Rain cloak of New Zealand flax [JU 01/11/2013]
Place details: OCEANIA POLYNESIA. New Zealand. Cultural Group: Maori Local Name: Unknown. Materials: Flax (NZ) Plant / ?. Processes: Finger Woven / Twined Woven / ?. Colour: Brown Dimensions: L (approx.) = 980 mm (max) W = 1050 mm (max) Field Collector: Johann Reinhold Forster and/or George Forster When Collected: 1773 or 1774 (between 26 March and 11 May 1773, or between 18 May and 7 June 1773, or between 3 November and 25 December 1773; or between 16 October and 10 November 1774) Other Owners: Johann Reinhold Forster and George Forster; from late January 1776, Ashmolean Museum PRM Source: Ashmolean Museum Acquired: Transferred 19 April 1886 Other Numbers: Forster 107 PRM Image: CS113.4
KEYWORD: Cloak / CLASS: Clothing / Textile / ?.
Object description: The cloak is constructed with whatu (weft twining) technique. Thick warp threads of relatively unprocessed harakeke fibre have been twined together by single-pair weft-twining with a 30-35 mm space between the aho (wefts). At the top (neck) edge of the cape (the base in manufacture) the whenu (warps) have been turned and incorporated into the thatch. At the bottom of the cloak (the top in manufacture) there is a thrum commencement, leaving a fringe of fibres approximately 15 cm long before the first aho row (weft). There are 25 aho warp rows in total, with no shaping. The thatching is formed on the outside of the cloak by bundles of New Zealand flax (possibly with some kie kie, Freycinetia arboria) incorporated into the whatu weft. The bundles are attached in a chequered pattern for an even distribution of thatch with a distance between them of between 8 and 14 warp thread bundles. The bundles are formed by between 4 and 7 groups of leaves and fibres, which have been folded over and held by the whatu at the fold, creating two equal lengths of thatch fibres per group. From the neck down, 10 of the wefts have bundles attached with one clear weft between them, apart from bundle rows 7-8 and 9-10, which are attached on consecutive wefts. The top layer of thatching (i.e. at the top as the cloak is worn) is the longest at between 640 and 450 mm, decreasing to between 320 to 250 mm on the final layer of fibre bundles. The length of the cape measures between 940 and 980 mm from the top of the braid to the end of the thatching, and the width measures between 950 and 1050 mm from each red brown whenu tapiri (finished edge plait). The red-brown colour of the whenu tapiri may be derived from the bark of the tanekaha (celery pine). Along the neck edge some of the bundles are tied creating loops underlying the top-most thatch layer. At each end of the neck line two thin cords of plied muka are present; they don’t seem strong enough to be ties, or close enough to the edge of the cape. [Kloe Rumsey 2012; JU 01/11/2013]
Listed on page 7 of the manuscript 'Catalogue of Curiosities Sent to Oxford', thought to be in Georg Forster's hand, as no. 107 under the heading 'New Zeeland' and described as follows: 'A Shaggy great Coat'.
Original 'Forster' label thought to be in George Forster's hand - No 107.
Duncan Catalogue entry - South Sea Islands etc 236-257. Specimens of New Zealand matting, and cloths of flax.
Pre-PRM label - Phormium tenax No. 3 New Zealand Flax.
List of Anthropological objects transferred from the Ashmolean to the Pitt Rivers' museum 1886. New Zealand. Australian, S. Pacific Islands etc. [Vellum volumes] Volume II: Catalogue of the Australian New Zealand and Polynesian Collections in the Ashmolean Museum N.B. There are only forty objects from New Zealand and the South Sea Islands entered [insert] separately [end insert] in the printed catalogue of 1836 [insert] p. 184 [end insert] as belonging to Cook's collection given to the Ashmolean Museum by Reinhold Forster Esq the Naturalist during the second voyage, some of them have the peculiar number label this (No. 40) which is also on many other objects not ascribed to Forster. 1124 A New Zealand cloak, made by natives of fibres from their indigenous flax plant, Phormium tenax, (Forst.). It belongs to the natural family of the Liliaceae and the tribe Asparangacae. "It has a number of showy yellow flowers arranged on a tall branch-panicle, and a number of straightish leaves all starting from the root, and being five or six feet long, and not more than two inches wide at the broadest part." [insert] Wood's Nat: Hist: of Man. Vol: 2.p.121 [end insert]. This plant "resembles in its appearance and manner of growth, the flag, or iris; the long broad sword-shaped leaves furnishing the fibre so useful in making dresses for the natives, fishing lines, twine, and strong cordage". Ellis' "Polynesian Researches", vol:1,p.27. for the principle of making the various kinds of New Zealand mats, see Wood's "Nat: Hist: of Man.", vol: 2 p.p. 12-124. Size about 3 feet 4 inches by 3 feet 2. Captain Cook's collection 1772-1774. [insert] No. 107 [end insert]. Given by Reinhold Forster. Esq. Printed catalogue of 1836. p.185. No. 236-257. (From the Storeroom in the old Clarendon Building in 1880).
Additional entry in Vellum volume II - Trans to Anthrop Mus April 19th 1886 (1124)
Additional entry in Vellum volume II - There are also specimens of matting an cloths put down to him p. 185 but as mixed up with others given by Captain Gambier Captain Beechey J. Bigge Esq Rev: A Bloxam, etc.
Additional entry in Vellum volume II - 1124 Cook's original number label "No 107" on article in 1884
Stuck in vellum volume [before page 4 of volume I] - Captain Cook's Collection Trans. to Anthrop Collection from the Ashmolean April 19th 1886
Ashmolean label handwritten by Edward Evans, Assistant Keeper, shortly before the transfer to the Pitt Rivers Museum 1885-6, reads: '1124. New Zealand cloak, or Mat of coarse manufacture. Made of the native flax-plant (Phormium tenax, Forst.) Captain Cook's Collection, No. 107. Printed catalogue of 1836, p.185 No. 236-257. (From the storeroom in the Old Clarendon building, 1880) (See Ellis's 'Polynesian Researches' vol:1 p. 27. Also Wood's 'Nat: Hist: of Man', vol: 2 p.p. 122-124) Possibly one of the articles of dress mentioned by Cook in his 1st voyage vol: 2 p. 298, as got at Poverty Bay. For a full description of the New Zealand flax-plant and the uses it is applied to see Cook's 1st voyage. vol: 3 p. 39. And there coarse shag or thatch cloaks are mentioned p. 50. Also 3rd voyage vol: 1 p. 149 and dress p.p. 154.155.'
Ashmolean printed number - 1124.
Ashmolean Accession book entry - Objects transferred from the Ashmolean Museum to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1886 or later: '1124. New Zealand, Maori. Cloak of Phormium tenax. Capt. Cook coll. no. 107. Reinhold Forster.
Related Documents File - Report on plant ID by Caroline Cartwright, British Museum
Display history: Exhibited in the ‘permanent’ display of ‘the Captain Cook collection’ at the Pitt Rivers Museum, from circa 1900 to 1939. [JP 23/9/2002]
Publications history, trails & websites: Listed as No. 55 in 'Appendix: Description of Individual Garments' on pages 96/99 of The Maori Mantle, by H. Ling Roth (Halifax: Bankfield Museum, 1923), where it is described as follows: 'No. 55. Fig. 79. A coarse Rain Cloak. No. 107. Capt. Cook Collection, Pitt-Rivers Museum. The thatch is very grass-like and does not split up like the phormium of the body of the garment, and is rough to the touch. It is put on in batches of four to eight fringes or tags at intervals, in alternate positions on the twined rows numbered 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22 and 23, therefore practically on more than half. There is no worsted decoration.' See also detailed sketch published as figure 79 on page 98 and detailed dimensions in table on page 122. [JC 12 3 1999]
Listed according to the 'Forster list' numbering system in 'From the Islands of the South Seas 1773-4: An Exhibition of a Collection Made on Capn. Cook's Second Voyage of Discovery by J. R. Forster—A Short Guide (Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, no date ): '107. A Shaggy great Coat. Missing.' [unsigned [but NMM], undated; JC 28 8 2015]
Listed as number 19 under ‘New Zealand...Cloaks’ on page 171 of 'Artificial Curiosities': Being an Exposition of Native Manufactures Collected on the Three Pacific Voyages of Captain James Cook, R.N. at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, January 18, 1978 - August 31, 1978 on the Occasion of the Bicentennial of the European Discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by Captain Cook - January 18, 1778 (Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication 65), by Adrienne L. Kaeppler (Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1978): '14-19. Six cloaks, Oxford (102-107). Evidence: Forster collection. Second voyage. Literature: Gathercole, n.d. (1970) [see above]'. [JC 29 5 2000]
Published as part of the Forster Collection on a dedicated website at www.prm.ox.ac.uk/forster (from February 2001). [JC 7 7 2005]
Research notes: Additional note by Peter Gathercole (28/9/70) - Flax mat (skirt?) cloak? from N.Z. Forster 107. Very rare! Very fine. (Needs cleaning and even strengthening?) Labels still on it. P.G. [NM 24/3/97]
During a research visit by Ruth Port and Mandy Sunlight from New Zealand, both teachers of Maori weaving and plaiting on 26 and 27 July 2010 they said different types of flax are sought out for specific purposes. The outer part of the flax leaf is still attached - the puta acts as waterproofing and protection from the rain. Possibly a war cloak, but more likely worn everyday by everyone. The cloak is whatu aho patahi = single pair twined. [MJD DDF Body Arts Project 2010/2011 06/08/2010]
Samples of the plant material from the cloak were given to Caroline Cartwright of the Conservation and Scientific Research Department at the British Museum for identification [JU 13/12/2012] All of the samples were identified as New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax). See RDF for her report [JU 13/12/2013].
Surface swabs from the cloak were sent to Andrew Charlton at FERA for identification of pesticide residues [JU 11/04/2013] See RDF for his report [JU 01/11/2013]
The surface of the cloak was analysed by Dr Kelly Domoney of Cranfield Forensics Institute using an Oxford Instruments X-MET5100 handheld XRF. [JU 09/08/2013]