staff of office

Wooden staff, from Easter Island, made of light hard wood, with a slight rib running down the middle, a double face at one end with bulbous cheeks, possibly obsidian eyes (one is missing) and a curved, ribbed headdress the other end is square-ended.

Bifacial Chiefly Staff with Obsidian Eyes, Ua, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Eastern Polynesia. Rapa Nui (Easter Island) was among the most isolated inhabited places on earth. It is justifiably famous, however, for the remarkable massive stone statues (moai) that its Polynesian inhabitants carved, transported and erected on raised ritual platforms called ahu. Each of these ahu platforms was sacred to a particular noble family among the Rapanui, who were divided into a ruling class known as the 'long-ears' and a commoner class, the 'short-ears', who laboured to erect these monuments for them. This ua staff, carved from scarce toromiro wood (Sophora toromiro), was a badge of long-ears status, and its two faces exhibit the distended earlobes that gave the ruling Rapanui class their name. Some sources have argued that the busts at the ua’s head are portraits of their original owners, although these objects were named individuals themselves, and passed down through aristocratic lines as heirlooms. Wood. Early 19th Century. Formerly in the private collection of Miss M. Grace Jephson.

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: