Carved Treasure Box

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

A Maori carved treasure box collected under Lt. Charles Wilkes who led the United States Exploring Expedition, the first America scientific and exploratory expedition to circumnavigate the globe. Objects collected from that historic expedition became some of the founding objects of the Smithsonian Institution’s anthropology collections.

Carved box, "Wakahuia," called a treasure or feather box; of rectangular shape with two human heads at either end with abalone (Haliotis) [paua] inlaid eyes. The box is covered with straight line design, "Pakati" style. Examined and identified as an east coast, bay of islands style by H.D. Skinner, 1922 and D.R. Simmons, 1974. Has original peale tag. Publication: USNMa proceedings, vol. 79, art. 30, pl. 11b, p. 54. This object had been on permanent exhibit in the pacific hall, but was removed and exhibited magnificent voyagers, National Museum of Natural History, 1985-86. Exhibited sites "Magnificent voyagers," 1987-89.

From card: "Illus. USNM proceedings, vol.79, art. 30; pl. 11b. P. 54. D.R. Simmons, Nov. 1974; Wakahuia of rectangular shape with two human heads, the rest of the box being covered with straight line design (pakati) style. East coast made with steel tools. H. D. Skinner, May 1922, Dunedin, NZ: this appears to be a local bay of islands type. A box closely resembling this was collected by Baron Von Hugel in the "Thirties". It is now in Cambridge, Mus. England. Carving of both examples executed with steel tools."

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."

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  • Title: Carved Treasure Box
  • Location: North Island / Bay of Islands, New Zealand, Polynesia
  • Physical Dimensions: L: 54cm W: 18cm H: 12cm D: 12cm
  • 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): E3787
  • Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History
  • Field: Ethnology
  • Date Collected: 1840
  • Accession Date: 1858

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