5 and 6, have round edged knobbed projections rather than these sharp cut diamond shapes). This club is 127cm inches long, weighs 2.5 kg and has a shorter and sturdier point above the head and a shaft below the head tapering down to the conical butt finial. The studded head is 11 inches (28cm) long.