Maori Carved Weapons
In ancient days battles between Maori tribes were fought with spears, knives, and clubs. These Maori weapons were traditionally made of wood, greenstone (pounamu), and whale bone.
Many of these weapons were adorned with detailed carvings. The wooden handles of knives and short spears, but also parts of clubs and other weapons included intricate carvings.
Sometimes the purpose was to provide grip but mostly there was a spiritual and symbolic aspect.
Apart from utilitarian items Maori carved weapons are also symbols of courage, determination, power and influence. They were exchanged between tribes as peace offering, seal of marriage, or as trade currency. Nowadays, e.g. among collectors and other enthusiasts, they symbolize facing and overcoming life’s challenges.
The most common Maori carved weapons are the mere, patu, wahaika, taiaha, and maripu.
The Maori patu is a short club. Maori warriors used several different war clubs. The most common of the various types of patu is the mere. It’s best described as a flat striking weapon with an oval blade. The mere was commonly featured with a carved handle end. Authentic mere’s were hung around the wrist with a flax fibre thong.
The wahaika (Maori word for the mouth of a fish) is a particular type of mere. The wahaika has a distinctive shape similar to the mouth of a fish hence its name. This traditional club has a notched side which is used to wrest an opponent’s weapon out of his hand. It is used for thrusting and striking in close quarter hand-to-hand fighting. The wahaika was used exclusively by the most fierce, and respected warriors with the highest rankings. It was given as a ceremonial piece. More on Wikipedia
Often mistaken for a spear, the taiaha actually is a pointed staff used in hand-to-hand combat. The taiaha (pronounced tie-uh-ha) was handled with two hands in roughly the same fashion as some weapons used in martial arts.
A typical taiaha has a pointed blade at one end a flattened edge at the other. The pointed end commonly is adorned with wood carving. In many cases a carved head, with paua shell eyes and an extended, defiant tongue made of pounamu (greenstone jade). A full sized taiaha is around 1.5 meters (5 feet) in length.
Held in both hands the bladed end could be used to strike and poke opponents while the taiaha could be turned relatively quick and easy to use the blade for cracking the enemy’s skull. It was also used effectively to parry blows.
On the photo a taiaha with the commonly reoccurring, extended tongue. The pointed end is a carved head, with paua shell eyes. Just like the authentic, traditional taiaha, this replica taiaha is carved the same on both sides.
A kotiate is a short club normally made of wood or whalebone. Kotiate means to cut or divide the liver (koti = cut in two or divide; ate = liver). Its name probably refers to its shape, which resembles the lobed part of the human liver. source: tepapa.govt.nz Kotiate were mostly made of whalebone; later on also often crafted from wood for the Europeans. Buck, Peter, The Coming of the Maori, Wellington, 1952.