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The Coming of the Maori


page 113

Maori houses, like those of polynesia, had but one room under each roof and hence the number of functions discharged by a multi-roomed house in another culture required a separate building for each function. A European house with kitchen, pantry, dining room, bedroom, and drawing room under one roof required no less than four separate Maori buildings, namely cooking house, storehouse, sleeping house, and meeting house. Food was eaten in the open or in the porch of sleeping houses in wet weather for persons of rank could not eat in cooking houses and food was not allowed in sleeping houses. There were different types of storehouses and sleeping houses and the houses of commoners retained old techniques whereas those of chiefly families exhibited the later developments in the craft. The somewhat disparaging remarks made by early writers concerning the small size of the Maori houses were based on a comparison with their own multi-roomed houses. The Maori houses described were for sleeping and comparisons, to be just, should have been made with the bedrooms of the common houses of England and Europe.

The difference in climate between central Polynesia and New Zealand was responsible for some changes in construction. Polynesian houses allowed the cool air to circulate through chinks in the walls whereas the Maori houses were built to keep out the cold. The local development in carving, painting, and reed work also led to significant changes in the construction of the superior types of houses. Attention will be drawn to some of the details of construction in Polynesia in order that the local changes may be distinguished and appreciated.