This is a pestle.
This unique pestle is a mystery. Some Hawaiians believe it to be for the final stage of preparing poi. This vegetable staple, made from the steamed, pounded, and slightly fermented corm of the kalo plant, constituted the principal nutriment in the Hawaiian diet. The handle of this finely polished black basalt pounder ends in a stylized head, identified by some as that of a mo`o, or lizard. Other Hawaiians hypothesize that this was a tool with which a kahuna lapa`au, or, a medical practitioner, would have pounded medicinal herbs. It weighs only 1.3 kg (2.8 lbs) and therefore seems more appropriate for pounding medicine than the very fibrous kalo. The tool was collected in Hawaii during the United States Exploring Expedition of 1840, the first United States expedition to circumnavigate the globe. The objects gathered in the course of the voyage formed the founding collections of the Smithsonian Institution.
It is credited
Collected by the United States Exploring Expedition, 1840, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E3513.
Our curators have highlighted 3 objects that are related to this one.
Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 16.2 x 8.6 x 12.4 cm (6 3/8 x 3 3/8 x 4 7/8 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.