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Object: Toki poutangata (ceremonial adze)

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Title Toki poutangata (ceremonial adze)
Production Unknown (carver), 1500-1820, New Zealand
Medium summary Wood, pounamu, muka
Materials wood, muka, pounamu
Classification adzes, toki, Toki poutangata, ceremonial objects
Technique carving, lapidary
Dimensions Overall: 495mm (Length) x 75mm (Width) x 330mm (Depth)
Credit line Oldman Collection. Gift of the New Zealand Government, 1992
Registration number OL000491

The toki poutangata is a symbol of chiefly authority and tribal leadership. Made from an elegantly fashioned pounamu blade, often decorated with ornamental kaniwha notches that may be a mnemonic device to assist in the recitation of genealies; and fastened to carved wooden handle. Toki poutangata are tribal heirlooms and ascribed personal names, and even magical powers.

Toki poutangata were used on ceremonial occasions, such as the felling of a great tree for a significant waka (canoe) or for the ridgepole of a wharenui or meeting house. The first chips cut from the tree were taken by the tohunga to a special place where karakia of thanksgiving were recited to the god of the forest, Tanemahuta in acknowledgement of the sacrifice of his offspring. The chips might also be returned ceremonially to the forest to nurture new growth. It is believed that the toki poutangata was originally used for the ceremonial execution of captives. Upon the death of its owner, the special handle was buried with them while the pounamu blade remained with the tribe. Once it had been decided who would succeed the chief, another handle was fashioned and lashed to the adze. This toki poutangata has carved wooden handle.

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