Wooden human figure


British Museum

British Museum

Hawaiians used to believe that their gods could be called upon to enter images, some of which were made of wood, in human form. Others were made from stone or basketry covered with featherwork.Members of Captain Cook's third expedition (1776-80) visited Hale-o-Keawe, the royal mausoleum, at Honaunau, Hawaii in 1779. The account of the voyage, published after Cook's death, describes a figure, now believed to be this one, '... a black figure of a man resting on his fingers and toes, with his head inclined backwards; the limbs well formed and exactly proportioned, the whole beautifully polished ... and around it placed thirteen others of rude and distorted shapes ...'.Hale-o-Keawe was also visited by the crew of HMS Blonde, commanded by Captain Lord Byron. Andrew Bloxam, their naturalist, wrote that this figure was used by the kings to rest upon before making a sacrifice as part of worship. He describes the removal of artefacts in 1824, which were transported to England. This figure was among them.

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  • Title: Wooden human figure
  • Date Created: 1750/1850
  • Physical Dimensions: Width: 38.50cm; Height: 44.00cm; Length: 63.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: Oc.1657
  • Production place: Made in Hawaiian Islands
  • Place: Found/Acquired Hawaii
  • Peoples: Made by Hawaiian
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: wood; pearlshell; human tooth; human hair
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Christy, Henry. Previous owner/ex-collection Royal United Service Institute