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Object: Heru (ornamental comb)

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Title Heru (ornamental comb)
Production Unknown (carver), 1500-1800, New Zealand
Materials wood, paua shell
Classification heru, hair ornaments, combs
Technique carving
Dimensions Overall: 102mm (Height) x 55mm (Length) x 6mm (Depth)
Credit line Gift of The Imperial Institute, 1955
Registration number ME007851

This heru (ornamental comb) is made from wood. It has twenty-three teeth, a carved manaia (stylised beaked figure) head with inlaid päua (large New Zealand abalone with blue-green inner shell) shell eyes, and a light brown patina. It may have been collected by Captain James Cook on one of his three visits to New Zealand in 1769, 1773 and 1777.

Topknot tradition
Mäori men traditionally kept long hair that was oiled and sometimes braided, and dressed upon their heads in elaborate topknots. These were augmented with heru and bird feathers, particularly feathers from the now extinct hüia (native New Zealand bird: Heteralocha acutirostris).

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