Maori, New Zealand, ca. 1st quarter of the 20th century CE. This is a well-carved deep green nephrite hei tiki, a carved Maori pendant depicting a human figure. The figure is genderless; hei tiki are either female or without visible signs of gender. It has three-fingered hands that rest atop the stomach and knee, and feet that are joined together as if crossed; the head is tilted to the right. Originally, it was made to be a pendant on a necklace. 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 green plastic replicas, and photos from the Beatles 1964 tour of the country show them wearing them around their necks. Similar pieces are in the British Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa (the Museum of New Zealand). Size: 4"L x 2-3/4"W x 1/2"H (10.2 cm x 7 cm x 1.3 cm).
Provenance: Ex-Private Santa Fe, NM collection
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