- Forks used to eat slain enemies sold for nearly £30,000 at auction
By ANNA EDWARDS
PUBLISHED: 07:40 EST, 9 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:31 EST, 9 January 2013
For such a revolting act, these cannibals were quite dainty when it came to eating their enemies.
Fijian tribesmen used this macabre set of forks to eat the bodies of rival warriors.
But despite their grisly background, these seven instruments have been sold for £30,000 at auction.
The pronged antiques date from the 19th century when tribal chiefs devoured their enemies after they had been killed.
Their bodies were brought back to the victors’ village by members of the tribe and served to the community and chiefs.
Tribal attendants would hand-feed sections of the meat to their leaders with the forks, which were only used on special occasions.
They were purchased 20 years ago by a collector of medieval weapons and tribal art.
As a collection, the forks were only estimated to fetch £1,600, but demand soared for the gruesome items and they sold to individual collectors for a total of £29,440.
THE BLOOD CURDLING HISTORY OF CANNIBALISM
Cannibalism was practised in Fiji for centuries – but faded away in the late 19th century after Christianity was introduced and British colonial rule imposed.
To eat an enemy was to inflict the ultimate humiliation on the island, known as the Cannibal Isles.
Some victims were kept alive while their body parts were sliced off and cooked in front of them.
Skulls were used as drinking bowls, and sexual organs were hung from trees as trophies of victory in battle.
Rev Thomas Baker was murdered, cooked and consumed while trying to spread Christianity in Fiji’s rugged highlands in July 1867.
Legend has it that Mr Baker, a Methodist minister born in Playden, Sussex, was murdered after breaking a taboo by taking a comb from a chief’s hair.
But historians say the real reason was resistance to the spread of Christianity and complex tribal politics
James Bridges, director of auctioneers Martel Maides in Guernsey, said: ‘The forks came in from a local collector who collects tribal art and medieval weapons.
‘He purchased them from another collector in the Midlands 20 years ago and we don’t know where they came from before that.
‘They were used in the 19th century and you can see they have significant age from the patina and colour where they have been handled and used.
‘It’s an extraordinary thing to be able to see so many at once for a collector. Some only see three or four in their lifetime but we had seven in our collection.
‘The tribal chiefs and elders were not allowed to feed, they had to be fed by attendants and that’s what these forks would have been used for, including cannibalism.
‘Part of the tradition was that when they had fights or wars with rival tribes the resulting people who were killed would have been brought back and they would have been eaten.
‘I believe it wasn’t just the tribal elders who would have taken part in the cannibalism, the whole village would have.
‘The forks were kept in smoky huts and seen as sacred objects. They would have represented the power of the tribal chief.
‘It was very exciting in the saleroom, there were sharp intakes of breath as the prices rose and at one point it seemed like everyone’s hands were up.
‘The vendor was completely over the moon and was absolutely speechless with the result.’