An important ivory, human hair and indigenous cordage necklace, lei niho palaoa, Hawaiian Islands
length 13 1/2in; length of hook pendant 4 1/2in
Composed of multiple finely braided strands of human hair threaded through a marine ivory hook of large proportions and pierced for attachment; the pendant with rich, creamy, honey-brown patina. The braided hair bundles in this example are much thicker and fuller than normally found.
For a discussion of the lei niho palaoa, see Cox & Davenport, page 41: "Of all the specialized forms invented by Polynesian sculptors, the curving tongue shape in the aumakua images of Hawaii is the most striking and significant abstraction. In its ultimate abstract shape, it is translated into the whaletooth ornament, lei niho palaoa. The form occurs in several variations on the head crests of images, drum base designs, helmets and as a two-dimensional pattern on the feather capes and cloaks. A number of meanings might easily be applied to it as a pure symbol. It is well known that the lei niho palaoa was a badge of rank, its use strictly limited to the ali'i. Malo names the lei palaoa as the object of second greatest value in ancient Hawaii, second only to the feather capes and cloaks (1951:77)."
David Belden Lyman Family Collection, Hilo, Hawaii
David Belden Lyman (1803-1884) was an important Hawaiian Protestant missionary who arrived in Hilo in 1832 as a member of the Fifth Company of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM), and served as a minister there for over 50 years until his death. He founded the Hilo Boys' Boarding School in 1836, and built a spacious home in 1838 which survives until today as an important museum and one of the oldest wooden structures in the islands.