Article Title

The "Fish" for the Gods


The aim of this paper is to provide an alternative interpretation for the large Rapa Nui stone fishhooks, mangai maea . These nicely carved hooks have been interpreted as clan or status symbols, as well as ordinary fishhooks (Chauvet 1935:32-34, Martinsson-Wallin 1994:125126, Metraux 1940:363, Heyerdahl 1961 :415-426, Lee 1992). We here examine this specific type of fishhook in the light of large fishhooks found on other islands in Polynesia. There is clear evidence that oversized fishhooks were used symbolically by leading chiefs for a very specific kind of "fishing" that was dedicated to the war god at certain ceremonial structures. In this case, the "fish" consisted of human sacrifices, suspended from a tree by a large fishhook inserted in the victim's mouth. These types of human sacrifices were called "fish". The relationship between large fishhooks and human sacrifice is discussed in this article.