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Tally String

Object Number:P1009C
Current Location: Collections Storage
Provenience: Borneo
Materials:Plant Fiber
Length: 10 cm
Credit Line:Gift of Dr. William H. Furness 3rd., 1898


Tebuku. Piece of knotted string used as a tallying device. "This ‘tebuku’ (knotted cord) illustrates a custom among the Kayans and Kenyahs which, I think, is noteworthy. When they wish to make a record of days or of things, they do so by tying knots either in a thin strip of rattan or in a cord of bark-fibre; this strip is called a ‘tebuku.’ It was a source to me of never-failing wonder to note how accurately and for what a length of time the maker of the strip can remember what every knot represents. I have seen a ‘tabuku tali’ (‘tali’ here means strip) wherein there were possibly three hundred knots, recording every article seized in a raid on a long-house; every knot or group of knots represented an article or collection of articles, and the itemized list was read off months and months afterward by the man who tied the knots, and, for aught I know, he could have remembered them for years. Of course, none could read it but the man who made it." (Home-Life of Borneo Head-Hunters)


[Book] Furness, William H. 1902. The Home-Life of Borneo Head-Hunters: Its Festivals and Folk-lore.. Philadelphia. J. B. Lippincott & Co. Actual Citation : Page/Fig./Plate: p. 34View Objects related to this Actual Citation

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