Image: Mortar and pestle,Samoa E74126

Mortar and pestle,Samoa E74126

Local name: tanoa tu’i koko

Provenance, Samoa, Polynesia, Pacific

While the use of wooden bowls in food preparation was commonplace in Samoa, little use is made of pounding with the result that no food pounders of a permanent type, either in wood or stone, were made. This mortar and pestle are probably for grinding cocoa beans, not a traditional activity. Since the introduction of the cocoa plant, Samoans have taken to roasting and grinding the beans to make their own beverage, as well as selling beans to traders.
Food bowls were once called ‘umete to distinguish them from kava bowls which were known as tanoa, but this distinction of names has broken down. Nowadays, all wooden bowls are tanoa and bowls are distinguished through qualifying terms to denote the use to which the bowl was put: hence tanoa (bowl) tu’i (to pound or mash) koko (cocoa beans). Usually the pounder is a naturally-shaped river stone but, in this case, it is made from the same wood. Bowls are generally cut from a solid piece of wood and then shaped with a metal-bladed adze. This object was donated to the Australian Museum in 1976, although it was originally collected in 1961.

Description: oval-shaped, brown, wooden mortar with thick handle and round base; diameter of hole 8cm; flat top surface decorated with some incised decoration; brown, wooden pestle, slightly tapering; oval-shaped in cross-section; curved and smooth working face.

Pestle length: 21cm;p

Mortar height: 10cm; length: 22.5cm; width: 11.5cm


Emma Furno
© Australian Museum

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