Fijian cannibal forks fetch £30,000 at auction

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2015-06-26 10:57:41

Fijian cannibal forks fetch £30,000 at auction

A macabre auction lot at Martel Maides’ January 10 sale, a set of wooden Fijian cannibal forks, have sold for almost £30,000.

The pronged tools were used when feasting on the bodies of rival warriors, and date from the 19th century, from a time when tribesmen devoured their enemies after killing them in battle.

The bodies would be brought to the victor’s village and served to the chiefs. Sections of the human flesh would be fed to the leaders by attendants, speared on the four sharp spokes of these forks, sacred objects brought out on special occasions and ritual feasts.

The chieftains were not permitted to touch their food for religious reasons, thus necessitating the use of these forks. The utensils represented the power of the tribal chief, and the eating of an enemy was considered to inflict the greatest humiliation.

Some victims were kept alive as they were eaten, as pieces of their bodies were sliced off and cooked in front of them. Skulls were used as drinking bowls.

Cannibalism was practiced in Fiji for centuries, but declined in the late 19th century as Christianity was introduced under British colonial rule. The influence of Christianity was not always successful – the Reverend Thomas Baker was murdered, cooked and consumed while attempting to preach to the heathens in 1867.

The seven grisly eating implements were valued at £1,600 as a set, but the keen appetites of bidders at the auction led to them being sold off individually, fetching a combined total of £29,440.

These were sold at Martel Maides alongside several sets of silver cutlery, less likely to have ever pronged a human eyeball.

 

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