This wrist ornament has been formed into the shape of a turtle. The turtle has been simplistically rendered as only the feet, mouth and eyes have been defined. A hole runs through the centre of the body from side to side. Black human hair which has been plaited and knotted at one end, has been fed through the hole. The turtle is made from bone which is white in colour. A grey deposit covers much of the object causing some discoloration although the surface remains smooth and has a slight sheen. The eyes have been inlaid with turtle shell which is black in colour. The right foot has been chipped.
Context:Captain Cook's visits to Hawaii in 1778 and 1779 during his third voyage were the first made by European ships to the group, although trading vessels had been crossing the north Pacific between the Americas and the Orient since the sixteenth century. David Samwell, surgeon aboard Cook's ship the 'Discovery', observed that Hawaiian women he saw wore 'little Images of turtle made of bone on their Fingers like we do Seals, and some wear them on their wrists' (Beaglehole, 1967: 1180). Several turtle ornaments were collected at this time (Force and Force, 1968: 95; Kaeppler, 1978: 97) and although no collection history exists for the present example, it is closely comparable to documented turtles and certainly dates from this contact period. This turtle, an animal of ritual significance in many Polynesian cultures, is beautifully rendered here in bone (probably human), with features clearly defined and eyes inlaid with tiny pieces of turtle shell. The underside is pierced three times for bracelet cords of 8-ply braided human hair, a highly valued material, which may have been provided by the locks which were cut off during mourning for an eminent person or after a woman's marriage or first childbirth.
Source:In: Steven Hooper (ed.). 1997. Catalogue to the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. University of East Anglia.
|Type of object:||Bracelet|
|Type category:||Costume and jewellery|
|Date range:||1750-1799 CE|
|Current accession number:||UEA 196|
|Former accession number:||-|
|Record date:||Thu, 1st Jan 1970|
|Copyright:||Copyright© by the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich, 2002. All Rights reserved|