Treasure box (papahou)


'Wakahuia' and 'papahou' boxes were used to store precious personal ornaments such as feathers and 'hei tiki' pendants, and hung from the rafters inside a house, suspended by the two handles. This means the bottom of the box was as elaborately carved as the top, as it could be seen from underneath. In the past it is likely that many Maori made boxes for their own use, but with increasing European influence in the 19th century, carvers found that they were popular items for sale. This rounded rectangular 'papahou' treasure box is carved with humanoid heads forming handles at each end of the base. All carved decoration is on the outside of the box. The lid has a raised central ridge carved with interlocking heads. Humanoid figures and 'manaia' (more abstract beaked figures) form carved surface decoration at each corner of the base. Most of the rest of the box is covered by 'pakura' (rolling spirals with crescents in between). Many of the figures' eyes are shell-inlaid.