The Maori - Volume II
XXI Dwelling Houses and Storehouses
XXI Dwelling Houses and Storehouses
Origin of houses and wood carving—Rua and Tangaroa—Two styles of houses—Tapu of houses—Houses never repaired—Tapu of house building—Superior houses—The whare whakanoho—Importance of ridgepole—How the frame timbers were clamped home—The mimiro apparatus—Decorative work on walls—The roof—Thatching—Doors—smoke vents or windows—Interior of house—No furniture in a native house—Carved designs of superior houses—Maori decorative art is curvilinear—Polynesian designs are rectilinear—Decorative painting—Some designs in native carving—The spiral—Three-fingered hands—The manaia—The marakihau—The pihanga—Roof pitches—Ordinary huts—Whare puni—Sleeping houses with excavated floors, and earth covered—Pit dwellings—Wharau or sheds—Houses named—Cooking sheds—Artistic hewing—Elevated storehouses—Elaborately carved pataka—Ceremonial opening of new buildings—Small elevated stores, etc.—Elevated platforms, stages and racks—Pit stores—Artificial caves as storage places—Pits for storage of water—Latrines.
According to native myth the knowledge of building houses was brought down from the heavens by the primal offspring, and so dwellings became known on earth. The origin of carving in wood is assigned to one Rua, but Rua of the many names is really the personified form of knowledge in its many forms, as also its acquirement and diffusion.
Now when Rua paid a visit to Tangaroa once upon a time he found him rejoicing over the completion of his house, which was a whare whakairo, that is a house adorned with decorative designs. Rua was much astonished to find that the decorative work of the house consisted merely of painted patterns; there was no carved work. Hence he told Tangaroa to pay him a visit, and he would see some real carving, not merely painted patterns. When Tangaroa did so, and approached the house of Rua, he saw two men standing in front of the house, one in front of the lower end of each barge board, apparently to re- page 559 ceive him. He walked up to one of these men and proceeded to salute him in the manner Maori by pressing noses. Then he heard Rua laugh at him, and saying: “Now you see what wood carving is. The figures are so lifelike that you have been deceived by them.”
The art of employing painted designs is said to have preceded the knowledge of wood carving and tattooing. The painted designs used on houses were known as tuhituhi and hopara makaurangi. When the knowledge of incised carving on wood was acquired it was called whakairo rakau. East coast myths attribute carving to one Rua-i-te-pukenga, who introduced the art into this world, having acquired it in the realm of Rangi-tamaku, the second of the twelve heavens, counting upward. Rongo also acquired his knowledge of carving and carved designs from the house Wharekura in that celestial realm. When he constructed his own house he used Koururu (personified form of the owl) as a sacred offering, and buried his body under the rear wall of the house. The Maori tells us that this is the reason why carved figures have large glaring eyes; they are the eyes of Koururu.
The Matatua folk speak of one Rauru as having been an originator or introducer of the art of carving. Another tradition states that, in olden times, a man named Rauru made a voyage to a far land named Wairua-ngangana and brought back the taro plant with him. Another old story is to the effect that one Hura-waikato was the first wood carver, and that it was he who embellished the house of Rua with carved designs.
The word whakairo, so commonly used to denote carvings, does not carry that sense, but simply means a design; wood carving is properly expressed by the term whakairo rakau, as tattooing is whakairo tangata, and designs woven in garments whakairo kakahu.
There was ever a certain amount of tapu pertaining to dwelling houses, more especially to those of persons of importance. This fact had some very peculiar effects, and some of these we have already noted in the objection to eating meals in a dwelling house and certain superstitions connected with sickness. Again the Maori had a curious objection to repairing a house, more especially the roof thereof; he preferred to build a new house when the old one began to leak. In the early days of intercourse with Europeans natives lodged white travellers in rude sheds in many cases, lest they violate the tapu of better houses. Nicholas (1814) tells us that native hosts wished him to eat a meal outside, though heavy rain was falling at the time.
The tapu of a new house is of a different nature, and is, or was, even more stringent than that of an occupied house. For a house in course of construction is placed under the care and control of the gods, and great care has to be taken that no act is committed that will give offence to those gods, or trouble will visit the house, its builders or inmates—this because the gods have withdrawn their protection. No woman was allowed in or near a superior house in course of construction. Such an untoward occurrence would be followed by lack of energy, listlessness on the part of the workmen, and probably the house would never be finished. Nicholas tells us that he saw a man eating his food without touching it with his hands, gnawing it on the ground as a dog might, though in a more clumsy manner. Enquiries produced the explanation that this man was tapu because he was engaged in building a page 562 house. The small, inferior huts would not be tapu in this manner.
It is, according to native belief, a most unlucky act to prepare a site for a new house and then abandon it for another. It is an unwarrantable interference with the body of the Earth Mother; also builders must work continuously at a house, and attend to nothing else until the house is finished.
We will now note how a superior house, a whare whakanoho, or house of wrought timber, properly fitted together, was built. Having levelled the site the four corners of the oblong building were marked by means of stout pegs driven firmly into the earth, those marking the rear end of the house being first inserted. This rectangular space was squared by means of measuring the diagonals. The cord employed is termed a taura tieke. A cord was carried right round the rectangular site outside the four pegs, and, when stretched taut, this cord served as a guide in aligning the wall posts of ends and sides, as also the posts erected at the front and rear walls to support the ridgepole.
The entrance of the common form of native house is at one end, but the front wall is not flush with the outer ends of the side walls; it is carried back so as to leave a porch in front, the depth of which depends upon the size of the house. In a small hut it may be 3ft. deep; in a large house perhaps 10 or 12ft. In many cases this porch end, or roro as it is termed, was slightly narrower than the rest of the building. The front wall was, in at least some districts, made slightly wider than the rear wall, this discrepancy being denoted by the terms koha and hau. The rear wall site was first marked off and the same measure used for the front wall, to which was added the koha of four or five inches. The koha or hau was measured by finger breadths, termed tuma in this instance. Thus one might say: “Kia rima tuma te hau o te whare.” (Let the discrepancy in width of the house be five fingers.) Another koha was seen in the slightly increased height of the post that supported the ridgepole at the front wall. This front post was from one to three hands breadths higher than the corresponding post at the rear wall. This was to facilitate the escape of smoke which drifted along the ridgepole to the page 563 front end of the house and then escaped through the koropihanga or aumanga, a small aperture immediately below the ridgepole.
A house was generally described in maro or fathoms as regards size. A house ten fathoms long would be an unusually long one, and this would be a superior house used largely for ceremonial and social meetings. A house of the whare puni type of about twenty to thirty feet in length was deemed a much more comfortable place.
A native house depended for stability on the ridgepole. The side posts were not designed to bear the weight and thrust of the roof, hence the ridgepole and its supporting posts were baulks of a considerable size, hewn into shapely form with much labour. The rear post for the ridgepole, the pou tuarongo, was erected in the middle of the rear wall, while the pou tahu was in the middle of the front wall. If a large house, a third supporting post for the ridgepole (tahu and tahuhu) was set up in the middle of the house; this is the pou tokomanawa. The ridgepole projected out over the deep porch without any support outside the front wall. The manner of erecting the heavy posts and still heavier ridgepole has already been described.
The walls of our superior house were composed of wide, flat slabs or planks (poupou) of hewn timber set in the earth, while the spaces between these slabs were lined with decorative panels to be described anon. The roof was supported by massive hewn rafters, the lower ends of which were fitted into the upper ends of the poupou, the mortice hole made to receive them being a square one, called waha paepae, or semicircular, termed whakarua whetu. It is noted that rafters of such houses are often curved somewhat, not straight hewn, the convex side being uppermost. The upper ends of the rafters were so fashioned as to fit against the ridgepole, being provided with a shoulder. The ridgepole was, in some districts, secured to its supporting posts by strong ties of aka or vines that fitted into channels on the posts. In some districts we are told that they were hollowed to accommodate the curve of the under part of the ridgepole. No form of nail was known: lashings supplied their place.page 564 page 565
The poupou, or side posts, were not quite vertical, but inclined inward a little, while outside each was a firmly set strut, called the pou matua, that served as a brace against the roof thrust. There was nothing in the form of a stout wall plate, merely a light plank, the kaho matapu, that was secured to the upper ends of the poupou on the outer side. Battens to support the roof were not lashed to the rafters as in common huts, but simply lay on them. They were kept in position by a strong, flat rope, plaited in the whiri papa style that lay on the upper side of each rafter. The lower end of this rope was secured to the pou matua, and a double turn was formed with it round each batten (kaho). This was continued up to the ridgepole over which the rope was passed and led down the upper side of the corresponding rafter (heke), on the other slope, hitched round each batten as before. Having been carried down to the wall it was strained taut by the mimiro process and secured to the pou matua. In at least some cases a light piece of timber was secured over the battens and immediately over the rafter; to this the battens were secured.
The rope used for the above purpose was called tauwhenua. It was made from leaves of Cordyline australis, as great strength was requisite. The great strain it was subjected to reduced it much in size. The mimiro apparatus was simply a stout pole used as a lever. It was planted at the base of the strut (pou matua) on the outer side of the wall upright. A short piece of rope was fastened by one end to the tauwhenua, its other end being secured to the lever. By pulling on the upper end of the lever much leverage was obtained, great strain was put on the rope, and this strain locked the timbers of the house. The two opposite poupou took the strain, both ends of the rafters were clamped home on wall and ridgepole. The creaking of timbers under the strain could be heard. The end of the strained rope, hanging free, was made fast to the outer strut and then the lever and short rope were removed. Each pair of poupou and rafters was so locked or jammed home. The rope end secured to the strut was covered with the thatch, which protected it from the weather, etc.page 566
The walls were thatched outside with bulrushes or a coarse grass, and another layer of thatch (of toetoe—Pampas grass) outside the first layer. This is the tupuni process. The panel work of the interior walls, in the spaces between the slablike posts, was of several forms. In some houses these spaces were lined with the matured culms of Arundo conspicua (toetoe), yellow reeds called kakaho, arranged vertically. Occasionally long stalks (stipes) of the common bracken, arranged horizontally, were employed for the purpose, and, rarely, mats were so used, these being worked in some decorative designs, like floor mats.
But the most favoured style of decorative panels was that known as harapaki, tukutuku and pukiore, which may or may not have been derived from the sennit work of the Pacific region. This panel work has been described in detail by Dr. Buck in the Transactions of the N.Z. Institute, Vol. 53, p. 452. The process, termed tuitui, may be described as a kind of lacing. To the yellow culms of toetoe, arranged vertically, were tied light, thin laths of wood in a horizontal position. The latter were sometimes blackened, sometimes painted red. These horizontal laths were tied to each reed by means of narrow strips of undressed fibrous leaves, those of Phormium, Freycinetia (kiekie), and pingao (Scirpus frondosus). The last-mentioned is an orange colour, the second is white, and the Phormium was usually dyed black for this work. The decorative work consisted of the various devices in stitching that were employed, each of which had its proper name, the patterns, in different colours showing on the outer side of the horizontal laths. The general effect is peculiar and pleasing. A vertical rod fixed in the centre of the panel and cross-laced as the laths were, divided the panel into two portions. This is often absent in present-day work.
A peculiarity of some of the reed lining of former times was that the yellow reeds were adorned with black spirals. This was effected by means of winding strips of green Phormium leaf round them in a spiral manner, but so as to leave a space exposed. The exposed parts were then blackened by the agency of fire.
Many houses of the whare puni type had the roof lined neatly with bark, that of manuka or totara, but in the best houses it was lined with the yellow reedlike culms mentioned above. This reed lining was, at least on the east coast, generally laced together on the ground and then laid on the battens of the roof. Care was displayed in selecting good specimens of reeds, termed matariki, for this work. Immediately over each batten were placed and secured long rods, often of supplejack, to which the first layer of thatch was tied. These rods are termed karapi, and the first layer of thatch, called tuahuri, was not arranged in an overlapping manner as thatch usually is, but consisted of small bundles of bulrush arranged up and down the roof with butted ends. There was a certain side lap of these bundles, as occurs when covering a wall with such material.
Over the tuahuri was secured another series of kārapi rods to which the true thatch was tied in some cases, but in others more than one layer of pupu raupo (bundles of bulrushes) was laid on, which had to be covered by true thatch of some durable material; the bulrush will last but a short time on a roof if exposed to the weather. The word tirepa denotes the arranging of the reeds, tupuni describes the tying on of bulrushes, etc., in a perpendicular manner, as on walls, while whakaheke and tapatu denote the laying of the true thatch on the roof. Nati describes the lacing method of securing thatch. No form of thatching needle was employed on the east coast.
In laying the outer thatch a considerable amount of overlap was usual, a single tie near the upper end of the layer being sufficient. When all was laid and carefully covered along the ridge, then poles or stems of climbing plants, called tāmi when used for this purpose, were laid over the thatch and page 570 secured, so as to prevent disarrangement by wind. Often these containing pieces were laid diagonally from ridge to side eaves (tarahau), and another series arranged the opposite way, placed over the first.
The roof of a house is tuanui, the side walls tara and pakitara, the rear wall is the tuarongo, and the front wall the apai.
The door (tatau) of a Maori house was not hung on any form of hinge or pintle, but slid into a recess in the wall. Doorways (whatitoka) of ordinary dwelling huts were very small, but those of superior houses were more commodious. The socalled window (mataaho, matapihi, etc.) was simply an opening in the front wall furnished with a sliding shutter resembling the door. Many term it the puta auahi, or smoke escape. We have known only one such window in a Maori house, however large that house, but in traditions are mentioned houses with as many as four windows.
The interior of a Maori house was bare and comfortless from our point of view. There was nothing in the way of furniture; the few domestic vessels used were kept in the cooking sheds. There were no seats, tables, or bedsteads, and no partition, however large the house. A clear passage ran down the centre of the house, bounded on either side by a beam of wood lying on the earthen floor. This central passage is the ihonui, awarua or kauwhanga. Between it and the wall, on either side, are the sleeping places. The occupants of these lay with their heads to the wall and feet to the central passage. No form of bedstead was used; bracken, Lycopodium, or some other suitable growth was spread on the earth; coarse mats (tuwhara) were laid over it, and over these were spread finely plaited mats called takapau. In the central passage way was the open fireplace, a small stone lined pit, in which either wood or charcoal was burned. The threshold of the doorway, called the paepae poto or paetaku, was a low one, but the outer bounds of the porch were marked by a broad wooden slab placed edgewise, and called the pae-kai-awha. The right side of the house, as you enter, near the window space, is the place of honour.page 571
We have now to note another decorative work seen in our superior house. These consist of carved designs and painted ones. The former were, and are, seen on the poupou or slab-posts of the walls, those of the end walls, the central supporting post of the ridgepole, the outer end of the ridgepole, occasionally on rafters, door and window shutter, also on the door posts, lintel piece, window frame, and sometimes on the outer side of the outer threshold. The barge-boards and their supports are likewise adorned in this way, and a carved human figure, or head, covers the join of the barge-boards. Painted designs are seen on rafters, battens, the slim apology for a wall plate, the skirting board, ridgepole, and sometimes on the boards under the roof at the ends of the house. Also some of the parts noted as having been carved are sometimes adorned with painted designs instead. Possibly no one house ever had all the timbers mentioned carved; one sees wall posts and even barge-boards painted nowadays. The ordinary sleeping house, whare puni, had plain interior timbers, save perhaps a carved figure at the base of the central post. A few carvings might appear at the front of the house. The whare whakairo, or elaborately carved edifice was by no means common. They represented too much labour to be seen anywhere but in villages of importance.
Early voyagers and others remarked on the superiority of the natives of the east coast in the way of arts and manufactures. Polack, in the “thirties” of last century, noted the superiority of the carved work of the Tolaga Bay and adjacent districts to anything seen in the far north.
In many of the best specimens of Maori wood carving the observer is puzzled by the mass of close packed detail that is not always referable to the leading designs. The work is marked by grotesque figures, by involved and highly conventionalised designs, also by apparently supreme contempt for nature. The artisan seems to have endeavoured to include as much detail as possible, the result being confusion to the observer. These peculiarities are also observed in Indian sculpture.
It is a peculiar fact that the lizard is the only animal that appears in a natural form in native carving. The representations of the human figure are usually hideously grotesque, purposely so, the styles being known as wheku and kahia. The manaia, pakake, marakihau, etc., are largely fanciful. The faithful rendering of bird forms, common in Melanesian work, is not seen in Maoriland, yet the bird form was so carved at the Chatham Isles. It is a curious fact that the lizard was not so distorted.
A design highly favoured by the Maori carver is the spiral, and this appeared in decorative carving on houses, canoes, implements, etc., including the double form that the Maori knew so well how to carve with precision. The spiral was not so favoured by painters of decorative designs, but these employed many scroll-like forms and sinuous lines, as seen in the patterns delineated on house rafters. The spiral design, so common here, was not so employed in Polynesia, but reappears in western Melanesia. The double spiral is seen in decorative work on canoes in Borneo, and also in tattooing.page 574
Another feature that attracts attention in Maori carving is the three-fingered hand pertaining to human figures. Some quaint reasons for this peculiarity have been given, but the fact is that no Maori can give the origin of it any more than he can explain the manaia and other symbolical carved designs. These three-fingered hands have been noted in many lands, and when we consider that they appear on some extremely ancient sculptures of the Babylonian region then it is well to give up seeking the origin of the usage.
A common design in the carved work of superior houses and elevated storehouses is that known as the manaia, and this figure has also been much discussed. It is a figure composed of a long, slim body, a birdlike head, and an indefinite number of legs. In some cases but half the body seems to be shown; in others a manaia head merges into the arms of the human figure. All kinds of weird variations are seen. The design is frequently seen on carved lintels of houses, and two leading arrangements are noted in such work. One of these consists of a single manaia at each end of the carved plank, both facing outward. In the form called the double manaia we have a central grotesque human figure flanked by a manaia on either side. These creatures are shown as facing the central figure, and each one has its beak placed against the shoulder or ear of the human figure. This design reappears in western Melanesia in a much less conventionalised form. To find a parallel to this Pacific design we must go to India and note the myth and representations of Vishnu and the two garuda birds that represent the powers of Good and Evil. Each is shown as prompting Vishnu or Ari, though we are told that in the end the power of Good triumphs. * At Samoa the word manaia denotes a lizard. In the face of several unreliable statements that have been published concerning this peculiar design, it is well to record the fact that the Maori has no real knowledge of its origin.
The slablike wall posts of superior houses were carved into grotesque figures of human beings in many cases, and these were generally named after ancestors. The peculiar page 575 forms called marakihau are figures but partially human. The lower part resembles the tail of a fish, while the upper part is of human aspect, save that from the mouth protrudes a long tongue, said to be a tubular appendage of the marakihau, which is a marine creature. In olden days certain persons became transformed into such creatures after death, hence their appearance on the carved wall posts. The marakihau is credited in Maori myth with having swallowed men, and even canoes, through its ngongo or huge tubular tongue.
Wood carvings were in many cases scraped with sharpedged stone flakes in order to give them a fair surface. Occasionally, when attack from powerful enemies was feared, prized carvings were detached from buildings and concealed. We have probably this custom to thank for some fine specimens of Maori carving that have been found during draining operations in various districts.
A small image of a man called a tekoteko, was often placed at the apex of the barge-boards, or a carved human head which might be of normal form termed a ruru, or of grotesque form, styled wheku, was so used. In some cases both head and full-sized figure are seen, the former being underneath. It is worthy of note that Banks speaks of a house thirty feet in length as having been the largest seen by him.
The carved work of a dwelling house consisted largely of representations of the human figure, and such decorative work was confined to the porch and interior of a house. In the case of carved storehouses there was no carved work in the interior; it was generally confined to the porch, but sometimes was seen on the outer sides of the walls.
There was a certain amount of tapu pertaining to carving in former times, and artisans were compelled to be careful in their behaviour, lest they lose their knowledge of the art. If any of the chips from a carver's tools were used as fuel for a cooking fire then some serious misfortune would result, for it would amount to an infringement of the rules of tapu. There were many unlucky acts connected with building and carving that it was necessary to avoid.page 576
It was apparently only in rare cases that a true human sacrifice was made in connection with a new house, though at any house opening a slave might be slain to serve as a special dish to grace the feast. We have also one or two faint memories of a human being having been buried under, or at the base of, a house post, but evidently these were not common Maori customs.
The Maori was much given to the use of the shell of Haliotis iris as eyes for his carved figures, not only those of his wood carvings, but also those of the tiki neck pendant, fashioned from nephrite that is harder than steel. He was also given to painting his carved figures in houses, etc., with a red paint made from earth, etc., impregnated with oxide of iron, mixed with shark oil.
The most conspicuous carvings of a superior house were naturally those of the barge-board (maihi) and its two supporting posts (tautiaki, etc.) In some cases we see the pakake, or whale design, carved on barge-boards, but with minor carved designs superimposed upon it. The lintel piece often shows the finest carved designs of the whole house, but a first-class storehouse may show finer carved work than any dwelling house.
We have a little proof that a form of smoke vent in the roof was used in former times. Parkinson wrote of native huts seen at Gisborne as “having a hole in the centre of the roof to let out the smoke.” That was in the 18th century, but a sketch by Angas of a house in the Aotea district also shows something of the kind, a sort of louvre in the roof projecting like a dormer window. This was in the “forties” of last century and, in this case, European influence might be suspected. The Rev. R. Taylor, an early sojourner in New Zealand, however, also mentions the roof opening under the name of pihanga. He describes it as an opening made in the roof to admit light, having a small roof over it to keep out the rain. The amount of light so admitted would be small; it was probably a smoke vent.
The hoa, or pitch of a roof, differed to some extent in native houses, and the kāupaparu, or low pitch, is said by the page 577 Maori to mean a warmer house than does the hoka or steep pitch.
The ordinary dwelling huts of the people had frames consisting of round poles and rods, but very little wrought timber was used in their construction, probably only in the small doors and window slides. Many of these huts were very small, from 8ft. x 10ft, to 10ft. x 12ft., and the diminutive doorways were about 30 inches high and 18 inches wide. Yet in some cases, a man would adorn these 30 inch door jambs with carved designs. The smallness of door and window apertures was the result of a desire for warmth in winter, for the Maori possessed no warm fabrics wherewith to protect himself from the cold. Early visitors to these shores speak of entering native huts by means of crawling. The walls of these small huts would be about two feet in height, that of the ridgepole some six or seven feet.
The framework of poles and rods of ordinary huts was tied together with strips of Phormium leaf. The thatch was of bulrushes, various sedges, rushes, or bark. These small huts were certainly weathertight, and so far desirable, but these and all forms of native houses were greatly lacking in comfort, as from our point of view. The whare puni, or sleeping houses, so much used in winter time by these scantilyclad folk, were remarkable for sunk floors, low walls, and the fact that earth was heaped up against the walls outside, and sometimes the roof also was earth covered. Crowd one of these places with people on a cold night, light a fire inside, close the small door and window slides, the only chance for ventilation, and you will soon have a foul atmosphere at about 90 degrees. Angas tells us of his coming out of such a den on a winter morning dripping with perspiration. These hothouses were from about 14 to 30 feet in length. In some cases the floor was excavated to a depth of about two feet. I have also been told that a form of pit dwelling was occasionally used in some districts, places excavated to a depth of three to four feet. These had no built-up wall, but merely had a ˄ shaped roof erected over them. The roof was covered with bark, bracken, or rushes, and then earth was shovelled over it. If procurable the floor of the pit was covered deeply with dry sand. Two page 578 very old women were seen living in such a pit dwelling in the Wairarapa district in 1849. The local natives termed this pit dwelling a whare manuku.
We hear of a few cases in which natives dwelt in caves, but it is doubtful if such places were ever occupied in a permanent manner. Certainly travellers, fishing parties and fowlers often utilised caves and rock shelters as temporary abiding places. Dwellers in fortified villages sometimes hewed small chambers out of soft sandstone, indurated pumice, etc., but such excavations were generally utilised as storage places. Refugees and broken clans sometimes sought refuge in caves, and tradition tells us of a few cases in which such people lived in huts constructed on platforms laid on the branches of forest trees. One of these stories pertains to Mt. Egmont, one to Manakau, one to Hauraki, and one to Opotiki.
Slabs cut from the closely matted mass of ærial roots forming the outside of the trunk of the tree fern Dicksonia fibrosa were sometimes used on the walls of houses, and the slim trunks of Dicksonia squarrosa were used in constructing the walls of cooking sheds in some districts. Huts having walls of this material are called whare tirawa in the Bay of Plenty district. A hut with a shed roof is a whare tirepa.
Houses of the whare puni and superior types received special names, and this custom is continued in these days of sawn timber and roofing iron. They often receive the names of ancestors, or of a battlefield, or are named from some incident. When the Taupo chief Te Heuheu wished to bring to a conclusion an old quarrel with another chief, he built a new house, named it Te Riri ka wareware (The Forgotten Quarrel), and then invited his opponent to visit him. The guest was entertained in the new house.
We are told that occasionally rude huts of circular form were used as cooking sheds, as at Whanganui, and the Maori has preserved faint traditions of circular huts in other lands.
The kauta or cooking sheds were comfortless and rude structures, and in fine weather open-air cooking was followed. The doorways of these places were much larger than those of dwelling huts. Dry fuel was often stacked within them and many of us have seen such places with the walls composed of page 579 stacks of fuel, and a few posts to support the roof. Cooking sheds of the larger size, containing ovens or steaming pits I have heard alluded to as taparahi.
The tools of the neolithic Maori. The toki or stone adze, sometimes hafted longitudinally and used as a huge chisel.
H. Hamilton photo
Wood-working tools. Stone chisels and gouges.
H. Hamilton photo
Kauhika. Hafted stone implements used in cutting or sawing hard stone, such as nephrite.
H. Hamilton photo
- 1. Elevated storehouses supported on one or more posts.
- 2. Elevated platforms and racks.
- (a) Semi-subterranean storage pits.
- (b) Wholly subterranean storage pits.
The elevated storehouse, called pataka, was widely used in these isles. It was constructed in many different sizes, from a diminutive box-like structure of two or three feet in length, supported on one post, to a large storehouse 20ft. in length supported by a number of heavy posts.
In the superior pataka, or elevated storehouses, we see the finest work of the native wood carver, as in connection with buildings. Why so much pains should be lavished on the decoration of such places it is difficult to say, but a well-constructed and elaborately carved storehouse was deemed a very desirable possession. Not only were such superior places assigned special names, but also inferior, unadorned ones, and even the semi-subterranean pit stores, were often so distinguished.
The elevation of these stores on posts was, we are told, for the purpose of foiling the rats that would otherwise have been a nuisance, though the native rat was much less persistently mischievous than the imported species. These elevated huts are a common usage far and wide across the Pacific, as far as Indonesia. As a rule pataka were of a size that demanded four supporting posts. There were several devices employed to prevent rats gaining access to the building. A favoured method was to procure an old, abandoned canoe, and cuts lengths from it to place in an inverted position on the top of the posts. Another way of foiling rats was to notch each post so as to leave a projecting shoulder that no rat could surmount—[gap — reason: illegible]. In some cases the plates laid on the posts served to baffle rats. Broad planks, called papa kiore, were used as plates, and on these were laid the longitudinal floor joists. Again a kind of bell-shaped structure of bark was secured in some cases round the posts with the same object in view. This page 585 has been improved upon by modern store builders who are given to placing an inverted tin dish on the top of each post, and on these the beams are laid.
The superior pataka adorned with elaborate carvings showed such embellishments on the outside only, and in the porch of the structure. The doorway was small, and often cut out of a wide plank that formed the central part of the front wall of the building. Some very fine specimens of these carved storehouses are in the Auckland Museum. The ordinary elevated stores were constructed of thatch, bark, or other materials, as to both walls and roof. Superior ones had a thatched roof, but the walls were of plank. The side walls were frequently formed of wide planks, about 1½ or 2ft. in width, placed horizontally.
These elevated storehouses were used as general storage places for certain food products, but not for crops such as sweet potatoes. Dried foods, preserved birds, etc., implements, vessels, garments, etc., were kept in them. Natives kept but very few things in their dwelling huts.
When the roof of such a place was provided with neat batens covered with carefully arranged toetoe reeds and then again with neatly arranged strips of bark, it was a very presentable piece of work. In covering a roof with bark it is not secured to the battens by ties, for such a method would mean leakage, but poles are laid longitudinally on the completed roof and secured at the ends only, that is at the projecting eaves of either end. The fronds of the nikau palm were often employed as a first layer in roof covering, with the pinnæ intertwined, and a neat lining it makes. The floors of such places are formed of hewn plank. Superior pataka were, of course, not numerous, the great majority of such store houses were plain structures, or possibly having a few carved designs. The terms kokau and totokau denoted those possessing no such embellishments. The door of a pataka was the sliding plank, as seen in dwelling houses.
Superior houses were opened with much ceremony when completed, indeed it may be said that a religious performance marked the occasion. This was termed the kawanga of the house. This kawa rite removed the tapu from the building. It was marked by the recital of lengthy ritual formulæ, and by the ceremonial crossing of the threshold by a woman. During the performance the officiating priestly expert struck certain parts of the house with a branchlet of karamu, or kawakawa, or some other plant used for such purposes. Another peculiar feature of the rite was the ascending of the expert to the summit of the roof, where, standing at the front gable, he recited one of his tapu lifting formulæ.
In order to gain access to a pataka a form of portable step-ladder was used, a primitive form, for it consisted merely of a stout beam or pole with notches cut in it to serve as steps.
In some parts the term pataka seems to have been applied only to superior places, as described, while inferior ones were called whata. This term whata is applied to elevated store-houses, platforms and racks.
Small erections of the pataka type were very common, and some of them were adorned with carved designs. These hutlets were often elevated on a single tall post, and they were used for a number of purposes. In some, termed whata koiwi, and pouwaka, were preserved bones of the dead. Others, called whatarangi, were used as places of storage for small articles. In many cases lofty posts supporting such places were ascended by means of notches cut in them. Purangi, awhiorangi, and ipurangi are other names applied to these small elevated boxlike structures, the word rangi conveying the meaning of “elevated.” Some were reserved for the storage of tapu articles, including food for tapu persons. Sometimes a section of an old canoe formed the floor and sides of such small stores, or a section of a hallow log was utilised for the purpose.
Apart from these elevated storehouses and like receptacles the Maori made use of elevated platforms to a considerable extent. To these, as also to any stage-like erection, rack or page 588 scaffold, the name of whata was applied. Thus a whata ika or tarawa is a fish-drying rack, a whata kupenga one on which nets were hung to dry out, while the modern whata kaanga is a maize crib.
The elevated platform was simply a floor constructed on beams laid across the tops of posts, or, in some cases, among the branches of trees. A favoured method was to cut the branches off a tree save a few projections and then utilise those to support a platform. These were styled timanga and komanga. On these stages various food products were placed for safety; they were particularly useful after the introduction of the potato (Solanum). They preserved other forms of food supplies from what Polack styles the “insidious affections of the dogs.” Occasionally stages and elevated storehouses were erected in the waters of a lake or other calm sheet of water, as a protection against rats. The posts of one such in Porirua Harbour, erected over 100 years ago, are still visible. It is known as the Food Store of Tamairangi, so named from its owner.
The pit stores of the Maori were used primarily for the preservation of the tubers of the kumara, or sweet potato. The smaller sized pits, termed rua kopiha and rua korotangi, are wholly subterranean. One descends through a form of trapdoor into a small chamber, often rectangular, sometimes circular. The orifice is just large enough to allow a person to pass down the rude step ladder, or possibly by means of utilising steps of earth left during excavation. The chamber widens out below. Many hundreds of these pits have been examined, some of which were but about four feet square, though many were larger, and of different forms. The upper part is often dome shaped. The entrance to such a pit was lined with plank or slabs of tree fern trunk, and then covered with slabs to keep out the wet. This trap door was so manipulated as to be on a slant. This form of store pit is sometimes termed a rua poka. Often a small pit such as this would be near the cooking shed, and in it would be kept supplies for immediate or day to day use, while a larger store afield would contain the bulk of the family crops.page 589 page 590
The semi-subterranean store pits were rectangular, and differed widely as to dimensions. One may see them as small as 6ft. in length, and as long as 25ft., occasionally longer. they were oblong in form and consisted of a pit with a ˄ roof over it. One sees them on level land and sloping ground; the edge of a terrace was much favoured by makers of these rua tahuhu, as they are termed. In most cases there were no built side walls to these pits, the sides of the excavated pit formed walls, but at the ends the triangular ends of the roof were a part of the built structure. Some had a shallow form of porch at the front end. Great numbers of such old storage pits are seen in some localities.
Slabs of tree fern trunks, as of Dicksonia fibrosa, were often used to line these pits, such slabs being known as turihunga and pairi ponga. The roof was also sometimes covered with them, over which layer another of bark or thatch would be placed, the bark of manuka being often used for the purpose. It was a common usage to cover the roof of such a place with earth. In some of the larger stores a form of low partition, termed pakorokoro, was employed, so that tubers might be sorted, and stacked in separate heaps. Occasionally a few carved timbers were seen on the front end of such a store. The doors were small, and the great aim was to have a dry pit, for the kumara tuber is difficult to keep. A layer of rushes or fern was laid on the floor ere crops were stored therein; rushes were sometimes used to line the walls of the pit. A small ditch (manga or tamanga) cut round the rua served to carry off storm water.
Large store pits would accommodate the kumara crops of several families, each having its own division (tawaha) of the pit, wherein the family crop would be stacked (whakapipi) as a separate niho or stack. These stored tubers were examined periodically, lest decay spread havoc among them.
Some of the most interesting of these store pits were in the form of artificial caves excavated in hill sides, sometimes in soft sandstone, often in packed or indurated sand or pumice. Such cave stores are seen of many different forms, often ovoid, and having dome-shaped roofs. Numbers are seen in the cliffs of the picturesque Pa-teko isle in Roto-iti (lake). Many of page 591 these rua-roa or rua pongere are also seen at the old Ihupuku pa at Wai-totara.
The rua tawaero or rua whakatoke is simply a shallow surface pit lined with coarse grass, in which tubers are sometimes stored for a while. The heap of tubers would be covered with sedge and earth.
Pits for the storage of water were excavated in some of the old hill forts. They were either filled by hand or by means of conducting storm water into them.
There was one institution in the fortified village of the natives that was specially mentioned by several early writers, namely that of latrines, called heketua, turuma, taikawa, paepae, etc. In hill forts these were often situated at some steep part of the hill, or on a cliff head. They consisted of a horizontal beam, the paepae, supported by two posts, on which persons “squatted,” but did not sit. In front of this were placed stout rods or poles, inserted in the earth, to serve as hand grips. Occasionally carved designs were seen on the timbers of these places.
The whare maori, or native hut of yore, is passing away. Sawn timber and corrugated iron are now widely used. The picturesque villages and life of former times are but a memory.
Our Maori canoe has now been hauled down the skidway to the roaring chorus of the half-naked, brown-skinned tribesmen. As she takes the water, and Tane greets his offspring Hine-moana, the ceremony of Whakainu is performed, and the Kawa waka ritual recited over her. Then “Aotearoa” is manned by sturdy paddlers, and glides seaward over the heaving breast of the Ocean Maid, while grim, tattooed old descendants of the sea kings watch her lilting over the waves, with the remark: “Me te remu karoro.” And so, like that sea bird, she swings to her marks and lifts the long sea road that lies before.
On no map made by human hands is the course of “Aotearoa” marked. She will ride out the gale to her stone sea anchors when Hine-moana is awrath, and hail in summer seas the wayside isles whereat the Polynesian Vikings sojourned in page 592 the days when the world was wide. She may find her port in a land not bounded by parallels of latitude, or fair haven on the strand of Irihia that gives on Hawaiki-nui. Her sea-racked crew may achieve the Waiora a Tane, and so attain their quest, or tread the long path of Tahekeroa that leads to the realm of the erst Dawn Maid.
Meanwhile the launcher of our neolithic craft remains on the silent shore that is trodden of man and yet knows him not; looking forth over the old sea roads in search of the mat sails of “Aotearoa” that bears away the old comrades of a lifetime.
And memory brings back the greeting of the sea rovers of yore as they left their island homes and lined their wavering prows on the red sun, or Venus, or a low hung star—
Hei kona ra, te whanau'E!
* As explained by the late Mr. A. Hamilton. See also Dr. Newman's “Who are the Maoris?” p.279.