Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 38, 1905
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The Carving.

This figure of an eel-god with the head of a man, and this excellently spiritedly carved body of an eel with legs and arms

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of a man, is quite unique—the only figure of an eel-god in existence in New Zealand. There is no other specimen resembling it. It is 38 in. long by 10 in. wide. The head is very human, with a singularly broad, flat, dome-like forehead. The size of the forehead is the more remarkable because, as a rule, the forehead is neglected in Maori carving. This has the effect of giving the image a look of quite unusual intelligence. It is a forehead denoting great ability, and therefore is quite unlike any modern Maori carving. The mouth, as is usual in a god, is enormous —wide open, cavernous. The tongue is visible, but small, and does not proturde; at each side of the mouth one incisor tooth is carved—as is so often seen in old Maori carvings. The eyes, like those of all ancient Maori gods, are slanting—Mongolian. The nose is very flat. A thin line of tattooing is on each eyebrow, all over the nose, and a thin single ring surrounds the gaping mouth. This tattooing, as shown in the plate, is simple, and is evidently the work of stone and not iron chisels. The figure has two arms and two legs, each arm with three fingers and each leg with three toes—the one unfailing, universal mark of a god. Three fingers or three toes on each limb, a wide-open mouth, and slant eyes are unfailing symbols of the prehistoric Maori deity. The limbs, too, are tattooed with the double spiral. At the point of the right elbow and right knee (the left elbow and left knee are omitted from the carving) is a curious hollow, and from the ends of each hollow is a curious tattooed little figure like an inverted capital C, and at the junction a quaint little knob. What this means I do not know. Something like it is seen in other Polynesian images. Arms and legs are covered with tattooing, chiselled out, but not fine and blackened as in modern carvings.