Carved figure, New Zealand

This figure from the Whanganui district of North Island would have stood at the entrance of a storehouse called a rua tāhuhu in the Māori language.

Some of the carved details have been lost through weathering, but if you look closely, you can still see plain spirals on the hips and one shoulder, plus a more elaborate spiral pattern called rauponga on the other. The spirals connect with crescent-shaped ridges on the arms, hands and legs. The figure has been identified as the ancestor Taikapoia – note how the name has been inscribed in mirror writing on its stomach. 

Probably made during the 1820s or 1830s, this object forms part of the Charles Smith collection.

Accession number: 1923.87.188