Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Length: 8.500 cm (figure)
Collected by Commander F.W.R
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks
Maori, probably 18th century
From New Zealand, Polynesia
This unusual Maori pendant is made from nephrite, a form of jade. This whitish variety of nephrite is known by Maori as inanga (‘whitebait') due to the colour resemblance. The ornament combines the form of the hei tiki, a pendant in the form of a stylized figure, and that of the hei matau, a pendant in the shape of a fish-hook. It has two perforations on the upper ends, the hole shown on the smaller head on the left having worn through. It has a suspension cord made of New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) which would be secured with the toggle of bird bone.
Commander F.W.R. Sadler received the pendant in 1834 as a gift from Titore (sometimes spelled Tetoro) a powerful Ngapuhi chief from the Bay of Islands, an area in the north part of North Island. Sadler's ship HMS Buffalo was a naval stores ship which between 1833 and 1835 sailed regularly between Sydney and the Bay of Islands, and Sadler and Titore established good relations. Titore wrote to King William IV in 1834 describing himself as ‘the friend of Captain Sadler'. Titore had previously spent time with the missionary Samuel Marsden, and acting on Marsden's suggestion, had visited England in 1817. Titore died in 1837. The British Museum received the ornament from Sadler's granddaughter, Miss B.S.M. Sadler, in 1896, along with a nephrite club, a bone flute, and a bone cloak pin.
D.C. Starzecka (ed.), Maori art and culture, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)
H. D. Skinner, The Maori hei-tiki, 2nd edition (Dunedin, Otago Museum, 1966)
T. Barrow, 'Two hei tiki-matau amulets', Journal of the Polynesian So-3, 70 (1961)