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The Coming of the Maori

Superior Houses

page 121

Superior Houses

Houses of superior build were made as permanent sleeping houses for families and guests. For these, dressed timber was used for the various parts of the framework and some drastic changes in technique indicate the rise in craftsmanship which was devoted to the construction of buildings of greater social importance. The common houses made of poles and undressed timber were readily built by ordinary labour but the superior houses required expert craftsmen (tohunga whaiwhare) to dress the timber and supervise construction. The addition of carving required the skill of expert carvers termed tohunga whakairo.

The superior houses form two classes: the whare puni, or family sleeping houses, and the whare whakairo, or carved houses, which were subtribal or tribal community houses. The term whare whakairo is descriptive in referring to the carving (whakairo) but a number of other terms were used to describe the functions of the house such as whare hut, an assembly house for the tribe and guests and whare runanga to denote that discussions of tribal importance took place within them.