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Early 20th C. Maori Nephrite Hei Tiki Pendant

Oceania, New Zealand, Maori, ca. early 20th century CE. A fine, hand-carved nephrite (a form of jade) hei tiki pendant of a deep emerald-green hue depicting an abstract anthropomorphic figure. The figure is genderless; hei tiki are either female or without visible signs of gender. The arms and legs are circular in form and curved behind the figure, each with a small perforation, as well as finely-incised lattice details which denote the figure's belt, loincloth, and body hair. The striking head is tilted to the left and boasts incised circular eyes, a triangular nose, a smiling mouth with full lips, and well-defined cheeks. A small drilled hole through the top of the head supports a small brass suspension loop. Custom lucite display stand included. Size: 0.9" W x 1.625" H (2.3 cm x 4.1 cm); 2.2" H (5.6 cm) on included custom stand.

In Polynesian culture including the Maori, the word "tiki" means carved human figure, possibly originating from the myth of Tiki, the first man. Tiki are common through Polynesia, but the hei tiki is uniquely Maori. The shape, replicated for nearly all hei tiki, is probably because these are made from adze blades. Examples of half-carved hei tiki/adzes have been found, and sometimes on completed tiki a portion of the original cutting surface remains. The nephrite stone was carved into prestige goods in pre-European New Zealand and the Maori name for the South Island, Ti Wai Pounamu, refers to the stone because it is sourced from there. Since contact with Europeans, the hei tiki have become symbols of the Maori people and by extension of New Zealand -- Air New Zealand passengers in the 1960s and 1970s received small hei tiki pendants, and photos from the Beatles 1964 tour of the country show them wearing them around their necks.

Condition: Minor abrasions across obverse and reverse faces and fading to some incised details, otherwise intact and very good.

Provenance: private Southern California, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s to mid-1980s

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