Tahitian society was divided into clans, and each had its own deity, often a prominent ancestor or venerated animal. The totemic spirits connected the clan to the natural world and were symbolically represented in many forms of art. This carved turtle depicts a clan deity and embodies the essence of all turtles, their inherent power and mythical qualities, rather than a specific animal. Finished pieces may seem to have a rough appearance, but the process of making the art and how it was used determined its value in Tahitian culture. Its significance came from the oral histories attached to it, tales of the ancestors, the gods and, for this type of piece, the related clan.