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This fish hook from the Solomon Islands comprises a shank and barb carved from a single piece of turtleshell. The back of the shank is fixed with a carved section of abalone shell shaped as a small fish with a carved tail and fins, to act as a lure for larger fish. The shank is encased in twine to which the abalone ‘fish’ is attached. Tied to the underside of the hook is teased-out fibre to act as a further lure.
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 example 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.
Waite, D. & K. Conru, Solomon Islands Art: The Conru Collection, 5 Continents, 2008.