Dagger – Hawaii

Hawaiian carvers, like many across Oceania, traditionally produced a variety of one- and two-handed melée weapons from hardwood and other natural materials found in the islands of the Pacific. The straight, narrow dagger offered here is carved from a single piece of wood, the handle merging seamlessly with the blade. Thus unified, they present a lovely, unbroken form with subtly shifting surface planes and an elegant silhouette. A suspension hole, bored in an unusual L-shape into the side of the grip and out the bottom end, is found at the base of the dagger.

In 1778, during his stay in Kauai, the first of the Hawaiian islands which he discovered, Captain James Cook noted that: 'besides their spears or lances, made of a fine chestnut coloured wood, beautifully polished, some of which are barbed at one end, and flattened to a point at the other, they have a sort of weapon which we had never seen before, and not mentioned by any navigator, as used by the natives of the South Sea. It is somewhat like a dagger; in general, about a foot and a half long, sharpened at one or both ends, and secured to the hand by a string. Its use is to stab in close fight; and it seems well adapted to the purpose.' (Cook, 1784, vol. 2: 247).

After the eighteenth century, wooden daggers began to be abandoned in favor of iron blades, which Europeans used as trade goods. The majority of known daggers of this kind were collected during Cook's third voyage, and are now held in Western museums.

18th century
18" l
Wood
Provenance: Ex private Hawaii collection (Big Island); Sotheby’s Paris, December 4, 2008; Sheikh Saud-al-Thani
#510
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