Hawaiian Artifacts

From the British MuseumWhat would you do if you find a Hawaiian artifact? You can keep it, sell it, donate it to a museum, or leave it where it was found.

In the 1890s and early 1900s, Hawaii newspapers reported discoveries of Hawaiian artifacts, including burials, idols, kahili (feathered standards for royalty), tapas, hula skirts made of human hair, bracelets and anklets made of human teeth, and bowls, in caves and underground.

Bishop Museum and museums outside of Hawaii held Hawaiian artifacts. The British Museum held artifacts worn only by Hawaiian royalty: sperm-whale-tooth necklaces, feathered cloaks, and feathered helmets.

Should Hawaiian artifacts be sold? Do they belong in museums, even those outside of Hawaii? The answers may depend on native cultural rights and the need for education and research.

– Alice Kim

Articles from Chronicling America

“When Hawaii Was Peopled by Giants: A Scientist Makes Amazing Discoveries in Island Catacombs Which Are Older Than Those of Rome”
The Pacific commercial advertiser, March 22, 1908, Page 11

“The Bishop Museum: Rare Collection of Hawaiian Relics — 5000 Polynesian Curios”
The Pacific commercial advertiser., July 06, 1892, Image 6

“In London: A Visit to the Hawaiian Collection in the Ethnographical Gallery of the British Museum”
Hawaiian gazette, March 14, 1893, Page 6

“In Memory of a Loving Wife: The Bernice Puahi Bishop Museum and Its Curios”
Pacific commercial advertiser, April 4, 1894, Image 1

“Our Museum: The Bishop Collection of Curios”
Pacific commercial advertiser, February 22, 1900, Page 5

“Curio Comes from Kona: An Old Native Relic Dug from the Soil”
Hawaiian star, June 7, 1900, Image 1

“Hawaiian God Found: Large Stone Idol Discovered in Kona”
The Hawaiian star, June 30, 1900, Image 1

“Topics of the Day” (left column, bottom)
The Independent, February 23, 1901, Image 2

“He Parts with His Idol”
The Hawaiian star, August 28, 1901, Image 1

“Companion of Prince: A Hawaiian Chief Who Fought in Africa”
The Pacific commercial advertiser, January 22, 1902, Image 9

“Double Kahili Handle: Something Novel and Hardly Known to Antiquarians”
The Independent, February 14, 1902, Image 2

“Skirt of Human Hair: Ancient Relics Found in a Cave in Kona”
Hilo tribune, February 27, 1903, Image 5

“Some Ancient Relics of the Aborigines of Hawaii”
The Pacific commercial advertiser, September 13, 1903, Page 5

“A Million-Dollar Cloak”
Opelousas courier, February 20, 1904, Image 2

“Hawaiian Feather Cape Added to Natural History Collection”
New-York tribune, June 26, 1908, Page 4

“Relic of the Days of Kamehameha”
The Pacific commercial advertiser, December 11, 1909, Page 10

“The Treasures of the National Museum”
The San Francisco call, November 4, 1911, Page 7

“Hawaiian Birds and Feather Cloaks”
The Garden Island, April 4, 1922, Page 7


2 Comments on “Hawaiian Artifacts”

  1. […] Lehuanui Kalaniomaiheuila Peleioholani went to court to claim compensation. The fire also destroyed other family heirlooms: feather wreaths, calabashes, and gold necklaces and […]

  2. […] handle from a Hawaiian woman from Maui. The kahili was made of whale bone. The woman claimed that she found it in a cave, and that the kahili handle might be over two to three centuries […]

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