Maori Weapon Facts
- Maori warfare mostly involved hand-to-hand combat; therefore, their weapons were made for this type of fighting.
- The Maori used materials available to them to make their weapons; this included wood, whalebone, greenstone, and stone.
- Young boys would begin training to be warriors at a very young age. This include training in the use of weapons. Particular attention was paid to strengthening their wrists because most of their weapons involved quick movements of the wrist.
- Maori warriors were known to carry two weapons into battle; one for close hand-to-hand combat and one for fighting at a little bit more of a distance apart from their enemy.
- By the time the British started to settle New Zealand in large numbers in the early 19th Century several unique Maori weapons had been developed. Each Maori weapon was deadly when used by a skilled warrior.
- War parties were usually composed of males; however, females would sometimes take part.
- Maori warriors were experts in the art of ambush and surprise raids, appearing and disappearing swiftly and noiselessly into the thick New Zealand natural rainforest environment. They usually attacked at dawn. The aim was to kill all members of the enemy war party, so that no survivors would remain with the risk of "utu" (revenge).
Common Maori WeaponsBelow you will find a list of a few of the more common Maori weapons; with short descriptions and pictures.
PatauThis weapon is a short club used as a striking weapon. The English translation of patu is to strike or hit. Patu were made of wood, stone, or whale bone. The general strategy of using this weapon was to hit the opponents upper body thus disabling them and then finishing them off with a strike to the head.
MereA Mere is a short flat club shaped like a large tear drop. It is the same design as a Patu; but the difference is Patus are made of wood, stone, or whale bone whereas Meres are made of Greenstone (jade). This weapon was held in one hand and was used in close hand to hand combat. Typical strike zones for warriors included the temple, the jaw or the ribs. The mere was a highly prized weapon as it requires an incredible amount of work to make. They were often passed on from one generation to the next. Warriors who carried a greenstone mere were considered to possess great strength and honor.
WahaikaThis weapon was a short club used in hand-to-hand combat. It was usually made of whalebone or wood. The warrior would thrust the weapon at the enemy. A notch on the side was used for catching an opponent's weapon. With a quick flick and twist of the wrist, the opponent could be disarmed. The word Wahaika can be roughly translated to "the mouth of the fish". Wooden Wahaikas often had intricate designs carved on them.
TaiahaOne of the most well-known weapons of the Maori due to its use during welcoming ceremonies known as powhiri. A long club typically about five to six feet (1.5 - 1.8 meters) in length. This weapon, usually made of whalebone or wood, was used for short quick stabbing thrusts and for defense; to parry thrust from an enemy's weapon. Although it looks like a spear it was never used for throwing at an enemy.
KotiateThis short club was a thrusting weapon used in close hand-to-hand combat. It was usually made of whalebone or wood. Its name means to cut or divide the liver most likely named for its resemblance to the lobed part of a human liver. Maori chiefs often held this weapon while giving speeches.