Man's headdress (Pa'e Kaha)

From the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
Possibly 19th century AD

This prestigious headdress, worn by men, is of the type known as Pa'e Kaha. It consists of alternating plates of turtle-shell and white triton shell. Each plate is connected by coconut fibre string, threaded through drilled holes, to the plaited coconut fibre headband. The turtle-shell plates are carved in low relief with complete and partial human figures, called tiki in Marquesan. The human figure is often depicted in Marquesan art. Illustrations and descriptions contemporary with the early period of European contact indicate that the plates were worn downwards, somewhat surprisingly, as this inverts the figures. More recent versions replace the turtle-shell plates with a synthetic substitute.

Other ornaments from the Marquesas Islands include shell and turtle-shell forehead decorations mounted on a fibre headband, armlets and leglets of human hair, and ivory ear ornaments carved with human figures or faces.

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More information


J. Mack (ed.), Ethnic jewellery-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)

H.J. Braunholtz, 'Shell and turtle-shell coronet from the Marquesas Islands', The British Museum Quarterly, 9: 4 (1935), pp. 136-38

R. Linton, The material culture of the Ma (Honolulu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Memoir VIII, no. 5, 1923)

C. Ivory, 'The Marquesas Islands' in Art of the South Seas: The col (Munich, Prestel Verlag, 1999), pp. 332-41


Museum number

AOA 1934-3



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