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No. 30 (March 1960)
– 38 –

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Photograph: Dr T. Barrow Courtesy Canterbury Museum


This lively sculpture of a Maori dog is one of the few wood carvings to come from the South Island. We have paintings of dogs on the walls of caves, but as far as I know this is the only representation of a dog from ancient Maori culture. Possibly this interesting little animal hunted with his master for the moa on Canterbury's wide plain, to end his active life as a delicate morsel hot from the haangi. Centuries later his effigy has come to us from the floor of Monck's Cave which is situated at Sumner, several miles from Christchurch. The style of carving used by the ancient maker is far from the Maori carving we look at in places like Rotorua or on the East Coast.

The earliest settlers to arrive in New Zealand brought with them a small domestic dog which their distant ancestors had probably carried from the region of South East Asia to the tropical Polynesian islands. This little creaure served as a companion at home, a valuable hunter, and as a regular source of fresh food, hair, skin and bone. Kuri flesh was a delicious food, hair ornamented fine weapons, skin made chiefly cloaks (kahu kuri), whilst teeth and jaw made admirable fishhooks.

This rare sculpture is about four inches in length. It may be seen in the Archaeology Hall at the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch.