Hei tiki (pendant in human form)
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Hei tiki (pendant in human form)

Pounamu - An iconic stone

Pounamu (New Zealand greenstone) is a treasured stone for Māori and all New Zealanders. It is valued for its beauty, strength, and durability, and there are many stories of its origins.

There are two systems for classifying pounamu. Geologically, the name pounamu refers to three different types of stone: nephrite, bowenite, and serpentinite. Māori classify pounamu by appearance.

Pounamu is found only in the South Island of New Zealand, Te Wai Pounamu (the greenstone waters). It begins its journey in the rock where it is formed, then is slowly ‘freed’ by erosion. Most pounamu settles in riverbeds, and some is carried out to sea and scattered along the coast.

The taonga (treasures) in this exhibition were from throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

He kōhatu ahurei

Ko te pounamu tētahi kura e kaingākautia ana e te iwi Māori, otirā e ngā tāngata katoa o Aotearoa. I noho ai te pounamu hei kahurangi, he kōhatu ātaahua, e mōhiotia ana tōna kaha me tōna mārō, ā, he maha ngā pūrākau mō tōna takenga mai.

E rua ngā tikanga wehewehe i te pounamu. E ai ki ngā pūtaiao-ā-nuku, hei ingoa te pounamu mō ngā momo kōhatu e toru, he rerekē: katoa: ko te nephrite, ko te bowenite, me te serpentinite. Ko tā te Māori wehewehe i te pounamu, kei te āhuatanga o te kōhatu.

Heoi anō nei te wāhi e kitea ai te pounamu i Aotearoa, ko Te Wai Pounamu. Ka tïmata mai tōna heke i ngā kōhatu i hangaia mai ai, mā te horo whenua e ‘āta whakaputa’ te pounamu. Ka tau te nuinga o te pounamu ki ngā kūkūpango o ngā awa, ko ētahi anō kawea atu ai ki te moana ū rawa mai ki te takutai.


The origins of pounamu
"Waitaiki" sculpture  August 2009

The origins of pounamu

Poutini is the name of a taniwha – a supernatural being. He is the guardian of Ngahue, the atua (god) associated with pounamu. There are several iwi (tribal) stories of the origins of pounamu. more>
Geological origins of pounamu
Kohatu pounamu (nephrite boulder)

Geological origins of pounamu

Pounamu only occurs naturally in the South Island of New Zealand. It is found in seven areas: Nelson, Westland, South Westland, Makarora (Wanaka district), Wakatipu, Milford Sound, and the Livingstone Mountains. more>
Pounamu - A stone of many colours
Kaka poria (bird leg ring / pendant)  1700-1850

Pounamu - A stone of many colours

Maori classify pounamu according to its colours, markings, and translucency. There are many local names for different pounamu, but four main varieties are widely recognised by iwi (tribes): inanga, kahurangi, kawakawa, and tangiwai. more>