Octopus lure Tonga

Octopus lures
Octopus lures

Custodian: University of Glasgow Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery

Reference: GLAHM E.176

Octopus lures were used to attract octopus and so were made of cowrie shell to resemble shellfish. The shells were tied together loosely so that they might rattle against the rocks to attract the octopus from a distance. These octopus lures do not have a stone attached as a sinking weight as most do, however, large holes in the shells would let in water to weigh it down.

Polynesian tradition holds that Octopus lures are made in the shape of the octopus' mythical enemy, the rat, and so the shape attracts the octopus, which is seeking revenge for the rat's ingratitude after the octopus had helped him across the river.

The lures were initially catalogued as rattles and may be object no. 13 of Captain John Laskey's 1813 account of The Hunterian Museum.

Maker: not known

Materials: cowrie shells, whole and fragmented, with wooden stalk, coir binding and lure

Dimensions: 160 x 57mm (at widest point)