Figure, 9th–11th century (?)
Marae 12, Mokumanamana (Necker Island), Hawai'i
Vesicular basalt; H. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1976 (1976.194)
The stone images of Mokumanamana, in the northwest Hawaiian Islands, remain one of the great enigmas of Polynesian art. A barren outcrop of rock 300 miles northwest of the main Hawaiian chain, Mokumanamana was uninhabited in historic times. However, the island's abundant archaeological sites indicate that it was inhabited, or regularly visited, possibly as a place of pilgrimage, in ancient times, perhaps around A.D. 1000. The significance of the island's unique stone images, all of which were associated with a single religious structure, known to archaeologists as Marae 12, is unknown. However, like human figures elsewhere in Polynesia, they likely represented gods or deified ancestors.
The present work is a fragment, consisting of a head and torso from which the arms and legs have been broken. Portions of the shoulders remain, visible below the ears, as does the juncture of the legs and the phallus, indicated by a knoblike projection.