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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee


Hei-tiki 18th century?

RCIN 69263

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James Cook, FRS (1728-79), known to history simply as Captain Cook, was granted a one-hour audience by George III in August 1771 after his return from his second expedition to the Pacific. It was probably at this meeting that Cook presented the King with this precious ornament, which the explorer had received from the natives of Queen Charlotte Sound in South Island, New Zealand, in October 1769. In Maori culture, tiki was the name given to the first created man, and hei means suspended. Carved from the precious nephrite or greenstone known as Pounamu, the heitiki was worn round the neck close to the throat. Embodying the spirits of ancestors, it was a powerful mark of the status of the wearer. W.B. Monkhouse, a member of Cook’s expedition, described one of the natives encountered by the crew of Endeavour as having ‘a piece of green talk [sic] about two & half inches long, and an inch & half broad, flat, and carved into the figure of a most uncooth animal of fancy’.