Necklace (Lei Niho Palaoa), Hawai’i


Necklace (Lei Niho Palaoa), Hawai’i, early to mid-19th century, ivory, human hair, fiber, 4 1/4 x 16 in. / 10.8 x 40.6 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979.206.1623). Speakers: Dr. Maia Nuku, Evelyn A. J. Hall and John A. Friede Associate Curator for Oceanic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Dr. Beth Harris.

This spectacular necklace pairs human hair with a sperm-whale tooth. Chiefs wore it to assert their divine right.

Additional resources:

This work at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Oceania on The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Smarthistory images for teaching and learning:

More Smarthistory images…

Cite this page as: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Maia Nuku, "Necklace (Lei Niho Palaoa), Hawai’i," in Smarthistory, January 17, 2017, accessed September 29, 2023,