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Currently shown

Necklace (lei niho palaoa)

Location

HAWAII

Culture

Kanaka Maoli

Title

Necklace (lei niho palaoa)

Date

Early 19th c.

Materials

Ivory, hair, vegetable fibre

Dimensions

44 x 15 x 5.8 cm

Credits

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

Collection

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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