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The Coming of the Maori

Storehouses on Piles

Storehouses on Piles

Any elevated structure for suspending or storing food was termed a whata. The simplest form consisted of tall uprights with horizontal poles attached to them for hanging up fish. Elevated platforms, also termed whata, were erected near the cultivations to accommodate the harvested crop temporarily until the crop could be carried to the village storehouses (Fig. 14). The food was covered with thatch to protect it for the time being.

Fig. 14. Elevated food platform, from field photograph.

Fig. 14. Elevated food platform, from field photograph.

In central Polynesia, there was more than one crop a year and, as only a few days' supply was brought in at a time, food storage houses were not made. In New Zealand, however, the one crop a year necessitated the storage of a year's supply and so underground pits and hill-side storage houses were made to house the root crop brought in from the whata platforms.

Storehouses on raised platforms came under the general name of whata but they received the specific name of pataka. They were erected near the dwelling houses for the storage of preserved foods and household equipment, such as mats, baskets, clothing, fishing gear, implements, and utensils not in immediate use. They were raised on piles to protect the contents from rats. Details of the construction of the superior carved pataka have been described by Best (13) and Firth (38) has described some of the less ornate forms in use in the Urewera district. The following details may be followed in Figure 15.

The piles (1) were stout posts, firmly embedded in the ground and with about four feet elevation. The number was usually four to corres-page 131pond with the corners but sometimes a middle post was added on each side. Two stout planks (2), fairly wide and thick and adzed to a hollow on the under surface, formed the side supports of the house. When placed on the tops of the piles, they projected a short distance at each end. In addition to support, they formed the rat guards (papa kiore). Sometimes right-angled notches were cut in the piles as further obstruction to rats. Floor boards (3) were laid transversely across the beams and projected beyond them on either side. A longitudinal rod or batten (4) was laid on the floor boards on each side and lashed to the beams through the interstices between the floor boards. The side walls, formed of short, upright boards (5), were lashed to the outer side of the floor battens by holes drilled through the lower ends of the boards. Firth (38, p. 364)

Fig. 15. Storehouse on piles.a, without ridgepost; b, with slab ridgepost; c, upper end of median slab; d, inner flange of wall slab.

Fig. 15. Storehouse on piles.
a, without ridgepost; b, with slab ridgepost; c, upper end of median slab; d, inner flange of wall slab.

gives an alternate method in which the wall boards (d 5) had a transverse flange (10) on the inner surface near the lower ends which caught against the outer edge of the floor platform (3). As he points out, this technique resembles that of the barge-boards in the carved meeting houses. Upper battens (6) termed kaho paetara or huapae were lashed to the inner side of the upper ends of the wall boards and, unlike the short kaho paetara of the carved houses, they extended in one piece for the length of the wall. They thus formed a wall plate. Sometimes the wall was formed by a long wide plank set on edge. For frame without ridgeposts, see a.

The front and rear walls were constructed like the side walls, the boards being graduated in length with oblique upper borders to conform to the gable shape of the roof. The front wall was erected a little distance back from the front edge of the flooring so as to leave space for an open porch. The middle boards (b 9) at each end were notched at the apex (c 9) to provide a support for the ridgepole and thus they also functioned as page 132ridgeposts. The upright wall boards were perforated along each side, battens were placed externally over the cracks between the boards, and adjoining boards were lashed together by cords passing through the side holes and over the battens.

The ridgepole (8), of the same length as the floor platform, was placed in the notches of the middle wall boards and paired rafters (7) lashed to it. The lower ends of the rafters rested on the upper edges of the side walls and projected beyond to form eaves. Horizontal battens (kaho) were attached to the rafters and the roof thatch applied.

The middle plank of the front wall (b 9) was made sufficiently wide to allow a small rectangular opening to be cut in the lower end to allow a person to crawl through. A wooden sliding door was used and there was no window opening.

The roof and side walls in front of the front wall enclosed the open porch. Large barge-boards, amo supports, and a wide outer threshold plank (paepae-kai-awha) finished off the front of the porch in a manner similar to the large meeting houses. A notched tree trunk provided a ladder (arawhata) for gaining admittance. On leaving the storehouse, the ladder was removed to maintain the rat protection.

The best pataka were much more extensively carved than the meeting houses, to outward appearance. Thus in addition to the barge-boards, their amo supports, and the outer threshold, all the upright planks of the front wall were carved. The narrow strips of the middle plank on each side of the door opening were sometimes carved with a pattern similar to that of the door jambs of large houses and the part above the door with a full length figure with a large face ornamented with an elaborate tattooing design. The other front planks also had carved full-length figures, with elaborate tattooing patterns and with paua-shell eyes. The carved planks, being set close together without intervening spaces, formed a striking front wall of massed carving not present in the carved meeting houses. The upright battens between the planks were sometimes ornamented with white feathers with their quills inserted under the plank lashings. The barge-boards were very wide and fully carved throughout their length, a favourite motif being a whale (pakake) with the head at the lower ends defined by bold spirals and the tail towards the upper ends shown with some small human figures figuratively hauling upon it. The gable apex was finished off with a carved human figure. The amo uprights supporting the barge-boards were also wide and a favourite design with one school of carving was a male and a female figure embracing each other. The outer threshold beam was very elaborately carved and a frequent motif was the manaia figure. The side wall planks of the porch were usually carved on the inner face but the outer surface of the side walls was usually plain, as was also the back wall.

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However, the fine pataka from Maketu in the Auckland Museum is carved on all external surfaces. It belonged to Te Pokiha Taranui, the leading chief of the Ngati Pikiao tribe, and was built in about 1868. Te Pokiha ordered the largest and most-carved building to add to his presdge. The house according to Hamilton (46, p. 140) was about 35 feet long, 20 feet broad, and 15 feet high to the ridge. In addition to the elaborate carving of the porch, which is 5 or 6 feet deep, the side walls, back walls, piles, and extra boards along the ridge were carved, thus making it the most profusely carved pataka probably of all time (PL IV).

The carved pataka were complete plank houses and thus unique for Polynesia. There were other pataka with the front, back, and side walls thatched and no carving. These were probably more common in pre-European times for the carved pataka were possible only to chiefs with the prestige and wealth to employ skilled craftsmen.

Various forms of small pataka were erected on tall single posts and, probably from their high elevation, they were termed whata-rangi. From their small size, the flooring could be made in one piece and in some, the floor was concavely curved like the section of a canoe. Some longer ones had two supporting posts. Some were carved with plank sides and others were thatched on the sides and ends. Steps were sometimes cut in the tall, massive, single posts which might reach a height of 20 feet. For various types and details, see Best (13).

In central Polynesia, though food storage houses were not necessary, houses were often set aside to store equipment, such as weapons, drums, wooden gongs, fishing nets, and other material. Such houses were built on the ground with the same technique as dwelling houses. However, houses were built occasionally on raised platforms. In Mangaia, they were termed 'are 'okiri and were built by a chief for a favourite daughter whom he wished to protect from undesirable suitors. The story of the Maori chief who confined his daughter in a high pataka because he disapproved of her choice for marriage is, therefore, not unique. The nearest approach to the Maori pataka was in the Marquesas. Here the dwelling houses were built on high stone platforms owing to the sloping nature of and terrain. Storehouses (fata'a) were built at the back or side of the dwelling and were raised to the level of the house platforms by four or six supporting piles.