HAWAIIAN FISH HOOKS
The Hawaiian Fish Hook (known as Makau in the Hawaiian language) is a symbol of strength & prosperity throughout the Hawaiian islands, based on the history, legends & stories of ancient Polynesian culture originally from the Maori tribe in New Zealand. For facts and information about the Maori tribe, please click here. The Fishhook was an invaluable tool for providing food to sustain the ohana (family). Lacking ore (metals) of any kind, the ancient Hawaiians used coral files and stone tools to create practical, beautiful and sometimes elaborate hooks using human bone, whale bone, shell & wood. They produced hundreds of styles for all different kinds of fish & fishing techniques.
The ancient carvers were highly revered and legends and stories abound about the mana of fish hooks carved from the bones of great fisherman. Hawaiians also believed that fishhooks made from the bones of people without hair on their bodies, who were termed 'olohe, were more attractive to fish than hooks from normal bones, such as from whale bone or cow bone. To view an interesting video of how to make a Hawaiian fish hook carved from bone, please click here.
For the ancient Hawaiians, the sea provided a source of beauty, recreation and most importantly, sustenance. Over generations, lawai‘a (fishermen) honed their hunting skills with the help of tools such as a spear, net, trap, line and hook.
Hawaiian fishermen used hooks (makau) to catch fish in the open ocean. They possessed knowledge of specific techniques such as which hook was needed to catch a particular kind of fish. In addition to being knowledgeable seamen, fishermen were also skilled artisans; it is likely that they carved the hooks themselves.
Without the luxury of modern technology, the ancient Hawaiians relied on the environment for materials to produce fish hooks. For example, human and animal bones were used to catch large prey such as sharks, while shell hooks made from pearl or turtle shell were more fragile and often used for smaller game.
There are two variations of the traditional Hawaiian fish hook: simple and composite. Simple hooks are made of a single material such as bone or wood, while composite hooks consist of two separate pieces lashed together. The Small Koa Necklace is an example of a contemporary composite fish hook made with locally prized Koa wood. Nowadays, many Hawaiian hooks are made of a composite resin, as well bone or wood.
Types of Hawaiian Fish Hook Necklaces
The basic shape of a fish hook includes the shank and a point. The point ranges from straight to curved and may include a barb which prevents fish from slipping out once they are hooked. The Large Hawaiian Hook Necklace and the Mini Hawaiian Hook Necklace represent different variations in the placement of the barb. To view an interesting video of how to make a Hawaiian fish hook carved from bone, please click here.
Today, fish hooks are worn as a symbol of Polynesian culture. Once used as a tool for harvesting marine life, the fish hook is now reminiscent of an ancient craft and lifestyle. Fish hooks perpetuate the Hawaiian way of life through contemporary.