This intricately carve box was was collected by Lt. Charles Wilkes, leader of the historic United States Exploring Expedition, the first American expedition dedicate to scientific exploration to circumnavigate the globe.

Carved, oblong box with lid, "wakahuia," called a treasure or feather box; human heads carved at either end. the bottom is covered with spiral designs, & the lid with spiral & rectilinear motifs. examined and identified as east coast, bay of islands style by h.d. skinner in 1922 and d.r. simmons in 1974, but skinner believed the designs were made w/ stone tools, while simmons notes them as being made with steel. has original peale tag. this object had been on permanent exhibit in the pacific hall, but was removed and exhibited in magnificent voyagers, national museum of natural history, 1985-86. exhibited sites "magnificent voyagers," 1987-89.

From card: "3785-7. dressing case (waka o te pore) of a new zealand chief" from card: "3786. d. r. simmons, nov. 1974: wakahuia, human head either end, spiral design on lid in east coast style though with some modifications suggesting a derived style. round-oval in shape made with steel tools. illus. in usnm proceedings, vol. 79, art.30;, pl 10, p. 54. h.d. skinner, may 1922, dunedin, nz: the spiral design is good, and appears to have been executed with stone tools. the rectilinear design is poor and modern."

Peale catalogue identifies #s 510 - 512 as "Dressing case (waka o te pare) of a New Zealand chief." Additional notes from D.R. Simmons, Curator, Auckland Institute and Museum, Auckland, New Zealand, 1973: "Waka o te pare = box for ornaments. These are more commonly called wakahuia or papahou, or in English - feather or treasure boxes."


  • Title: Carved Treasure Box
  • Location: North Island / Bay of Islands, New Zealand, Polynesia
  • Physical Dimensions: L: 41cm, 40.8cm W: 15cm, 15.7cm H: 9cm D: 7.6cm
  • Type: Box
  • Rights: This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws. http://www.si.edu/termsofuse
  • External Link: View this object record in the Smithsonian Institution Collections Search Center
  • USNM Catalog Number(s): E3786
  • Photo Credit: Donald E. Hurlbert, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History
  • Field: Ethnology
  • Date Collected: 1840
  • Accession Date: 1858

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