University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Feather Cape [Object of the Day #46]

By: Ashley Harper

Hawaiian Feather Cape
Hawaiian Feather Cape

Cape consisting of bundles of small yellow, red, and black feathers tied in overlapping rows to a netted foundation of plant fiber.  Like Object of the Day #14, a long feather cloak, this cape was an item of aristocratic regalia and a signifier of rank in ancient Hawaii.  Full length cloaks were worn by the greatest nobles, capes by lesser nobility. This cape consists mostly of yellow feathers, which were the scarcest and most valuable. They were obtained from the ‘o’o and the mamo, both predominantly black birds with tufts or patches of yellow feathers at various places on their bodies. Professional feather hunters caught them just before molting, so they could harvest the yellow feathers and release the birds to grow more.

Penn Museum Object # 29-58-155.

See this and other objects like it on Penn Museum’s Online Collection Database.

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