The Maori As He Was : A Brief Account of Maori Life as it was in Pre-European Days
Habitations, Storehouses, Villages, the Pa Maori
Habitations, Storehouses, Villages, the Pa Maori
Dwellinghouses. The pihanga. Dimensions of houses. Whare puni. Whare whakanoho. Construction of houses. Thatching. Carved houses. Carving designs. The manaia. The scroll. The lizard. Tapu of new houses. Painted designs. Decorative panels. Pukiore or harapaki. Roof-pitch. Fuel-supply in house. Log-splitting. Log and canoe hauling. Cooking-sheds. Villages. Hill forts. Storehouses. Tree dwellings. Storage platforms. Storage pits.
The dwellings and storehouses of our native folk are interesting chiefly because of the decorative work that pertained to the better ones. By no stretch of the imagination can the whare maori, or native house, be viewed as a comfortable place. The term “house” comes naturally to the point of the pen, but in many cases native habitations can only be described as “huts.” The Maori strove to make his hut a warm retreat in winter on account of his lack of kaka moe (sleeping-garments), but comfort in other ways he never evolved; the native hut was a cheerless abode. The lack of a chimney meant that merely a small fire could be kept burning, and that the smoke from such fire was a source of great discomfort—or as least it would be to us. In some cases charcoal fires wre employed, but the effect of such fires in a half-buried hut lacking any ventilation, and filled with natives, may be imagined. The air in such a place is abominably foul and close. Early writers have told us that in summer-time the natives often gave up using their winter quarters, and slept in light, open structures, or in the open.
In Parkinson's Journal we meet with a few statements concerning native huts. Of those seen where the town of Gisborne now stands he remarks: “We went into some of their houses, which were very meanly thatched, having a hole in the centre of the roof to let out the smoke.” Now, this feature of a smoke-hole in the roof is unknown to us save in a few references by early writers. It cannot have been a common practice, and was probably but little known. The Rev. Mr. Taylor wrote: “Another window is placed in the roof, a kind of trap-door, termed a pihanga.” This seems to have been a sort of louvre or dormer window; though it would admit but very little light, if any, it would serve as an excellent smoke-escape. Angas depicts such a roof-opening apparently in one of his sketches, but does not mention it in his work. It may have been an occasional usage, but certainly was not universal or common, and Taylor admits that in his time it was no longer seen. page 225 However, Angas seems to have seen it at Aotea in the “forties.”
Forster tells us that some of the “houses and cottages” of the New-Zealanders had an appearance of neatness. Crozet speaks of the natives using plank beds covered with grass or ferns—in which he was apparently wrong. Nicholas (1815) gives the average size of native huts as about 14 ft. by 8 ft., but many were smaller than that. He also says that these huts were very badly constructed, which they certainly were not, as a rule. Possibly he was referring to temporary huts of a summer encampment. Marshall speaks of the huts of Taranaki as having walls and roof made of mud and clay. This again is improbable: he saw huts of the whare puni type, with thatched walls and roof, or possibly bark-covered, with earth heaped against the walls and also on the low roof. His statement that the occupants slept in such places as we do in a bell-tent, with heads together “like the radii of a circle,” is also doubtful. Marshall also seems to have seen huts having the porch half enclosed, a wall extending across the front thereof. We do not know this form of porch; it may have been a local usage. These huts were used as storage-places for implements. He also saw elevated huts of the pataka type, but with one end open, that were used for storing fuel in. Of the huts seen in the Whangaroa and Bay of Islands districts he remarks that they were very small, “the merest loop-hole serving for an entrance,” and inferior to those of Taranaki. An account of the huts of the natives of the Wellington district, written in 1843, is to the effect that they were 10 ft. or 12 ft. long and 4 ft. or 5 ft. high. The occupants crawled into them, “where, covered with vermin, they smoked away a great part of their time.” The site of an old native village, exposed by the shifting of a sandhill, near Katikati, showed many hut-sites that were about 8 ft. by 10 ft. to 8 ft. by 12 ft. in size. Marsden relates that he had to divest himself of his coat ere he could crawl through the doorway of a 10 ft. by 14 ft. hut that he wished to enter.
Occasionally a type of house called whare kopae was seen in some districts; it was marked by having the doorway at the side instead of the end. Most early writers note the difference between the huts of the common folk and the superior dwellings of the men of importance, and it is these differences that call for some explanation.
The huts occupied as dwelling-places by the great majority of the people may be arranged under two heads—the page 226 page 227 whare puni, or general sleeping-house, and the small hut from 10 ft. to 12 ft. or so in length. The former was a house so constructed as to exclude fresh air and induce warmth; these were the favoured sleeping-apartments in winter. In size they might be anything from 14 ft. to 30 ft. or more in length. The walls were low, sometimes not more than about 2 ft., and the roof-pitch by no means a steep one. In many cases the site was excavated to a depth of perhaps 1 ft.; in others the earthing-up of the walls imparted to it a kind of semi-subterranean appearance. The packing of earth against the walls on the outside, and sometimes on the roof itself, was an excellent preventive of ventilation. When a fire was kindled in such a place, the little door and window-shutter slid to, and a party of unwashed natives in possession, then the result was an atmosphere such as only a Maori could endure. When charcoal fires were used, cases of the inhabitants of one of these dormitories being overcome by the fumes were not uncommon. In such cases the cause of such visitation was thought to be a certain supernatural folk called Patupaiarehe.
The first part of a house-plan marked off was the tuarongo, or back wall, and the rest was squared from that by means of measuring diagonals with the taura tieke, or measuring-cord. The terms koha and hau denote the slight increase in width of the front wall, and its equally slight increase in height—about a hand's breadth.
In the case of a large house the raising of the three great posts to support the huge ridge-pole was no light task. The rear post (pou tuarongo) and that at the front wall, the pou tahu, were erected first; then the central post, the pou tokomanawa. The butt end of the post was placed over the hole, and, as the head was raised, the butt slid down a beam placed vertically in the hole. The head was lifted a certain distance by man-handling, then ropes were used, in conjunction with a form of horse or trestle. Snubbing-posts enabled the rope-haulers to hold their gains.
The lifting of the huge, massive ridge-pole of a large house was another heavy task. The rangitapu method of raising the tahu, or ridge-pole, was as follows: It was hauled into position at the base of the posts; two tall, stout rickers were set upright, one on either side of the rear post. These were somewhat higher than the post, and had a cross-piece lashed across them above the top of the post. page 228 The same was done at the front post. Stout ropes were attached to either end of the tahu and passed over the cross-pieces above the post-heads. These ropes were brought down and passed under similar cross-pieces at the bases of the posts. The men hauling had thus two substitutes for pulleys, and were enabled to lift the ridge-pole into position. The cross-pieces were freshly barked pieces of round houhou, having a smooth glairy surface. If this was a pre-European usage it was an ingenious device.
These sleeping-houses, and all superior houses, were whare whakanoho—proper framed houses constructed of wrought timber; whereas many of the smaller ordinary huts were built with a frame of round saplings. In these latter the walls were composed of sapling uprights fixed in the ground, to the outer sides of which were lashed small, horizontal rods, to which the wall-thatch was tied in small bundles about 6 in. wide. The roof-frame was composed of similar round poles and rods employed as rafters and battens, to which overlapping layers of thatch were secured. The whole erection was fastened together by lashings composed of strips of the green leaf of Phormium, or “flax” as it is commonly but erroneously termed by us. In these huts the wall-posts and those that supported the ridge-pole were all well sunk in the ground, and so equally tended to support the roof.
In the whare whakanoho the central posts and the ridge-pole may be said to support the house. The side posts, or rather slabs or planks, were not deeply inserted in the earth, and were not intended to resist both the weight of the roof and the thrust of the rafters. The ridge-pole supported the rafters, and so the outward thrust on the walls was not great. In place of compact round, or square, wall-posts, wide planks were used, with intervals of 2 ft. between them. These planks were about 3 in. in thickness. The upper ends were mortised to receive the lower end of the rafter, and in some cases each had outside it a form of buttress or brace. The rafters were hewn timbers, the upper ends of which rested on the upper surface of the ridge-pole, but underneath was a shoulder that fitted against the ridge-pole. No form of lashing, trunnel, or nail secured the rafters to ridge-pole or poupou, as the vertical planks used as wall-posts were termed. Nor were the horizontal battens of this type of house lashed to the rafters, as in the case of the inferior huts. Such battens simply lay on top of the page 229 rafters. To hold them in place a strong rope, a flattened five-strand plait of the tough, durable leaves of the Cordyline, was passed over the ridge-pole and two turns taken round each of the battens in position. This rope is known as a tauwhenua, and one such is provided for each rafter. As it passes along the upper side of the rafter it is invisible to any person inside the house. One end of this rope was secured to the outer bracing-post, or poumatua, that backs the poupou, or plank wall-post. The other end, after passing round the last roof-batten on the other side of the roof, was conducted down to the poumatua of that side. And now took place a tightening process that locked the house together. A stout pole was employed as a lever, and to this the free end of the rope was secured. A number of men manipulating this long lever put a heavy strain on the rope. This strain came primarily on the rope, but also on the two uprights, or poupou, on either side of the house. These were drawn inward by such strain so as to cause the two rafters affected to be jammed tightly in position between poupou and ridge-pole. One can hear the creak of straining timbers as the rafters are jammed home. page 230 In this mimiro process, as it was called, the rope was not attached directly to the lever, but by means of a short length of rope that was an appendage to the tauwhenua. This left the end of the main rope free, and this was secured to the poumatua by the help of a wooden peg inserted in it, and which served as a belaying-pin.
The poupou or wall-planks acting as posts were not quite vertical, but leaned inward a trifle. No wall-plate of any strength was employed, but only a thin plank about 6 in. wide that was secured to the top of the poupou on the outside. This is the kaho paetara. The covering of the walls consisted of thatch. In common huts but one thickness of wall-thatch was known; but in these better-class building two layers were put on. The inner layer of this tupuni, or wall-thatch, was usually raupo (a bulrush), and the outer one was composed of some more durable material, such as toetoe or rushes. In many cases bark of totara or manuka was used—sometimes as a lining for roof or wall, and sometimes it formed the only roof-covering. The first layer of thatch on the roof of a superior house was a close-packed covering of even surface, not lapped rows of thatch. Such a first covering is called the tuahuri, and is usually of raupo (bulrush). It is the same process as thatching a wall. Along the upper surface of this layer, along the ties that secure it to the roof, supplejacks were laid and lashed; these karapi, as they are termed, serve as battens to which the next layer of thatch is tied. Over the tauhuri comes the true thatch, arranged in the whakaheke manner, horizontal rows each overlapping the one below it. This is composed of the most durable material obtainable. When finished, poles were often placed lengthwise on the roof and secured at the ends in order to keep the thatch down and prevent disarrangement by wind.
The end walls of the house were built much as were the side walls, with the same wide plank-like posts. The type of house just described would have the side walls and roof prolonged perhaps 8 ft. or 10 ft., and this porch, or roro, would serve as a lounging-place. Its outer limit was defined by a wide slab, the paepae-kai-awha, placed on edge. The floor of the house consisted of the bare earth, which would be covered wth bracken or some such material where used as a sleeping-place. The door and window were but wooden slabs that slid into position. No form of chimney was employed. The fireplace was merely a small, shallow, rectangular pit lined with stones. A few carved timbers may be seen on such houses.page 231
The above description represents many of the whare puni type of house, but a superior type was the whare whakairo, or carved house. Here we have the house adorned more or less with carvings and painted designs. Such houses were occupied by men of standing, or used as guest-houses. Of late years there has been a revival of the custom of building these decorated houses. Some of them are of considerable size, as much as 70 ft. in length; a few are somewhat longer. All are of the same form, the usual rectangular parallelogram of the whare maori, or native house. No matter how large a native house is made, however, it is never partitioned off into rooms. The front wall is, in large houses, set well back so as to provide a deep porch. These houses are constructed as are the whare puni already described, but many of the timbers are adorned with carved designs or painted patterns, while the spaces between uprights are occupied by decorative panels or neat reed-work. The roof also is lined with the long slim reeds known as kakaho, the culms of the toetoe (Arundo conspicua). This type of house is not “earthed up.”
In the erection of whare whakairo, or houses adorned with carved timbers, no set rule obtains as to the amount of such decoration employed. It depends upon the ability, industry, or financial standing of the owners. In many cases a hamlet could not produce any person skilled in decorative art, hence experts of other clans had to be asked to undertake the work, and these would have to be paid page 232 for their services. Thus a house may have decorative carvings on its central post, ridge-pole, wall-posts, door and window frames, barge-boards and their upright supports, and the deep plank placed across the entrance to the porch. Occasionally carvings are also seen on the door, the window-shutter, and the rafters. The latter are usually, however, adorned with painted designs, not carvings. On the other hand, one sees houses of the whare puni type with, in some cases, one lone piece of carved work, a human head fixed over the junction of the barge-boards at the apex of the roof. A house of the whare whakanoho type—i.e., constructed of wrought timber—might be provided with carvings in any quantity between these two extremes.
Banks, in his account of Cook's first voyage, makes a few remarks on Maori carving, and speaks of two materially different styles: “One was entirely formed of a number of spirals differently connected; the other was in much more wild taste, and I may truly say was like nothing but itself. The truth with which the lines were drawn was surprising, but even more so was their method page 233 of connecting several spirals into one piece, inimitably well, intermingling the ends in so dexterous a manner that it was next to impossible for the eye to trace the connections.” When Polack visited the east coast in the “thirties” of last century he was much struck by the superiority of the wood-carving of that region to what he had seen in the Bay of Islands district. Parkinson expressed surprise at the remarkably fine execution in the carving of spiral designs, and notes that no imitations of nature were seen in native designs.
The wood-carving designs of the Maori are unlike those of Polynesia, and we have to turn to Melanesia to find anything analogous to them, as in New Guinea. The peculiar design often carved on the lower ends of barge-boards in New Zealand is found, in a cruder form, on houses in New Ireland, as also is the double manaia. The latter is, with the Maori, a much conventionalized figure; a grotesque human figure has on either side of it a weird-looking creature with a head resembling that of a bird. These two creatures face the central figure, and each has its beak(?) close to or touching the head of that figure, often against its ears. Evidently a symbolical meaning has been attached to this peculiar design, though now long forgotten by the Maori. A similar design, much less conventional, is employed in Melanesia, as also is the scroll pattern. Dr. Newman sees in the double manaia design a form found in Indian sculpture, where it represents Vishnu the Preserver flanked by the spirits of Good and Evil. The much-favoured scroll or spiral design was not employed in Polynesia, but is in New Guinea and Indonesia. The double-spiral form has been employed in decorative art in many lands from Polynesia to Ireland. A favoured design for the barge-boards of page 234 buildings is that known as the pakake, or whale. The body of the whale is quite plain, but the head is resolved into a scroll form. Birds are not depicted in the carvings of the Maori, though the Moriori folk of the Chatham Isles employed that design occasionally. The only animal that appears frequently in native carvings is the lizard; this was and is quite common, a fact that has caused much speculation as to its symbolical meaning. We are told that the lizard represents Whiro, who is the personified form of evil and death, and some superstition may have led to its being carved on house-timbers. Moko is the general name for lizards here, though in parts of Melanesia the crocodile is so called. In both Asia and Africa we encounter the belief that the lizard brought death into the world. The Maori believed that death is often caused by it, and that a wizard can cause a lizard to devour his victim's entrails and so cause his death. The lizard appears in carvings and other decorative work in many parts of the world, especially in Polynesia and Melanesia. These designs, symbolical and otherwise, were probably all introduced here, and are not a local production.
Wood-carving was a tedious task in the Stone Age, and the carvings of a superior house or canoe might represent a labour of ten years. The reticulated carving seen on the prow of a war-canoe was a work that called for much skill, patience, and time.
When about to build a house, the site was levelled, and the dimensions of the building marked with four corner pegs. Squaring was effected by means of measuring the diagonals. To line the uprights of side and end walls a cord was carried right round the four corner pegs and stretched taut. The men engaged in building a superior house were under tapu, and that meant many restrictions. Artisans, carvers, hewers, &c., were under the aegis of the gods, and of Rua. This Rua is the personified form of knowledge, and he has many names; as the patron of artisans, or at least of house-builders and canoe-makers, he is called Rua i te whaihanga. The tapu of a new superior house was a serious matter, until such tapu was removed by means of a singular ceremony, in which a woman was the first person to step across the threshold of the new building. Other ceremonial of a very strange nature was intended to protect the welfare of the house—that is to say, of its inmates. This was done by means of a material mauri, a form of talisman already described.page 235
As to decorative work other than carving, we may mention painted designs on rafters and battens, occassionally elsewhere; also the effective decorative panel-work between the wall-posts, and the neat reed-work lining seen in roof-work, and occasionally on walls. The remarkable designs seen painted on the rafters of superior houses form an interesting study when one considers that they were the work of barbaric and cannibal folk. We note nothing like them in Polynesia, but find patterns of house-paintings in New Guinea that resemble them. The symmetrical arrangement of these designs is very striking. The many convolutions and arrangements of curved lines are totally distinct from Polynesian decorative designs. The colours used were red, black, and white. Ochre furnished the first, charcoal the second, and a white clay the thrid, these substances being mixed with oil. Such painted designs are generally called tuhituhi, and each of the many different designs has its distinctive name.
Occasionally walls were lined in a very neat manner with the stalks (stipes) of the common bracken, and these brown reed-like stalks were secured to the frame by means of fine ties, the general effect being a pleasing one. The matured yellow culms of the toetoe kakaho (Arundo conspicua) were often used as a lining-material for the roof and walls. As arranged up and down on a roof they are certainly very effective. In some cases the wall-spaces between the upright planks (poupou) were lined with these reeds arranged vertically. The more elaborate method, however, was that known as pukiore, harapaki, and tukutuku. In this work the reeds were used as a background, and then small, thin, flat battens of light wood were placed across them horizontally a little distance apart. In some cases the horizontal laths are placed close together, so that the reeds behind them are unseen. These laths were about ¾ in. in width, and coloured black or red. These decorative panels were not built into the wall, but were completed as separate pieces and then fitted into the wall-spaces. In making them the laths were arranged first, each one being confined at each end in a turn of a suspended cord. The reeds were then tied on to the laths separately, and this work was performed by two persons, one being stationed on either side of the suspended panel. By this arrangement the work was performed with facility, as the operators passed the ties to each other through the spaces between the laths. The strips of fibrous material employed in the page 236 page 237 basket-like laced work were of three materials—harakeke (Phormium tenax), kiekie (Freycinetia Banksii), and pingao (Scirpus frondosus). These strips are of different colours, and so lend themselves to the formation of coloured designs. The flax is a green colour, unless blackened artificially, which was sometimes done; the kiekie a light grey, and the pingao an orange colour. The kiekie was sometimes rendered white by a bleaching process. In manipulating these ties the different coloured strips employed in securing the reeds to the laths were so arranged as to form geometric designs and patterns, each of which has its proper name. When neatly executed with carefully prepared materials this pukiore work presents a very ornate and pleasing appearance. A house having its walls so decorated is called a whare pukiore in some parts.
When the yellow culms of the toetoe alone were employed in house-decoration they were sometimes adorned with a spiral pattern. This was effected by means of winding a strip of green Phormium leaf round the reed in a spiral manner, leaving an open space between the turns. The reed was then held in the flame of a fire for a while, which blackened the exposed spiral, but on the covering-strip being removed the spiral under it was still of its bright-yellow colour.
The front end of a carefully constructed house was so made as to be slightly higher than the tuarongo, or rear end. The effect of this is said to be that the smoke draws forward to the upper part of the front wall and so escapes through the koropihanga or aumanga, a small aperture just below the ridge-pole at the front wall.
The term hoa implies pitch, as of a roof (tuanui). A house with a steep-pitched roof is called a whare apiti. The words haeora, haeoratu, hoka, and rongomaioro also denote a steep-pitched roof, while hora, kaupaparu, kurupapa, pora matanui, and others are applied to a low-pitched roof; kuramatanui denotes a medium pitch. The eaves of a house have a considerable projection, and are termed peru, heu, ikuiku, hiku, and tarahau. The central space down the interior of a house is the ihonui, kauwhanga, riuroa, or awarua. On either side of it the sleeping-places are separated from the central passage by means of a thick plank called a patakitaki or pa uruhanga. People lie with their heads to the side walls (pakitara), and feet to the page 238 central passage. As you enter a house, the right side, near the window, is the place of honour, where the principal people are found. The opposite corner, on the left side, the kopaiti or taraiti, is a place of no account.
In whare puni firewood was sometimes kept stacked in a kind of sling apparatus on the rear wall. This was termed an apaapa wahie. A loose heap of firewood, a disordered heap, is called a haupu wahie or whakaputu; the word apaapa denotes a carefully arranged stack. The verb is whakaapaapa (to stack). Kotutu wahie and whakatutu wahie are applied to the conical stacks of fuel timber often seen in former times.
Totara was the most highly prized wood for house-building purposes, and matai was much used in some districts. The splitting of logs into slabs for hewing into plank was an arduous task on account of the lack of metal tools. Wooden wedges and beetles were used, the former fashioned from manuka wood the hardened in fire. The chief difficulty would be with the small entering-wedges, termed pipi. Possibly the Maori adopted the same plan that the Tahitians employed, who kept a fierce fire burning for some time near the end of the log to be split. The heat, acting on the green wood, caused it to dry and check, such cracks being taken advantage of in entering the small wedges. Large bursting-wedges are known as kaunuku. Ora and matakahi are generic terms for such splitting-wedges. The maul or beetle used was simply a ponderous and heavy wooden club, called a ta or pao; maire being a favoured timber for this implement.
The labour of hauling from the forest heavy house-timbers, canoes, &c., was severe, but was a most impressive sight to view. Ropes were attached to the balk, and a large number of men “tailed on” to them. A fugleman chanted certain lines of the hauling-song, and the haulers roared out the chorus as they strained at the ropes.
The rough places used as cookhouses (kauta, kamuri) were in some cases constructed without walls, but stacks of neatly piled firewood took the place thereof. Walls of such places were also made with trunks of the wheki, a tree-fern (Dicksonia). The name of whare tirawa is applied to a hut with such walls. Native women preferred to cook out in the open in fine weather. Rude sheds, temporary shelters, termed wharau, were sometimes erected by travellers, but only in bad weather.page 239
Native villages in former times were of two kinds. The pa was a fortified village, while the kainga was an unfortified village. The fortified places were, in most cases, built in commanding situations on hills, bluffs, and terraces. Near such places there might, however, be an open village situated, wherein many of the people would live, except in times of danger. Villages were subdivided into areas of differing sizes by means of light palisading, each area being occupied by a family group. In most cases a clear space was reserved at some part of the village. This was termed the marae, and here visitors were received, open-air meetings were held, and people often assembled here on summer evenings, the young folk engaging in games and pastimes. As a rule this public place and also the small open spaces in front of the dwelling-huts were kept neat and clean, leading men often taking a prominent part in such work. The large house in which meetings took place and parties of visitors were accommodated would face the village marae. A public latrine was found in each village, often situated at some steep slope or bluff. In warm weather the people often lived a kind of gipsy life at their cultivation grounds, or elsewhere, wherever they might be engaged in some industry. Thus one might visit a village at such times and find it deserted, save for a few decrepit old persons.
Villages that were protected merely by stockades, as in the Wellington district, have passed away and left but few signs of the former habitations of man. In D'Urville's time a Maori pa existed on the bluff head at the eastern headland of Lyall Bay, but no tokens of that hamlet are now seen, less than a century later. The remains of old-time earthwork defences and terraced hills are, however, seen in many hundreds in other parts of the North Island. Such remains are not found in Polynesia, those of Rapa Island being of a different type. The hill forts of Viti Levu, Fiji Group, must have resembled the pa maori of New Zealand, especially with regard to the earthworks, stockades, and elevated fighting-platforms. The peculiar upward sloping stages (kotaretare) employed in defensive works by the Maori were also used in stockaded villages in eastern New Guinea. Stockaded villages resembling those of New Zealand were also known in Borneo and Sumatra.
An important building in a native village was the storehouse. These were elevated huts used for the storage of food-supplies, such as dried products, and many other things. These stores were of varying sizes, from small box-like places 2 ft. or 3 ft. long, to large, roomy structures page 240 of 20 ft. in length. In finish they differed as widley, from rough thatched huts to carefully built specimens of hewn timber adorned with abundance of carved designs. In many cases the finest carved work seen in a village was that of the show elevated store of the place. These stores were supported, according to size, on one, two, four, or more supporting-posts. The larger ones are called pataka and whata; the small ones are known as purangi, kawiu, whatarangi, &c. No carved work is ever seen inside such structures, save in the porch, but in a few cases the outside of the plank walls were covered with elaborately carved designs. In most cases the carved adornments were confined to the front of the pataka, the threshold plank, the verge-boards and their vertical supporting planks, together with the interior of the porch. It must be understood that the elaborately adorned specimens of such places seen in our museums were by no means common in former times. Most pataka merely had a few carved timbers in front, and many had no such decorative work at all. The same can be said of dwellinghouses. These storehouses were elevated about 4 ft. from the ground, access to them being page 241 gained by means of a notched beam used as a step-ladder. This was not stationary, and was placed in position only when a person wished to enter the store. The main object of elevation was to prevent rats entering the place, and various devices were employed in order to prevent them ascending the posts. In late times a very effective method of blocking the ingress of rats has been adopted, a tin milk-pan being placed in an inverted position on the top of each supporting post, and on top of these the plates are laid.
Elevated storage-places are employed in various regions of the Pacific, and such erections are common in Indonesia. A few cases are recorded in Maori tradition of tree dwellings having been employed by the Maori. Such a tree house was occupied by natives at Te Whakahoro, near Manukau, early in last century, until gun-armed raiders from the north discouraged that mode of life. The Rev. R. Taylor mentions a case in which certain fugitives lived in a tree hut on the slopes of Mount Egmont. This occurred long generations ago. Polack mentions another case at Opotiki.page 242
In addition to elevated huts the Maori was much given to the use of elevated platforms as storage-places. These were elevated on posts or constructed among the branches of trees. The small pataka, some of which were diminutive box-like objects elevated on a single tall post, were used as places in which to keep prized articles, tapu food, and in some cases bones of the dead.
Pits and semi-subterranean storage-places, for which rua is a generic term, were also used, principally for the preservation of the kumara, or sweet potato, that was the principal cultivated food product of the people. The semi-subterranean stores, called rua tahuhu, were often lined with slabs of the trunks of tree-ferns in order to exclude rats; such slabs being known as pairi ponga and turihunga. The species Dicksonia fibrosa is the most highly prized for this purpose. The well-like, wholly subterranean storage pits are called rua kopiha. Both kinds are still in use among natives.