Hei-tiki pendants (‘tiki’ refers to the image and ‘hei’ means to suspend from the neck) carved in local greenstone (nephrite, known by the Maoris as pounamu) are among the most iconic of Maori arts. Dating them is difficult but this example, which was acquired in the UK, is likely to date to the early 20th century. It is small and pierced at the top of the head to allow it to be suspended.
The eyes have been highlighted with red sealing wax.
Tiki pendants were worn by the Maoris for largely decorative reasons. Their origins might lay in ancestor worship or fertility rites but by the time of white settlement they were already largely decorative than connected to ritual.
It is in fine condition and is wearable. There is some minor loss to the suspension hole caused by past wearing, but it should still be wearable. The tiki overall has light wear consistent with an early 20th century dating (but not earlier).
Austin, D., La Pierre Sacree des Maori, Musee du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac, 2017.
Starzecka, D. C., R. Neich & M. Pendergrast, The Maori Collections of the British Museum, British Museum Press, 2010.