South Pacific, Caroline Islands, Palau (also Belau or Beluu), 19th century CE. Hand carved from a fine grained wood of gorgeous caramel hues, a treasure box for storing and protecting a woman's valuables. The lid of this heirloom box closes with elegant olona fiber and cowrie shell fasteners. This box was most likely created to safeguard a woman's Toluk - a tortoise shell dish used as currency on Palau. (See more about the Toluk in the extended description below.) Size (w/ lid): 18.4" L x 8.3" W x 7.75" H (46.7 cm x 21.1 cm x 19.7 cm)
A Toluk (meaning shallow tray) is a woman's coveted dish made from a large turtle shell. On Palau, an island located 500 miles east of the Philippines, the tortoise shell is a form of currency for the Belauan women. Interestingly, men and women have different forms of currency that are not to be exchanged between members of the opposite sex. Furthermore, this type of currency is highly valued and only exchanged between families during important milestones such as births, marriages, or deaths.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-Abe Rosman collection, New York, New York, USA, acquired between 1960s and 2000s
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Very light abrasions to body and lid, with minor fraying to some cords, otherwise intact and near-choice. Lustrous patina throughout. Old inventory number written in white ink beneath base.