Item number: 6319
A Fine 19th Century New Zealand Maori Quarterstaff, ‘Taiaha’
Ex English Private Collection
A formidable weapon in the hands of the Maori warriors of New Zealand, (‘Aotearoa’), the ‘Taiaha’, was used in close quarter, hand to hand combat. This wooden fighting staff was one of their most well known instruments of war, often mistakenly described as a spear due to its appearance, it was not designed for throwing, but being held in both hands, the pointed tongue end, (‘arero’) was used to attack an opponent with a thrusting motion, the flat blade like end for striking. Maori warriors, (‘toa’), were well versed in its use, training for years to master the art of fighting with weapons, (‘Mau rakau’).
The ‘Taiaha’, was not simply a weapon, it was also an important social marker of rank and authority, as with other prestige items they were often passed down through the generations from father to son, their ‘mana’, increasing with age and victorious combative encounters. As such the warrior took his ancestors in to battle with him, the all seeing janus head of the ‘Taiaha’, facing both the struggle ahead and looking to battles past for strength and guidance, its decorated protruding tongue symbolically extended in aggressive challenge as ritually practiced by Maori warriors, prior to violent confrontation.
This superb example is noteworthy in view of its most unusual size and particularly fine carving. It retains two of its original Paua shell eyes and displays a fine patina.