Chapter Four: Emerging Societies


Maaripi – Te Puawaitanga: 1500-1800

Shark teeth run down the edge of the Maaripi, Ceremonial knife. A ceremonial knife is thought to have been used for cutting the skin of prestigious catches. Included as prestigious catches : large sea creatures and occasionally human captives.

In terms of formality, The shark teeth make the weapon appear fearsome. Also, The knife is embellished with a prior kill, something taken, something to show for a significant death made. This almost conveys a promise to enforce the same impressive ability to kill, in future, in each hunt. It is the making of things that serve in the making of death. Each embellishment to weaponry serves in some practical or spiritual purpose in making death. It is the reminder of past and heritage, so prominent in Maori in the continuum of time. Adoring weapons shark teeth, the tooth is repurposed from the hunting function of the shark to the hunting function of the human.

Fishing was the most popular source of food for Maori at this point in history. The ocean still had many ties to the ancestral journey that was taken on the ocean to arrive at Aoteroa. To have a ceremonial kill, is to acknowledge the skill of the kill and the prosperous goods that can come from it.

It is so strange to think of death as a beautiful craft, hunting or animals that is. To end life with a particular ritual aspect, because people had to eat.


Harris, Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney and Aroha. “Chapter Four: Emerging Societies.” Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History. New Zealand: Bridget Williams, 2012. Print.


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