Left: New Zealand Maori Chief Anehana.
Right: Tattooed Maori chief.

Wiremu te Manawa, one of the last of the fully tattooed Maori chiefs.


The elaborately carved wooden funnel used to deliver food.


The wooden handles to which the comb (pictured) is attached.

The stone pot used to mix the soot and the oil.

Body adornment by the process of tattooing was widespread in Polynesia and highly developed in New Zealand, where every warrior's face, and sometimes his thighs, were tattooed in intricate scrolls and spirals. Women usually had only the lips and chin decorated. A pigment of soot and oil was mixed in a small stone pot; the pattern was traced on the skin, and driven in by smart taps with a rod on a small boned comb lashed to a wooden handle. Intricately designed funnels were also used for when a chief was being tattooed, he was tapu, and was not allowed to take food in the ordinary way nor was it allowed for the food to touch his lips. It was therefore delivered to him through one of these funnels.  

Tattooed Maori warrior.

Maori woman with tattooed chin wearing native garments

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Jane Resture
(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 10th April 2009)