Tiki belonging to Captain Cook

New Zealand, probably 18th century AD

This Maori tiki, or neck ornament, is thought to have been owned by Captain James Cook, and was almost certainly received by him as a personal gift. It is probably one of a number of gifts that Cook subsequently made to King George III - the royal patron for his voyages.

This tiki, in the form of a human figure, is made from nephrite, a form of jade. The eyes are inlaid with rings of haliotis shell. It has a neck cord of New Zealand flax and a bone toggle to secure it. A tiki was an heirloom passed from one generation to the next, or presented to important visitors. Cook and his crew acquired a number of personal ornaments, including nephrite ear pendants and whale tooth neck pendants.

This example is very similar to one in a drawing in the British Library by one of Cook's artists, Herman Diedrich Spöring. It bears the handwritten description 'An Amulet' and the details 'Hawke's- Bay [in North Island], New Zeeland, Oct: 18 1769'. If indeed this is the same tiki, it indicates that it was acquired on Cook's First Voyage (1768-71).

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Tiki belonging to Captain Cook

© 2003 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


More information


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

A.L. Kaeppler, Artificial Curiosities: being (Honolulu, Bernice P. Bishop Museum, 1978)

R. Joppien and B. Smith, The Art of Captain Cooks Voyag (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1985)


Length: 7.000 cm

Museum number

On loan from the Royal Collection, Copyright H.M. Queen Elizabeth II .

Collected on one of the voyages of Captain James Cook


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