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No. 2 (Spring 1952)
– 39 –

Tokens from
the Past
He Pitopito Korero

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A small sand-stone vessel, Rotorua.drawing by Mrs Natusch.

Mr W. J. Phillipps of the Dominion Museum, has a reputation for finding out about rare and interesting Maori objects of which few people have any knowledge. He has promised to let Te Ao Hou have some notes for each issue, describing Maori works of art or utensils that are out of the ordinary, and here is the first instalment.


From the collection of Mrs R. J. Law, Levin, we have been loaned a small sandstone vessel with broken projections at the ends. Inside, the sandstone is somewhat darkened, seeming to indicate that this container has been used to hold tattooing pigment. The vessel is in general of a kumete shape or may be said to resemble a waka huia without the lid. Grooves around the end projections suggest that it was usual to suspend the small vessel with its contents from the roof of the whare. Dimensions are: total length 4½ inches, width 2½ inches and greatest height 1½ inches. This vessel came from Kawaha Point, Rotorua.

There must have been numerous small vessels for tattoo pigments, although possibly large paua shells were also used. One or two beautifully carved wooden bowls are extant (of which those in the Wanganui Museum and the Oldman Collection are examples), but stone ones are extremely rare.

Article next page.

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The Mantell Canoe—Matara (Dominion Museum Photo).