Enquiry about object: 7202

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    New Hebrides Abalone Shell & Turtleshell Trolling Lure Fish Hook

    New Hebrides (Vanuatu)
    19th century

    length: 7.5cm, width: 1.9cm, weight: 13g

    Available Enquire


    UK art market; UK private collection.

    This hook was identified in the previous collection as coming from the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu). It does however also look similar to examples with origins in the Society Islands.

    It comprises a broad, carved section of abalone shell, and a barb carved from turtleshell. The two components are held together by tightly wound fibre.

    The top of the hook is carved with a forked protuberance around which the fishing line can be secured.

    Such lures were not used with bait but were dragged behind a fast-moving canoe to attract the prey with the abalone shell glinting in the sun to emulate the scales of fish to attract larger fish.

    Fish hooks were used for both their intended purpose around Oceania, but also as jewellery, to be worn on necklaces around the neck. Elements of necklaces often were carved to look like fish hooks too. As such, the hooks themselves were fertility and prosperity symbols.

    The hook here is in excellent condition.

    (More images are below. Also, see more Oceanic art.)


    Blau, D., & K. Maas, Fish Hooks of the Pacific Islands, Hirmer, 2012.

    Brunt, P., & N. Thomas, Oceania, Royal Academy of Arts, 2018.

    Grulke, W., Adorned by Nature: Adornment, Exchange & Myth in the South Seas, At One Communications, 2022.

    Herle, A. & L. Carreau, Chiefs & Governors: Art and Power in Fiji, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 2013.

    Hooper, S., Pacific Encounters: Art & Divinity in Polynesia 1760-1860, British Museum Press, 2006.

    Hooper,. S., Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific, Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania & the Americas, 2016.

    Kaeppler, A. L., Polynesia: The Mark and Carolyn Blackburn Collection of Polynesian Art, University of Hawaii Press, 2010.

    Neich, R., & F. Pereira, Pacific Jewelry and Adornment, University of Hawai’i Press, 2004.

    Starzecka, D. C., R. Neich & M. Pendergrast, The Maori Collections of the British Museum, British Museum Press, 2010.

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