Oceania / Polynesia, Hawaii, Mokumanamana (Necker Island), ca. 1400 to 1815 CE. A haunting, hand-carved, dark volcanic stone religious idol with an anthropomorphic form, from one of the most remote and fascinating parts of pre-contact Hawaii. The figure appears to be a human with his or her arms wrapped around the shoulders and his or her legs drawn up to the waist. The legs and arms stand out in high relief on the cylindrical torso. The head is rough, with a sunken face, characterized by deepset depressions for eyes, a slightly raised nose and browline, and a small indentation for the mouth. Size: 2.75" W x 5.4" H (7 cm x 13.7 cm); 7.25" H (18.4 cm) on included custom stand.
Mokumanamana is one of the most remote places in the world, located one hundred and fifty miles west of Nihoa, and three hundred miles northwest of the main Hawaiian archipelago. The island has no trees and no arable soil, although it does support abundant sea bird life, notably the blue noddy. Despite all this, fifty-five archaeological sites have been found on the island, of which thirty-three are heiau, religious shrines containing stone images like this one. Who or what they commemorate is not known, but we can make some educated guesses. During this time period, researchers believe that Mokumanamana became an important religious center, perhaps in commemoration of the Shark God Kamohoali'I, brother of the volcano goddess Pele, who were said to journey together to Hawaii from the west - thus making the westernmost part of the Hawaiian archipelago a sacred place associated with the gods. Hawaiians may have traveled to Mokumanamana to gather bird feathers and eggs and to pray at the heiau. However, this is just one hypothesis. Mute stone images like this one do not seem likely to yield their secrets any time soon!
Provenance: private Newport Beach, California, USA collection; ex-Harvey Hitchcock family collection, Molokai, Hawaii, USA; ex-Baldwin family collection
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Significant smooth patina on surface from age and handling, with weathering to the volcanic stone that has led to some loss of detail. Light deposits, especially in lower profile areas. Form is clear.