comb (hair ornaments)

Seven-toothed comb cut from a single piece of whale bone, which widens towards its rounded top. On one side a half spiral has been cut into the head, and a hatched line joins the end of this spiral to the outer edge. In less abstracted heru, this delineated circular form is very obviously a head.

Whalebone Comb, Heru Paraoa, New Zealand Maori. Like many other Pacific peoples, the Maori wore combs (heru) in their hair, both as beautifying adornments, and to mark the Polynesian belief that the crown of the head was the most sacred (tapu) part of the body. This comb is made from a slice of whale bone, which has had the sponge-like marrow cavity removed, and the narrower end cut into seven teeth. The small circular detail on the side of the comb represents a head, although it became so stylised on most examples, it was no longer recognisable as such. Whalebone. In the UK before 1850. Formerly in the private collection of the Longuet-Higgins family of Turvey Abbey.

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