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Necklace (lei niho palaoa)




Kanaka Maoli


Necklace (lei niho palaoa)


Early 19th c.


Ivory, hair, vegetable fibre


44 x 15 x 5.8 cm


Gift of F. Cleveland Morgan, inv. 1962.Pc.1


Archeology and World Cultures

Both men and women of high rank wore this type of necklace to indicate their noble status. The use of finely braided human hair increased the supernatural power (mana) of the necklace and the person who wore it. For its part, the shape of the pendant alluded to a hook, tongue, or the ho’aka crescent, a vehicle of mana. Long ago, the pendants were made from coral or shell; one such example dates from 800-1000 C.E. In the early nineteenth century those materials were replaced by ivory, which had become more easily available due to the use of whale teeth and walrus tusks as trade goods by European and North American whalers.

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