Rare Maori Long Club/Fighting Staff, New Zealand
length 57in (144.8cm)
taiaha, finely stone carved from hard wood, one end carved in the shape of a head (upoko) with a face on each side, a tongue (arero), with double spirals, double parallel grooves and dog-tooth pattern notches, protrudes from the mouth and forms the front blade, the body (tinana) provides the grip with a flat, smooth striking blade (rau); fine, glossy reddish-brown patina with encrustations indicative of significant age.
Reportedly collected pre-1779 by Captain James Cook
Alexander Acevedo, Alexander Gallery, New York
(Mr. Acevedo stated in writing to the present owner that an original, early label, written in sepia ink and early script stating the Captain Cook Voyage collection information, was affixed to this taiaha and lost when the gallery moved locations. The area where the label was affixed can be seen on the lower area of the blade; see additional photos.)
Private Collection, New York
In a written correspondence concerning this present staff from Roger Neich, former Curator of Oceanic Art at the Auckland Museum, New Zealand, "We are always skeptical of claims that something was collected on Cook's voyages, but it could be possible for your taiaha...
...The carved head with pointed tongue on yours is somewhat more distinctive than most, especially because of the almost straight line of the upper lip whereas most taiaha mouths have a deep V form upper lip. The solid eyes as opposed to the usual round and paua shell inlaid eyes is also different. In fact, out of the 183 taiaha that I have today examined in the Auckland Museum Collection, only about 6 share these unusual features...
...With regard to probably age, the patina and state of the carving do suggest considerable age. Stone tool carving is certainly probable in view of the rounded carving details and absence of sharp-cut edges.