The Coming of the Maori
The Tiki Breast Ornament
The Tiki Breast Ornament
The tiki made of nephrite in human form is the best known of Maori ornaments and, since its reproduction by lapidaries for trade, the most common. Authentic old specimens in bone are comparatively rare but I agree with Skinner (74, vol. 41, p. 207) that bone was probably the original material because nephrite was too difficult and valuable a medium with which to experiment. It is also probable that the early forms in bone followed the carving conventions in wood and some specimens in nephrite figured by Skinner (74, vol. 41, Pl A 5, and Figs. 1, 2) have retained the form, in whole or part, of an earlier pattern (Fig. 83).
The type specimen (Fig. 83a)of this variety A, has an upright head, both hands resting on the abdomen, and the thighs flexed outwards with short, downward projections representing the legs. This practically conforms to the treatment of the human figure in wood. The other two specimens retain the type treatment of the legs, but the influence of the page 292later variety B is shown by one hand resting on the thigh (Fig. 83b)and the change in the position of the two hands and the inclination of the head (Fig. 83c). The turning up of one hand to the side of the mouth, however, is old for its occurs in Maori wood carvings and in the Society Islands and the Marquesas.
Proceeding on the principle of reducing labour, a small notch was made on either side to separate the forearms from the horizontally flexed thighs. The extra labour involved in the downward-projecting legs of variety A was avoided by retaining a convexly curved lower border which probably derived its sharp edge from the pattern of adzes, as Skinner page 294maintains. The arms were now defined from the body by curved perforations on either side and two horizontal perforations separated the thighs from the legs. The paired perforations from the front were aided by meeting two deep, horizontal grooves on the back. The curved arm perforations separated the forearms from the body and made their lower ends rest on the horizontal thighs. Further details were added in some ornaments by forming fingers resting on the thighs and notches in the middle line between the legs to represent toes. The eyes were formed by sunken circles with a central raised pupil and paua-shell rings were sometimes fitted to the sunken part. The mouth followed the figure-of-eight type, except that the lower lip was elongated downward in a mesial point to follow the lines of the pointed chin. The body was sometimes ornamented with one or more grooved chevrons with the point upward. Sex was indicated in the ratio of one to three or one to four specimens, according to Skinner, and it was always female. I believe that the choice of sex was also a labour-saving device for the vulva was easily made by grooving a small ellipse, whereas a projecting male phallus would have involved technical difficulties in nephrite material. Best records seeing one tiki with a large phallus but such an ornament must have been a freak.
The rectangular-headed tiki has been suggested as the type involving the least labour but craftsmen were not averse to undergoing extra labour to make a better finish from their point of view. Hence variations were created. Some craftsmen ground off the pointed head so that a flat, oblique vertex resulted (Fig. 84b).Others rotated the upper eye closer to the vertical line with the lower eye, with the consequence that the now unoccupied upper right corner had to be ground off to form the upper oblique line of the face (Fig. 84c). Probably some variations in the shape of head resulted from flaws in the upper end of the material. Variations also occurred in the placing of the hands, the more common being the shifting of one hand onto the chest and, more rarely, to the chin or the mouth (Fig. 84d).Still more rarely, one hand rested on the body and the other extended to the mouth or side of the head. None of these changes in the position of the hands were novel, for they followed common motifs in local wood carving. The position of the legs was very constant, for there was not much scope for variation except to return to the position in variety A as shown in Figure 83. The head was perforated usually close to the edge to accommodate the lashing to the neck suspension cord (Fig. 84e).In many tiki, the suspension hole has worn through and necessitated the boring of another hole.
It is curious that the side inclination of the head has received no symbolic meaning but this was probably due to its being submerged in the symbolism applied to the tiki as a whole.
The origin of the term tiki dates back to the widely spread myth that page 295the first male created by Tane was named Tiki. Consequently when man carved the human form in wood, he called his creations tiki. In the Marquesas, small images made of stone and bone were termed tiki. In Hawaii, wooden images were called ki'i and in the Society Islands, ti'i, both dialectal forms of tiki. In the Cook Islands, wooden images were called tiki and carving in general, 'akatikitiki. The Maori ancestors brought variations of the Tiki myth and the use of tiki as applied to carvings in human form. The term tiki was applied to the carved human figures set up on the front gable end of important houses. When the ornaments in human form were made, they were also termed tikibut, to distinguish them from the larger wooden tiki, the nephrite ornaments were termed hei tiki, hei meaning to the around the neck.
The belief in symbolism and esoteric meanings has somewhat beclouded the natural origin of material inventions. Much is due to Maori informants being prone to attribute a supernatural origin to things about which there is no definite record. Thus, the first hei tiki is stated to have been made for Hineteiwaiwa by her father in the vague period of the gods, centuries before the first hei tiki was made in New Zealand. Best (16, vol. 1, p. 294) states that the mythical Tiki created by Tane was in reality tile personification of the phallus and that the tiki ornament is a fructifying symbol which "bears the sacerdotal name of the linga and its personified form". It is true that some creation songs of the Matorohanga school, in describing the act of coitus between Tane and Hineahuone, definitely refer to Tane's phallus as tiki. However, the term tiki was applied to images in Hawaii, Marquesas, and central Polynesia without the symbolism of the phallus, and this symbolism was evidently not applied to the large tiki carvings on houses. It is evident the hei tiki as a personified form of the phallus is a local myth composed by a particular school after the invention of the hei tiki. It is also curious that an alleged male symbol should be sexed as female.
Another rationalization is that the hei tiki "was made, wholly or partially, in the form of the human embryo". Skinner (74, vol. 41, p. 206) disproved this statement by showing that the tiki did not conform to the anatomical details of the human embryo, except for the large head, which, however, is characteristic of Maori art. It is more feasible to believe that the hei tiki was developed as an art form following established conventions in wood and bone carving but influenced by the character of the material and the initial form of the pieces cut out for working. It is evident that what was originally a valuable ornament in itself was later converted into an amulet. Thus, the small compart figure was likened to a human embryo and endowed with the magic power of promoting the growth of a viable embryo in the womb of the woman who wore it. To embellish the complex, the myth was composed that the first tiki was page 296made for Hineteiwaiwa, the goddess of childbirth. The fact that some of the early European visitors saw men wearing the tiki would seem to indicate that the "fructifying" properties of the tiki were a comparatively late addition to the ornament.