Wooden human figure

From Hawaii, Polynesia
Possibly 18th century AD

Hawaiians used to believe that their gods could be called upon to enter images, some of which were made of wood, in human form. Others were made from stone or basketry covered with featherwork.

Members of Captain Cook's third expedition (1776-80) visited Hale-o-Keawe, the royal mausoleum, at Honaunau, Hawaii in 1779. The account of the voyage, published after Cook's death, describes a figure, now believed to be this one, '... a black figure of a man resting on his fingers and toes, with his head inclined backwards; the limbs well formed and exactly proportioned, the whole beautifully polished ... and around it placed thirteen others of rude and distorted shapes ...'.

Hale-o-Keawe was also visited by the crew of HMS Blonde, commanded by Captain Lord Byron. Andrew Bloxam, their naturalist, wrote that this figure was used by the kings to rest upon before making a sacrifice as part of worship. He describes the removal of artefacts in 1824, which were transported to England. This figure was among them.

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More information


A.L. Kaeppler, 'Genealogy and disrespect: a study of symbolism in Hawaiian images', Res, 3, Published by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard (Spring 1982), pp. 82-107

J. Cook and J. King, A voyage to the Pacific Ocean,, 3 vols. (London, G.Nichol and T.Cadell, 1784)

J.H. Cox and W.H. Davenport, Hawaiian sculpture (Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1988)

A. Bloxam, Diary of Andrew Bloxam, natura (Honolulu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication no. 10, 1925)


Length: 67.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1657


Henry Christy Collection
Probably formerly owned by the United Service Museum


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