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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vols. II - IIIVoyaging Accounts
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20 September 1770

Endeavour Voyage Maps
James Cook
Joseph Banks

New Guinea to Savu


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New Guinea to Savu (continued)

Almost all the men had their names traced upon their arms, in indelible characters of a black colour, and the women had a square ornament of flourished lines, impressed in the same manner, just under the bend of the elbow. We were struck with the similitude between these marks, and those made by tattowing in the South Sea islands, and upon enquiring into its origin, we learnt that it had been practised by the natives long before any Europeans came among them; and that in the neighbouring islands the inhabitants were marked with circles upon their necks and breasts. The universality of this practice which prevails among savages in all parts of the world, from the remotest limits of North America, to the islands in the South Seas, and which probably differs but little from the method of staining the body that was in use among the ancient inhabitants of Britain, is a curious subject of speculation †

The houses of Savu are all built upon the same plan, and differ only in size, being large in proportion to the rank and riches of the proprietor. Some are four hundred feet long, and some are not more than twenty: they are all raised upon posts, or piles, about four feet high, one end of which is driven into the ground, and upon the other end is laid a substantial floor of wood, so that there is a vacant space of four feet between the floor of the house and the ground. Upon this floor are placed other posts or pillars, that support a roof of sloping sides, which meet in a ridge at the top, like those of our barns: the eaves of this roof, which is thatched with palm leaves, reach within two feet of the floor, and over-hang it as much: the space within is generally divided lengthwise into three equal parts; the middle part, or center, is inclosed by a partition of four sides, reaching about six feet above the floor, and one or two small rooms are also sometimes taken off from the sides, the rest of the space under the roof is open, so as freely to admit the air and the light: the particular uses of these different apartments, our short stay would not permit us to learn, except that the close room in the center was appropriated to the women.

In the account which Mr. Bossu has given of some Indians who inhabit the banks of the Akanza, a river of North America, which rises in New Mexico, and falls into the Mississippi, he relates the following incident: "The Akanzas, says he, have adopted me, and as a mark of my privilege, have imprinted the figure of a roe-buck upon my thigh, which was done in this manner: an Indian having burnt some straw, diluted the ashes with water, and with this mixture, drew the figure upon my skin; he then retraced it, by pricking the lines with needles, so as at every puncture just to draw the blood, and the blood mixing with the ashes off the straw, forms a figure which can never be effaced." See Travels through Louisiana, vol, i. p. 107.

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© Derived from Vols. II-III of the London 1773 edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, pages 680 - 680, 2004
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