Story: Whakairo – Māori carving

Whalebone comb

Whalebone comb

This heru (ornamental comb) is carved from a single piece of whalebone. The manaia (stylised beaked figure) carved into one end has an eye inset with pāua shell. Although this heru was made around 1800, the same materials were used for ornaments by Māori carvers from the earliest settlement of New Zealand. These materials are less perishable than wood, and so provide some of the oldest surviving examples of carving.

Using this item

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Reference: OL000039

Permission of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Brett Graham, 'Whakairo – Māori carving - Carving before 1500', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/object/43057/whalebone-comb (accessed 23 September 2021)

Story by Brett Graham, published 22 Oct 2014