Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Feathered helmet (mahiole)
Probably pre-19th century AD
This helmet consists of a basketry framework made from the split aerial rootlets of the 'ie'ie (Freycinetia arborea). The main area of the exterior has been covered with olona (Touchardia latifolia) fibre braids, to which tiny bundles of feathers have been attached. The main part is decorated with concentric bands of red, black and yellow, and the lower edge has a striped binding of yellow, red and black feathers. A Hawaiian man wearing a similar helmet was illustrated by John Webber, one of Captain Cook's official artists.
Thick feathered bands were worn around the lower edge of helmets, though it is not clear how popular these were, as few examples survive. A painting by Webber shows a man wearing one over his helmet, giving it the appearance of a turban or a brimmed hat.
P.H. Buck, Arts and crafts of Hawaii (Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press, 1957)
W.T. Brigham, Hawaiian feather work (Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press, 1899)