Taiaha (long fighting staff),
1800-1850, Maker unknown, New Zealand. Oldman Collection. Gift of the New Zealand Government, 1992. Te Papa
Taiaha (fighting staffs) are among the best-known weapons in the customary Māori arsenal. Māori used them in some early conflicts with Europeans but increasingly took up guns.
One end of the taiaha is a carved upoko (head), with a face on each side. The two sets of eyes reflect the alertness of the holder, and the protruding arero (tongue) forms a striking point. The weapon’s other end is the main striking point – a flat, smooth blade.
Taiaha were not only important weapons but also symbols of power and rank. This taiaha, with its fine carving and decoration, would have belonged to a person of great mana (authority and prestige).