Object of the Day

Hawaiian "Pahu" Drum

January 24

The “pahu” (meaning drum in Hawaiian) is a type of drum indigenous to Hawai’i and, more generally, Polynesia. It is made from a hollowed-out log and a sharkskin drumhead. Different types of pahu are used for religious ceremonies and for Hula dances. For more information see “Hawaiian Drum Dance Chants: Sounds of Power in Time”.

Hawaiian Drum "Pahu"

From card: "Shell hollowed from a log of Koa wood. The base is carved into ten festoons or open work loops. One head of pigskin [sic] stretched over the open end of shell without a hoop. Holes are made in edge of head and the lacing passed from them up and down the shell to the loops at base. Illus. in Bulletin 136, USNM, Pl. 23-b, p. 136." From 19th or early 20th century exhibit label with card: "Drum (Pahu) of the Hawaiians. Shell, hollowed from a section of koa wood; base, carved in open work; head, of pigskin [sic], stretched over the open end. From holes in the edges lacing passes back and forth to the loops in the base. Height, 17 1/2 inches. Hawaii. From U.S. State Department."
Object was on display in National Museum of Natural History exhibit "Na Mea Makamae o Hawai'i - Hawaiian Treasures", 2004-2005. Identified by Dr. Adrienne Kaeppler as wood and sharkskin.
Record Last Modified
9 Aug 2021
Specimen Count
Data Source
NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
Donor Name
U.S. State Department
Accession Date
Object Type