Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1795 Hawaiian ali'i 
Subjectali'i chief
Culture: Hawaiian
Setting: unification of Hawaii, 1795-1810

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Kane 1997 p46-48
"The Hawaiian invention of surfing has been called 'the sport of kings,' but in the shark-infested waters of ancient Hawaiian politics ... the supreme sport of kings was warfare.  Political influence could be expanded by marriages and alliances, but for status-hungry chiefs, nothing relieved boredom like a decisive military campaign.
​    "Kū, in his manifestation as Kūkā'ilimoku, was the parton spirit of warfare; his aid was sought at the luakini heiau.  Before a battle, advice was sought from advisors, including kāhuna who read portents in such natural phenomena as the shapes of clouds.
"Meeting on a field of battle, champions of both forces stepped forward, shouting challenges.  Legends tell of some disputes settled by duels between champions.  At the last moment a battle might be avoided and the course changed to tearful reconciliation if a leading chief responded to a plea from a beloved relative on the other side."

* Daws 1968 p31-32
"By the middle of the eighteenth century the predatory great chiefs were exploring the farthest reaches of their power.  They had outgrown single islands and were engaging in raids between islands, campaigns that cost a great deal in men and materials.  The fruits of the rites of husbandry and fertility were devoted increasingly to the service of the gods of war.  Gradually but irresistibly the initiative shifted to the chiefs of the biggest islands, Hawaii and Maui.  Even so, war had natural limits dictated by primitive weapons and an economy that could not survive prolonged turmoil.
​    "When Cook came he gave the chiefs their first sight of weapons that might transform war and turn an enterprising alii into a king.   The iron pahoas or daggers that Cook's armorers hammered out were coveted, even though they were only a new version of an old weapon.  Firearms were the great prize ...."
* Hawaii 2002 p39-40
"A 10-year civil war involving Kamehameha and others erupted on the Big Island in 1782.  When the timing seemed astrologically and militarily propitious, Kamehameha conquered Maui and Lanai in 1790.  He then returned to the Big Island to deal with the continuing civil war there.  Keoua, his chief rival on the Big Island, was displeased at how the inheritance was divided.
"In the meantime, Kamehameha lost Maui, whose own chief then invaded Kamehameha's Big Island domain with a fleet of war canoes.  Kamehameha repelled the Maui invaders, assisted by the swivel guns and military expertise of Englishmen John Young and Isaac Davis, who had been taken in by Kamehameha as advisers and later made high chiefs.  Keoua, Kamehameha's Big Island rival, however, was not yielding easily.
​    "Kamehameha took no chances.  He built an immense heiau (temple) to his war god near Kawaihae in Kohala -- it still stands -- and invited Keoua to meet him there.  When Keoua arrived, Kamehameha had him killed.
​    "Kamehameha was now king of all the Big Island.  He recaptured Maui, then Molokai.  In the meantime, a small civil war had broken out on Oahu, and Kamehameha took advantage of the disorder to land with his fleet in southern Oahu in 1795.  In a mighty display of military strength, Kamehameha and his warriors drove Oahu's remaining army up Nu'uanu Valley and over the edge of Nu'uanu Pali, a precipitious cliff.  With Oahu's conquest -- and the ritual sacrifice of it's [SIC] king, Kalanikupule, to Kamehameha's war god -- Kamehameha was monarch of all Hawaii, except Kauai and Ni'ihau, more than 70 miles (110 km) west of Oahu.
​    "In 1796 and 1809, Kamehameha assembled invasion fleets destined for Kauai and Ni'ihaou, the most distant of the main islands.  The channel from Oahu to Kauai is treacherous, and the invasion attempts were foiled by the weather and disease.  In 1810, Kauai's king peacefully yielded to Kamehameha.  The islands were unified under King Kamehameha I, or Kamehameha the Great."

Costume (Helmet, Cape, Loincloth)

* Campbell 2006 p37
"The koa warriors typically fought in a loincloth (malo) that was tucked into a waistband and draped over in front, and twisted tightly on one or both sides of the crotch.  No outer garments were worn that could be grabbed or might impede the freedom of movement of the warrior.  In some instances 'belly bands' were worn, which in fact, although quite colorful, were designed as armor to protect against stabs, thrusts, slashes, etc., to the stomach and mid-section.  Before battle, the koa warriors shaved their body and oiled their skin to prevent enemies from obtaining a firm grip when engaged in hand-to-hand combat.  Ali'i (chieftains) also usually wore a cape adorned with feathers slung over the left arm that served as a shield of sorts to deflect or snag spears in battle.  Though these decorative capes looked more ceremonial than martial to foreigners unaccustomed to the koa's battle accoutrements, they proved very effective.  In instances of close-range combat, which were frequent, where clubs and shark-tooth daggers were commonplace, the cape (used as a shield) could also be a protective barrier to enshroud, deflect, parry, or confine the enemy's weapon.  The bright and colorful crested helmets worn by some warriors were made of wickers or gourds, which provided some protection against sling stones.  Later in the period after flintlock pistols and rifles were introduced, the creative and resourceful Hawai'ians devised woven mat capes of coconut fiber, which were occasionally used as a type of body armor.  British chronicles noted that the Hawai'ian natives had learned to make armor out of layers of pigskin and palm leaves.  This armor was strong enough to stop primitive musket balls."

* Kane 1997 p32
"A paramount chief, or king (ali'i nui) wears a feathered helmet (mahiole) and cloak ('ahu'ula).  Full length cloaks were worn ceremonially; in battle, shorter capes were worn.  The feathered malo worn around the waist and over the left shoulder signifies investiture as a king."

* Berry/Best 1968 p86 
"In 1779, when James Cook on his third voyage to the Pacific visited the Sandwich Islands, now known as Hawaii, he recorded in detail the clothing of the inhabitants.  This probably did not alter much until around 1820, when prudish missionaries insisted on the men wearing pants and the women covering themselves in the hideous Mother Hubbard gown -- which has since become the tourists' muumuu.
​    "Cook wrote that the men's covering was a loincloth called moro.  As a protection in battle, they wore what he described as a beautiful woven mat, drawn around the shoulders and across the chest.  For ceremonial purposes, chiefs donned high helmets made of wickerwork, fitting close to the head, with a ridge from back to front that protected the head from blows.  The whole of this was decorated with red and yellow feathers.  The helmet curiously resembled the classic Greek helmet with its characteristic cockscomb, which may be seen today on ancient black and red vases.  The mantles and capes of the nobility were magnificently feathered in red and yellow, or yellow and white.  The feathers were not set in to form patterns, but a border decoration was often added."

* Arts of the South Seas 1946 p63
"[C]hiefs wore feather cloaks and crested helmets of wicker work, covered with small, closely spaced feathers which concealed the basketry base.
​    "The feather cloaks were made from a small meshed net into the knots of which bundles of feathers had been caught.  The feathers were arranged so that they overlapped from top to bottom of the garment giving it a smooth outer surface, like the breast of a bird.  The favorite colors were red and yellow, with a little black used in borders and to outline designs.  Decoration was simple, the favorite design being one or more large crescents of solid color placed horizontally.  Hundreds of birds had to be caught to provide the feathers for a single cloak and its manufacture required months of careful work.  Such garments were exceedingly light, soft and warm, but were far too valuable to be used as ordinary clothing.  They were worn at ceremonies and especially in battle, where the tall helmet and brilliant cloak of the chief provided a rallying point for his own men and a challenge to the enemy."

* Kaeppler 2008 p119
"Feathered cloaks, capes, and helmets were visual objectifications of social inequality.  They were worn by male chiefs in dangerous or sacred situations and carried the social metaphor that one's genealogy is one's sacred protection.  The feathers were primarily red from a honeycreeper, the 'i'iwi bird.  Designs were incorporated as the feathers were tied to the backing of knotted fibre by adding yellow feathers, or occasionally black or green feathers from other honeycreepers or honeyeaters.  Yellow feathers came from birds that were primarily black -- the yellow tufts were removed and the bird released -- making yellow feathers rare and valuable."


* Paraísos perdidos 2007 p32
"El 'lei niho palaoa' (lei: corona, niho: diente y palaoa: cachalote) es un collar propio de las islas Hawai, formado por una madeja de trencitas finísimas de cabello humano y un adorno en forma de gancho, tallado en colmillo de cachalote.  Los extremos de esta madeja están cuidadosamente atados para mantener las trencitas juntas y terminan en dos cabos de fibra de 'olona' con los que anudaba el collar al cuello.
    "El carácter simbólico del 'lei niho palaoa' est'a fuera de duda, pues se sabe que s'olo podían llevarlos los jefes y era 'tapu', prohibido, para el resto; sin embargo, su significado sigue siendo una incógnita, aunque se les relaciona con la costumbre hawaiana, descrita por Cook, de intercambiar mechones de pelo en señal de repseto, amistad y el culto a los antepasados y espíritus ancestrales.  En cuanto a la forma del colgante se cree que representa la lengua por la que el 'ali'i' o jefe hablaba a su pueblo."

* Kane 1997 p32
"[Ali'i nui wore] carved whalestooth pendants on neckpieces of finely braided hair of ancestors (lei niho palaoa).  An abstraction of a tongue, it signifies that the wearer speaks with authority."

* Greub 1988 p114
"The most distinctive Hawaiian ornament, the lei niho palaoa, is a hooklike pendant hung from a necklace of human hair. The form itself is ancient; examples have been found in Hawaiian archaeological sites dating from before A.D. 1000. Pieces from these sites, as well as those collected during the visits of Captain Cook in 1778 and 1779, are made of rock oyster, calcite, wood, black coral, bone, and whale ivory. the larger classic form made of walrus ivory was characteristic of the early to middle nineteenth century. These large hooks became possible only after trading relationships were formed with the Northwest Coast of America and wlarus ivory was brought to Hawaii. Most extant pieces date from this time and are made of walus ivory. The ivory hook is hung from two multistrand loops, composed of finely braided human hair, that are attached to each other through a lateral hole in the ivory hook.
    "The hooklike curve is a recurring motif in Hawaiian art. It is found in the upturned lower jaw of several god images where it repeats, in opposition, the curve of the crested overhang carved as part of these images. The form can be considered an artistic transformation and elaboration of the natural curve of a whale tooth. When the neck ornament is worn with a created feathered helmet by the chiefly descendants of the gods, it repeats this balanced iconography. Necklaces of this type figure in Hawaiian legends as material proof of one's chiefly identity. The story of how Umi proved his relationship to the high chief Liloa and therefore was his rightful successor depends upon this evidence. In the nineteenth century these necklaces became indispensable elements of ceremonial dress and symbolic showpieces of chiefly status." [references omitted]

* Arts of the South Seas 1946 p62-63
"Chiefs were entitled to wear certain insignia of rank.  The most important of these was a curious necklace consisting of a large hook carved from whale ivory which was suspended from a thick bundle of human hair cord.  The cord, which was braided flat, was less than a sixteenth of an inch across and several hundred yards of it were required to make one necklace."

* Meyer 1990 v2 p576 f664
"Royal necklace or lei niho palaoa.  The whale-ivory hook is suspended on a necklace generally made of a single length of 8-ply, square-braided human hair which can reach extreme lengths of some 350 metres.  Each section of the braided strand is composed of between 50 and 100 hairs."

* Helmich 2002 p60
"[T]he lei niho palaoa were not common in ancient times and were worn only by high chiefs who could lay claim to sperm whales cast ashore by the sea.  The smaller hooks, generally less than a few inches in length, pre-date the more numerous larger forms made of walrus ivory during the first half of the nineteenth century.  Interestingly, in her research on hooks of this period, Kaeppler states that 'Cook and other early European visitors to Hawaii felt these 'amulets' had supernatural significance and in early museums, though they are not figurative, they are called 'idols'... it is not clear, however, whether this idea derived from the hook form, or referred to the whale tooth material (niho palaoa) from which some of them were made.'"


* Daws 1968 p32-33
"Among the early traders were several who saw nothing wrong in arming one Hawaiian chief against another.  They sold guns to as many factions as they could find and then encouraged them to fight.  If they could peddle gunpowder adulterated with charcoal they would do it, and when they came upon an unsophisticated alii they might leave him a consignment of defective guns likely to blow up when the trigger was pulled and take off a hand or the side of a face.  None of this discouraged the chiefs, who hardly needed to be taught how to settle with white men on equal terms.  For several seasons on the west coast of Hawaii hogs were kapu to foreign vessels unless they were paid for in arms, and when this did not bring results quickly enough more direct methods were tried.  On every island shore parties from merchantmen and warships were attacked; sailors were killed, and anchors and boats were stolen with the idea that they could be ransomed for guns and ammunition or kept so that their iron could be turned into hand weapons."


* Kane 1997 p48
"We may picture a battle opening with volleys of sling stones, followed at closer range by thrown spears.  If a stone thrown from the hand of a Polynesian was a deadly weapon, as some early European visitors discovered, the Hawaiian sling stone, shaped and polished from heavy basalt, could be delivered from a sling with force approximating that of a musket ball.  Throwing spears, javelins six to eight feet long were shaped from kauila -- a very hard wood so heavy it sinks in water."

* Kaeppler 2008 p132
"In Hawai'i, warriors used their javelins (ihe) to parry spears thrown at them, but preferred to catch the spears with their hands in order to hurl them back.  Ihe, about 2 to 2.5 metres long, and pololū, about 2.5 to 5.5 metres long, were used to charge the enemy: holding one of these weapons firmly against his right side, the warrior charged on foot and thrust the weapon into his opponent or used it to trip him."

* Campbell 2006 p49
"Short spears (ihe) were used for thrusting and throwing, and the points could be either barbed or unbarbed, depending on the purpose intended by the weapon maker.
    "Notably, the barbed-type spears were six to eight feet in length, finely polished, and gradually increasing in thickness from the extremity to within about six inches of the point, which tapers suddenly and has for to six rows of barbs.
    "Configuration: The barbed portions of the spears were defined by a shoulder where the shaft was tapered down sharply; but in some lance implements, there was a long slope between the lowest row of barbs and the normal diameter of the shaft.  The length of the barbed section could range from six inches to almost ten inches, with an average being about seven inches.  The greatest diameters of the shafts of some of these historic relics range from approximately one inch to an inch and a half, with the average being somewhere near one-third inch.  The butt tapers off to a blunt end, which is much smaller than the greatest diameter of the shaft.
    "Typically, the barbed spear points had a somewhat tapered apex (lanceolate) point with two upper surfaces sloping out from a median edge.  The barbs alternate in position with the barbs in the row above.  This is so that the root of each barb originates from the part below and between the two barbs above.  The barbs all slope outward and downward, but the alternate arrangement makes every other row appear to protrude more than its immediate predecessors."


* Te Rangi Hiroa 1957 p451
"These weapons are bisymmetrical, having an even number of teeth on each side, with an occasional odd one at the far end.  In the arrangement of teeth with cusps, the curved points and the cusps are always directed toward the handle; but the odd end tooth may have the point directed either way.  It is probable that the reason for this arrangement is that the weapons were used with a draw stroke toward the wielder, making the curved points more effective."

* Meyer 1995 v2 p579 f669
"Shark-tooth weapons were used in hand-to-hand combat.  The short, spatulate type were called palau papnihomano, and were used exclusively by chiefs and noble warriors."


* Te Rangi Hiroa 1957 p435
"A specimen in the Pigorini prehistoric and ethnographic museum, Rome[:] ... 'Pahoa, dagger or knife made from the blade of a swordfish (Xiphias) ..."  The lower end is narrowed down to form a short handle, which is wrapped with close transverse turns of a fine cord and also a thicker braid.
​    "Oldman (1942, vol 49, pl. 129, no. 558) figures a specimen which is 33.12 inches long and 2.5 inches wide across the shoulders, where it joins the narrower handle, which has a flared proximal end.
​    "Edge-Partington (1890, I-56-3) figures a specimen in the British Museum, which is 31 inches long.  [...]"  [NOTE: Though these comments appear under the heading "SWORDFISH DAGGERS," they have the proportions of swords.]

* Campbell 2006 :-( p130-131
"The swordfish dagger (a'u ku pahoa) is another example of the creative ways in which the ingenious craftsmen of Hawai'i devised methods of fighting at close range.  As with any of the daggers and clubs we have been discussing, the a'u ku bill types are obviously capable of inflicting rapid damage in the hands of a skilled warrior.
​    "[...]  The heft of an a'u ku pahoa was quite substantial.  The weight combined with the bill teeth could inflict serious damage on an enemy...."  [NOTE: Swordfish bills don't have teeth -- Campbell has confused swordfish (genus Xiphias) with sawfish (genus Pristis) and even illustrates a true sawfish bill in the accompanying painting on p129.  CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION: How could Hawaiians have used sawfish bills as weapons when sawfish have never lived anywhere near Hawaii?]

* Titcomb 1972 p68 (quoting an 1870 newspaper notice)
"The superstition regarding this fish in the olden days was that it made whoever captured it a conqueror, gave him power to succeed against an opponent.  The fish could belong only to a chief, and was laid on the altar with a human sacrifice, just as was done with tiger sharks.  These two fish were both caught with human bait, and both offered with prayers by the kahuna for power for the chief ... When a fish of this kind came ashore, of its own accord, it was an omen that a person closely related to Ku'ula (the god of fishermen) was about to die ..."


* Te Rangi Hiroa 1957 p453
"This distinctive type has been referred to by various writers as a knuckle duster.  The teeth are set in a curved bar on the convex side, and the ends of the bar are connected by a slightly curved or straight handle.  ...
​    "The teeth, set in a groove on the convex side of the curved bar, range from eight to 10.  Teeth with basal cusps are found in five implements and triangular teeth in one.  In setting the cusped teeth, the convex curve of the bar is regarded as bilateral from the middle point; and on either side, the curved points and cusps are directed outward.  This was easily arranged in weapons with eight or 10 teeth; but with the intervening odd number, five point one way and four the other."

* Feest 1980 p52 f56
"Wooden or plaited knuckle dusters set with shark's teeth were used in parts of Polynesia and Melanesia to tear open the antagonist's belly in man-to-man-fighting.  Similar implements were used to cut up the bodies of slain enemies.  This Hawaiian example was collected by James Cook in 1778."


* Te Rangi Hiroa 1957 p442
"The wooden handle, rounded in section, is fitted to the lower end of the stone head.  The sennit lashing turns pass through two transverse holes in the wooden handle near the junction and along the longitudinal grooves of the head to cross over the far end.  Three sets of transverse turns are spaced over the longitudinal turns, the middle set probably being above the projecting rim at the lower end of the head and so preventing the turns from slipping down."


* Stone 1934 p479
"PAHUA.  A wooden dagger of the Sandwich Islands.  It is straight, double-edged and about two feet long.  Occasionally it is double-ended with the handle in the middle.  It is fastened to the wrist by a cord passing through a hole in the handle." [reference omitted]


​* Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography > Pacific Islands Hall
"[...]  Pipes were generally carved of wood. Chiefs' pipes tended to be oversized. It was the custom to take a few whiffs of the pipe, then pass it to the next person."


* Hopper 2006 p108 caption (describing a Hawaiian bracelet, mid-/late eighteenth century)
​"This bracelet is made of thirty-seven sections of shaped boars' tusks and a single plate of turtle shell threaded into two fibre cords.  Pigs and turtles were important sacrificial animals."