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Chief's Wooden Club (wahaika)

Maori warriors used various styles of hand clubs made of wood, whalebone, basalt and nephrite, but they all served more or less the same purpose. Warriors carried these clubs in their woven fiber belts to keep by their sides at all times, ready to use in hand-to-hand combat. Hand clubs functioned not only as weapons but also as ornaments and sacred heirlooms. A club as beautifully carved as this one could have belonged to a chief and been passed down through generations as a symbol of hard-won victories.

This particular hand club is a shape called wahaika. Although the blades of many wooden wahaika were covered with incised patterns, some of the most elegant were decorated only with three-dimensional carvings on the edges. The figure of a violent female ancestor with her stylized fingers crossed and her tongue sticking out as a sign of fierce defiance has been carved onto the side of this club. It also has a face carved into the bottom of its handle, another common feature of wahaika clubs.

-Nancy Kil, Class of '07