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Date: c 1994
Overall: 45 mm, 0.75 kg
Display Dimensions: 45 mm
Medium: Earthenware
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Mortar
Object No: 00018179
Place Manufactured:Takalar

User Terms

    This mortar (which, along with the pestle, is known as cobe cobe) is unglazed and was manufactured in Takalar, a village in Indonesia that specialises in terra cotta utensils. It is representative of the design used by Macassan traders and carried on fishing and trading boats to grind spices for daily meals.

    SignificanceThis object is representative of the presence of Macassan traders in northern Australia.

    HistorySince at least the 17th century Macassan traders from Indonesia were coming to the shores of northern Australia on an annual basis to harvest trepang (sea cucumbers, beche de mer) - a delicacy favoured throughout Asia, particularly in China. At the time, Macassan traders were travelling in the most technologically advanced vessels seen in Australian waters.

    In their prahus (also spelled perahu) they sailed down during the monsoonal wet season and returned at the start of the dry season to trade with Dutch and Chinese merchants. They also collected and traded other marine products such as pearls, pearl shell, trochus shell, fish, turtle shells and meat. This trade started to decline at the turn of the 20th century when the Australian government introduced customs taxes and license fees as a deterrent.

    The contact between the local Indigenous people, the Yolngu and the Macassans had an impact on both cultures in aspects of art, trade, technology, language, economy and even marriage. The Macassan visitors are remembered in Indigenous oral history, ceremonies and paintings depicting Macassan prahus.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Mortar

    Primary title: MORTAR

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