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Whale Tooth Necklace, Fiji Islands

Necklace (Wäsekaseka), 18th-19th Century
Fiji, Polynesia
Sperm whale tooth and fiber; 13 x 12 3/4 x 1 5/8 in.
2004.37.1
Don and Barbara Greek Fund Purchase1 This necklace is made of twenty Sperm Whale teeth each carved into a sharply pointed tusk-like form. The teeth are strung on a fiber rope and the necklace would be worn so that the points face upwards. Such necklaces are called “Wasekaseka” or “Waseisei” and originate from the Pacific Islands of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. Whale teeth were highly valued symbols of honor, wealth and power worn by high-status individuals who in many cases received them as gratitude for an alliance or for their political support or, as a token of solidarity. In the 18th century necklaces and other ornaments made from whale teeth were extremely rare as the materials were obtained on the occasion a whale would become beached on shore. In the 19th century when Europeans began the whaling industry in the area teeth became far less rare to obtain and more common but, never losing their stately significance. All images and text under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use. Information subject to change with further research.
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