Rare Fish Hook, Hawaiian Islands
makau iwi kanaka
Bone (probably human or dog)
height 1 1/4in (3.2cm)
Private Hilo Family Collection, Hawaii
According to Buck (1957: p. 326), "Small hooks made of human and dog bone resemble the small shell hooks in form. In a private collection obtained from a cave in Hawaii the majority have the incurved point. However, some with a straight point were probably used with line and rod, a form of fishing termed paeaea. The preferred bait was shrimp, but any small fry was useful. According to Malo (1951, pp. 208, 212) angling with rod, line, and hook was termed koi (Emerson, mokoi).
A larger hook made from human bone (makau iwi kanaka) was shaped from sections of long bone...Various forms of this hook, ranging from 38-45mm. in length and 17 to 20mm. in width, with a general thickness of 4mm., are illustrated...Two hooks are peculiar in that they retain the two side points left between the two holes drilled in the manufacture of the hooks. One (like the fishhook presented here) has an incurved point...Though these two hooks look peculiar in shape, they were an established form, as proved by their discovery in caves with old material. All show the inner concave surface of the bone, and the somewhat ridged appearance on each side is apparent."
The ancient Hawaiian process of manufacturing a fish hook was a lengthy process as evidenced by the variety of tools found with fish hooks. According to Emory (1968: p. 19), "At most of the sites where the early Hawaiians left fishhooks we found abandoned and broken tools for shaping, reshaping, and finishing the hooks. These include coral and lava saws and files, shell drill points, and coral balance wheels for the drills. The sawing and first filing were done mostly with coral saws and files, judging from their predominance in the excavations. Blocks of lava about 6 by 10 inches and 1 inch thick have led to the conclusion that they served for grinding the saws and files. Files or rasps for the finishing process are beveled spines of the slate-pencil sea-urchin."
The present work is an exceptionally fine example of the rare, double-pointed feature on the interior, giving it an elegant, graceful and almost animated appearance.