Neck Ornament

Collection Type

  • Jewelry

Date

ca. 1830

GUSN

GUSN-102953

Description

Hawaiian "lei niho palaoa" neck ornament with a large, carved ivory pendant attached to many strands made from tightly braided human hair. Worn only by men and women of the elite class - ali'i - lei niho palaoa were potent symbols of status and sacred power.\n

Details

Descriptive Terms

necklaces
human hair
ivory (tooth component)
tusk
Necklace

Label

"Mementos: Jewelry of Life and Love from Historic New England": Only men and women of the nobility (ali'i) would have worn this neck ornament (lei niho palaoa). According to Stephen Willard Phillips, the ornament was originally acquired before 1830 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Phillips, born on Oahu and a devoted collector of Hawaiian material culture, acquired this example from a collector in 1917.

Each of the two sections of the lei is made from braided human hair. According to traditional Hawaiian belief, mana, sacred power based on one's ancestral lineage, is seated in the head. This ornament made from hair would have conferred that power to its wearer.

Inscription

Note on index card: "Hawaiian Necklace - Palaoa, 191 strands (underlined)/ 'Niho Palaoa' or a necklace of human hair/ These ''palaoas'' carved whale ivory and/ mounted as this one on a necklace of/ braided human hair of many strands/ were a sort of insignia of the cheifs and/ always worn. Ones as large as this are/ very rare and rarely found perfect as/ they break easily if dropped./ Brought from Honolulu before 1830./ From the Reynolds collection 1917." (Two notes, one on brown paper wrapping, black ink, one on wihite lined index card.)
Note on brown paper: "HAWAIIAN/ NIHOA PALOA/ or Necklace/ Very Rare/ SW Phillips" (handwritten)

Associated Building

Original to Phillips House (Salem, Mass.),

Additional Identification Number

2406

Maker

Unknown

Location of Origin

Pacific Island Group

Dimensions

8 1/8 x 1 7/8 (HxW) (inches)

Credit Line

Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation

Accession Number

2006.44.420

Reference Notes

Volume 9, No. 1

Date

ca. 1830 (or earlier)

Places

Hawaii (United States)

Related Items

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