Aborigines, Maoris and Hull's whaling industry

Hei-tiki neck ornament

This traditional Hei-tiki (sometimes referred to as Tiki) neck ornament originates from New Zealand. Hei-tiki is one of the most famous and recognisable forms of Maori jewellery. The word Tiki refers to Polynesian carvings of the human figure, Hei-tiki specifically refers to the carvings which are worn around the neck.


There are two theories as to what Hei-tiki figures represent, the first theory is they have the appearance of Tiki, the first man. Tiki is a charcter from Maori mythology, the myth states that Tiki created the first human being to look like himself and breathed life into the human. This theory is often dismissed as the Hei-tiki carvings generally appear to be female or completely sexless. The second theory is that the Hei-tiki carving resembles an embryo and it is a fertility charm. There is no evidence to fully support either of these theories.


This particular Hei-tiki figure is carved from whale bone. This is quite rare as the most common material used for the figures is greenstone. However during the 19th Century there were a few figures carved from whale bone and even some from human bones.

This item can be seen at Hull's Maritime Museum»

Document icon Learning article provided by: Hull Maritime Museum | 
This content is licensed under Creative Commons BY NC SA

Accessibility Statement | Terms of Use | Site Map

Copyright © My Learning 2018. All Rights Reserved

Website by: Grapple