Treasure box (papahou)

About this object

'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.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Oceania: Polynesia: New Zealand: North Island: Northland
  • Date made
    1820 about
  • Materials
    Wood; Abalone (Haliotis sp); Technique: Carved, inlaid
  • Location
    World Museum, Level 3, World Cultures
  • Acquisition
    Purchased from Mr P Entwistle, 1882
  • Collector
    Peter Entwistle
  • Place collected
    Not recorded
  • Date collected
    1882 before
  • Measurements
    43.5 x 11.5 x 9.0 cm
  • Note
    May have been carved using iron tools. Attribution: Northland, 1820 (David Simmons, October 1981). For more information on wakahuia and papahou boxes see Te Papa Museum website:
  • Related people
    Peter Entwistle ( Collector, previous owner)


Previous owners

  • Peter Entwistle

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Purchase
    Owned until: 1882
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
Object view = Humanities
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