How can unwritten histories of gender, and, in particular, colonial histories, be recovered? In this paper, emphasis is placed on unwritten albeit materialised traces of history. Instead of concentrating solely on texts and images produced by diverse European colonial agents, the focus of analysis consists in objects made by Papua women the pieces of bark cloth or maro that were made and used as loincloths by Humboldt Bay and Lake Sentani women. As a dress for initiated and married women only, maro was strongly associated with ideas about the female body. For European travellers and collectors, its presence as well as its absence, was linked to prevailing European notions about sexuality and civilisation. Yet bark cloth also reveals a localised dialogue between colonised women and men in interaction with predominantly male Europeans. This paper thus shows how a gendered colonial history is embodied in things.