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The Coming of the Maori

The Loincloth

The Loincloth

The loincloth (maro) of the Polynesian type preserved in the Chatham Islands appears to have been abandoned generally as a garment for ordinary wear. The early voyagers from Cook downwards do not mention seeing it in use. Yet incantations used by warriors preparing for battle contain such lines as the following:

Homai taku maro Give me my maro
Kia hurua To be girded on
Kia rawea To be fastened on
page 175

A specimen in the Auckland Museum is made of dressed flax with the two-pair weft and is triangular in shape with tags of black threads on its outer surface. Strings at the base of the triangle pass around the waist to support it and the apex is drawn back between the legs to cover the genitals. Another string ties the apex to the waist strings. A second type was formed of a front and a back triangle joined at their apices and tied at the sides. It is possible that the changed pattern superseded the long band when the change from plaiting to weaving took place. From the evidence of the incantation, it may be that the revised maro was used only in war. In everyday life, it appears to have been replaced by the kilt or skirt.