War canoes (waka taua) were the largest and most prestigious of Maori canoes. They were used to transport warriors, and Maori people viewed them as 'tapu' (sacred), which means that they could not be used to transport women or common goods such as food.
Maori carvers made large model of war canoes at the beginning of the 19th century. These may have been made for ritual purposes and were possibly also used as a final resting place for ancestors’ bones in burial caves. Smaller model canoes like this one appeared later in the mid 19th century, and may have been made as gifts or for sale to Europeans. Carvers often included accurate details of the full-sized originals.