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The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.


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The natives of Funafuti use carved wooden box-tubs to hold food, fish-hooks, tobacco, or other small articles when on a canoe journey or a fishing excursion. In travelling these are stowed forward or aft under the decking, but when at anchor fishing, are frequently hitched by the cord over a thwart within reach of the fisherman. The lids with which these are fitted close so tightly as to keep the contents dry even if the canoe be swamped with water. The lid is so strung that it can be raised and slipped over the box, but not entirely detached. In shape and size these box-tubs have a general resemblance to the familiar "billy," of the Australian bushman.

Captain Hudson observed on Fakaafu:—"Boxes or buckets of various sizes, from the capacity of a gill to that of a gallon; they are cut out of the solid wood, and the top or lid is fitted in a neat manner. These are used to keep their fish-hooks and other small articles in to preserve them from the wet."*

One of these box-tubs is figured with details by Edge-Partington as from Samoa; he writes of it:—"Box and cover of pale wood, stout plaited cord. Labelled, ' a provision-tub, to be carried under the canoe in the water,'" which label is obviously absurd. There are numerous references in literature to the wooden boxes of the Polynesians, but I have not noted any other than the foregoing sufficiently full to distinguish the type under discussion from other forms of boxes, for example, the lavishly decorated caskets of the Maoris, occuring in the Pacific.

Three expressions of the box-tub were secured on Funafuti, where the article is known as "tourouma." The largest specimen in the collection weighs three pounds eight ounces, and has a capacity of a hundred and forty-one cubic inches, stands seven inches high, and is nine inches in basal diameter; like the rest of the series, it appears to be made of Calophyllum timber. In general it so closely corresponds with the illustrations above-cited from the Ethnographical Album that it is not necessary to draw it; from the Samoan specimen it differs in a less number of feet, possessing but ten equally spaced triangular supports, of less breadth than their interstices.

The lid is secured in a particularly ingenious way, it is "rabbeted on" so that the rim of the lid is outside flush with the wall of the box and inside fits against the flange of the box. The latter being slightly undercut, it is necessary to press the cover home. The lid only shuts in one position, and when down can be more securely fixed by slightly rotating it. The other specimens close in a simpler manner, so that it is possible that the shutting page 297of the largest box is more a matter of accident than of design. This box is further exceptional in having a square piece of wood neatly let into the centre J of the floor. Probably the tree which furnished the material was decayed at the core, and it was thus that the defect was remedied.
Fig. 63.

Fig. 63.

Two similar specimens vary from the foregoing in having no supports beneath, and no cleat on the summit of the lid. Instead the lugs on the box are continued into a pair on the lid, which latter is perfectly flat above. Both pairs are pierced by holes which continue from the lid through the box and through which a cord of Broussonetia is rove, these lugs serve therefore as running cleats. The taller box-tub is drawn on fig. 63 as open and closed, with the under aspect of the lid apart; the closed one is seen to be fastened in the native fashion by twisting the cord round the side. It is seven inches high, six and a half in basal diameter, weighs two pounds, and has a capacity of ninety-seven cubic inches, the sides are straight but the bottom is somewhat rounded. The other specimen differs in proportions and in having a flat base. It is five and three-quarter inches both in height and in basal diameter, and five and a half inches in least diameter across the lid, weighs one pound fifteen ounces, and contains fifty-nine cubic inches.

A third form of tourouma, shown by fig. 64, is intermediate in features between the others. It has a central running cleat on the lid like the first described, but those on the box are set half-way down the side and at right angles to those previously con- • sidered. The base is fairly flat and without feet. The lid has without a bevelled edge, and within a central excavation and a sub-marginal groove to receive the flange of the box. This box-tub is taller in proportion to breadth than the others and also tapers more upwards. From base to top of cleat is eight inches, the base is six and a half inches in diameter, and the top five and a half. It weighs one pound eleven ounces, and holds seventy-five cubic inches.
Fig. 64.

Fig. 64.

* Wilkes—loc. cit., v., p. 18.

Edge-Partington—loc. cit., ii., pl. xl. fig. 8.