Home Te Papa's website
< Back to map

Hei Tiki

Hei tiki (neck pendant), 1500-1800
pounamu (greenstone). Purchased 1948 as part of the Oldman Collection

Strength and beauty

Traditionally, Māori made and wore items of jewellery to decorate the head, ears, neck, and breast. Highly prized and durable items were made of pounamu (greenstone), whale ivory, and whale bone. But pounamu was the most valued of these because of its strength and translucence.

Pendants - including kapeu - were sometimes worn along with feathers suspended from the ear. Hei tiki and hei matau were the most common breast adornment - ‘hei’ means ‘to wear around the neck’.

Tiki is the ancestor of all humans - the form is sometimes thought to symbolise a human embryo. The hei matau, a type of hook design, may have similar symbolic meanings.

Click on the images below to find out more

Hei Tiki

Papa hou

Papa hou (feather box)

Poedua [Poetua], daughter of Oreo, chief of Ulaietea, one of the Society Isles

John Webber

Portrait of John Greenwood Jnr, by Sir William Beechey

Sir William Beechey
Portrait of John Greenwood Jnr.


Send feedback about this website
© Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa