Shark hook

Hawaii, probably 18th century AD

Captain Cook and his crew visited the Hawaiian Islands twice in 1778 on his Third Voyage. This was the first time Europeans had visited the islands. Cook's arrival coincided with celebrations devoted to Lono, the god of agriculture and rain; Cook was received with great respect as the Hawaiians believed him to be an incarnation of the deity. He was presented with numerous gifts befitting someone of high status, including a feathered helmet and cloaks. Cook and several Hawaiians were killed on 14 February 1779 during a skirmish resulting from a misunderstanding. Although there is no firm evidence, it is thought that this hook was collected on Cook's Third Voyage.

Shark hooks - larger than those for other types of fishing - are made either from a single piece of bone (whalebone or, in some instances, human bone) or a bone point lashed onto a branch of a hard wood tree that has been trained to grow into a suitable curve. The finely woven covering over the lashing connecting the hook and line is characteristic.

Hawaiian shark hooks were owned by high-ranking men, and shark fishing was a popular sport of the Hawaiian chiefs. Shark teeth were used to provide very sharp edges on various types of weapons, including long daggers, short clubs and knuckle-dusters. Drum membranes were made from shark skin. Shark skin was sometimes used as a form of sandpaper to finish wooden carvings.

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More information


P.H. Buck, Arts and crafts of Hawaii (Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press, 1957)

H. Cobbe (ed.), Cooks voyages and the peoples (London, British Museum Publications, 1979)


Length: 23.000 cm

Museum number

AOA Ethno HAW 62


Possibly collected on Cook's Third Voyage (1778-79)


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