This rare 19th-century Fijian necklace, on display in our Oceania exhibition, is made of whale ivory – each figure has been carved to follow the curve of a sperm whale’s tooth. In Western Polynesia, whales were seen as divine beings so were never hunted. Instead, only teeth from beached animals were used, after first following protocols to honour their sanctity. Whale ivory was considered extremely precious, and this necklace would have been worn by high-ranking individuals.
Image: Necklace, 1870s. White, ivory, fibre. 52 cm. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Z 2752.
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