- Museum number
Carved representation of human left hand, possibly for use by a priest or priestess; made of sophora (toromiro) wood.
- Production date
- late 18thC (before 1775?)
Length: 31 centimetres
Width: 10 centimetres
Depth: 3.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Wood identified as Sophora (toromiro) by Dr Paula Rudall, Head of Micromorphology, Jodrell Laboratory, Kew Gardens, during her analysis of woods used in Hawaiian and other Polynesian figures. Publication forthcoming.
Original Merlin description ascribed purpose of the hand as a 'handle (?)'. Jo Anne Van Tilburg (1994, p.121-122) states: 'The famous hand given or traded to Mahine by the Rapa Nui and then given to Forster, now in the collection of the British Museum, is perforated. Whether the perforation was meant to allow the hand to be hung in the house rafters for safekeeping or to be worn is not known...[discussion of it being a left hand, and the left side of the body being associated in Polynesia with noa, the night, dark, unsacred, female principles]. It is not unreasonable to suggest that this carved hand was part of the accoutrements of a Rapa Nui priest or priestess as healer or sorcerer.'
- On display (G1/fc22)
- Exhibition history
1979 – 1980 15 Feb-29 Sept, London, BM, Museum of Mankind, Captain Cook in the South Seas
2009-2010 28 Aug-28 Feb, Bonn, Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific
2010 10 May-13 Sept, Vienna, Museum of Ethnology, James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific
2010-2011 7 Oct-13 Feb, Bern, Historical Museum, James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific
- Acquisition notes
- Acquisition means and date uncertain (before 1777 ?). Said by J.Georg A.Forster in "A Voyage around the World" (1777), v.1, p.581, to have been presented by "Mahine, a Tahitian" to his (the writer's) father, "who in his turn made a present of it to the British Museum." See annotations on BM Ethnography Dept. registration Slips EP.32 and (Oceania) "No Number" 157. No reference found as yet in documentation of 18th century acquisitions. [CDMS staff entered the donor as "George Forster" in 1982; unclear where "George" derived from. (AMD,4/2000).]
Thought to be collected on Captain Cook's 2nd voyage, HMS 'Resolution' (1772-1775).
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
CDMS number: Oc,N/N.157 (Oceania "No Number" Slip (no. allocated by CDMS staff, 1982).)
Miscellaneous number: EP.32 (original Slip Register no.)