spear (general & multipurpose)

One piece spear of type ‘tala o le lo’, comprising a tip of six rows of three barbs, above twelve elements of doubly barbed triplets of spikes facing upwards and downwards. At two points in this succession of forms, the shaft thickens to a triangular prism, which is scored longitudinally and inlaid with lime. Mallon (2002; 96) writes “these spears were termed tala o le lo (the spine of the lo fish), and they were the most prized, due to the amount of work that was invested in making them”.

Barbed Spear, Tala o le Lo, Samoa, Western Polynesia This type of Samoan spear is named tala o le lo, meaning the barbed tail of the lo (Siganus vermiculatus, the Rabbitfish). Impressively carved from a single piece of the unique indigenous pau wood (Manilkara samoensis), the arrangement of barbs pointing both upwards and downwards ensured it was as deadly during removal as it was on the initial wounding. Perhaps more importantly, the forward-pointing barbs enabled the Samoan warrior (toa) to use his tala o le lo to parry and deflect other spear and club strikes in a way that other spear designs could not. Wood. Mid 19th Century. Formerly in the private collection of Captain A. E. Straw.


Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: enquiry@horniman.ac.uk