Wars between Maori tribes were commonplace. Fighting usually took place over territory. Maori warriors were fierce in battle and the fate of their enemies, when captured, usually involved being eaten or having their heads shrunk as trophies.
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).
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 would prove to be deadly when used by a skilled warrior.
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Below you will find a list of some Maori weapons (with associated pictures to the right):
Mere (See picture A):
A short flat club usually made from wood, bone, or greenstone. Also know as a Patu or Waihaka. Used in hand to hand combat. Typical strike zones for warriors included the temple, the jaw and the ribs. The greenstone mere was particularly highly prized as it requires an incredible amount of work to make one. Warriors who carried a greenstone mere were considered to posses great strength and honor. Today the mere represents the facing and overcoming the challenges life presents.
Wahaika (See picture B):
This short club was used where quick in-fighting action required thrusting jabs. Held by a thong of dog skin through a hole in the handle and around the wrist and thumb. The indent on the right is for catching the opponents weapon. With the right flick and twist of the wrist, the opponent can be disarmed.
Kotiate: (See picture C):
These were prized Maori weapons on the battlefield, as well as being
favored by many chiefs during speech making. The notches on the weapons
sides are for catching the opponents weapon. With the right flick and
twist of the wrist, the opponent can be disarmed.
Taiaha: (See picture D)
One of the most well known weapons of the Maori. A long club typically five feet in length and longer.
Toki Pou Tangata: (See picture E)
Made for ceremonial occasions, characterized by a greenstone blade and a carved handle.