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Object: Wakahuia (treasure box)

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Title Wakahuia (treasure box)
Production Unknown (carver), 1750-1850, North Island
Materials wood, paua shell
Classification containers
Technique carving
Dimensions Overall: 515mm (Length) x 205mm (Width) x 160mm (Depth)
Credit line Purchased 2004
Registration number ME023357

This beautiful cocoon-shaped waka huia (treasure box) is fully carved and has päua (large New Zealand abalone with blue-green inner shell) shell inlaid eyes on the heads at each end. The main design elements are large rauru spirals configured to take advantage of the round shape of the waka huia, which appears to be enveloping its contents. (Rauru are rauponga - an alternating pattern of päkati (dog tooth pattern) notches and haehae (parallel grooves) - when used as a spiral. The design is possibly named after Rauru, who is sometimes credited with being the first carver.) The secondary design elements of whakarare (distorted) patterns and pitau (black tree fern: Cyathea medullaris) scroll patterns join the main spiral designs together.

Stone tooling
The extremely shallow relief work across the whole patterning appears to have been executed with stone tools. This is further evidenced by the carved surface's indistinct 'soft' look.

Papa hou and waka huia
The rectangular form of papa hou is a northern variation of the more widespread waka huia, which are canoe shaped. The other main difference between the two forms is that papa hou are not carved on the bottom, whereas waka huia are.

Waka huia were used to contain the treasured personal adornments of both men and women - items such as hei tiki (pendants) and hüia (extinct New Zealand bird: Heteralocha acutirostris) feathers for decorating and dressing the hair. They were hung from the interior rafters of houses.

Related information

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