Stick chart, um 1900

About the object

Stick charts were navigational aids. The sticks depict currents, wave patterns and directions. The snail shells represent the exact location of the Marshall Island Group, which consists of two north-to-south chains of atolls. Stick charts were made in keeping with information passed on from generation to generation and the nautical experience of specialists.
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As a guide to sea voyages, Marshall Islanders made charts using bamboo sticks and shell or snail shells. There are different versions. Called mattang, the Marshall Islanders' stick charts are abstract and depict the currents around the islands and atolls. These fragile constructions were not taken on the voyages, but were used on land for training purposes. Rather than depicting specific relationships, they demonstrate the principles of navigation. In addition to basic knowledge about currents and wave patterns, marine specialists were well versed in astronomy and meteorology. This kind of knowledge was secret and navigators enjoyed high esteem in Marshallese society. This and other objects from Micronesia arrived in Freiburg via Eugen Brandeis, who was stationed on the island of Jaluit as governor on behalf of the German colonial government from 1898 until 1906. However, most of this ethnographic collection donated to the museum was collected by his wife Antonie Brandeis, who not only collected the objects, but also documented them in detail.

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