Pounamu is a term for several types of hard and durable stone found in the South Island of New Zealand. They are highly valued in New Zealand, and carvings made from pounamu play an important role in Māori culture.

Pounamu matau barb
Pounamu hei matau pendant, a heavily stylized fishhook
The southwest coast of New Zealand is named Te Wai Pounamu ("The greenstone waters"), after its deposits of greenstone, and the area resembles greenstone in this view from space.[1] The term is also the official Māori name for the South Island.

Name edit

The Māori word pounamu, also used in New Zealand English, refers to two main types of green stone valued for carving: nephrite jade, classified by Māori as kawakawa, kahurangi, īnanga, and other names depending on colour; and translucent bowenite, a type of serpentine, known as tangiwai. The collective term pounamu is preferred, as the other names in common use are misleading, such as New Zealand jade (not all pounamu is jade) and greenstone (a generic term used for unrelated stone from many countries). Pounamu is only found in New Zealand, whereas much of the carved "greenstone" sold in souvenir shops is jade sourced overseas.[2]

The Māori classification of pounamu is by colour and appearance; the shade of green is matched against a colour found in nature, and some hues contain flecks of red or brown.[2][3]

  • Īnanga pounamu takes its name from the native freshwater fish Galaxias maculatus, one of the common whitebait species in New Zealand, and is pearly-white or grey-green in colour. It varies from translucent to opaque.[4] Īnanga was the variety most prized by Māori for ornaments and mere (short handled clubs).[2]
  • Kahurangi pounamu is highly translucent and has a vivid shade of light green with no spots or flaws. Its name is the Māori word for a person of high rank, and is the rarest variety of pounamu.[2] It was the preferred stone for making toki poutangata (ceremonial adzes) owned by rangatira (Māori chiefs).[5]
  • Kawakawa pounamu comes shades of rich dark green, often with small dark flecks or inclusions, and is named after the similarly-coloured leaves of the kawakawa tree (Piper excelsum). It is the most common variety of pounamu, and the most used in the manufacture of jewellery today.[6] One of its main sources is the Taramakau River on the West Coast.[2]
    • Totoweka is a rare type of kawakawa with small reddish dots or streaks; its name means "weka blood" after the flightless bird Gallirallus australis.[2]
  • Kōkopu pounamu is olive green and speckled with dark spots, reminiscent of the markings of three species of native freshwater fishes in the genus Galaxias that go by that name.[2]
  • Flower jade or picture jade is pounamu with cream, yellow, or brown inclusions, from oxidising or weathering in the surface of the stone. Cracks or fissures in the stone can allow iron impurities to enter, and carvers can then make use of the resulting patterns. Flower jade is best known from the Marsden district near Hokitika.[2]
  • Tangiwai pounamu is translucent like glass, but in a wide range of shades. When viewed against the light it resembles a clear drop of water. The name means "the tears that come from great sorrow", and refers to a Māori legend of a lamenting woman whose tears turned to stone.[2][7]

Chemistry edit

Jade is formed from two different stones: jadeite and nephrite. Jadeite (sodium aluminium silicate) has interlocking granular crystals, while nephrite (calcium magnesium silicate) has crystals that are interwoven and fibrous. Jadeite is mostly found in Myanmar, while nephrite is found in Europe, British Columbia, Australia, and New Zealand.[2] New Zealand nephrite contains varying amounts of iron, which account for its range of shades, richness of green, and translucency.[2]

Geological formation and location edit

Pounamu is generally found in rivers in specific parts of the South Island as nondescript boulders and stones. Pounamu has been formed in New Zealand in four main locations; the West Coast, Fiordland, western Southland and the Nelson district.[8][9][10] It is typically recovered from rivers and beaches where it has been transported to after being eroded from the mountains. The group of rocks where pounamu comes from are called ophiolites. Ophiolites are slices of the deep ocean crust and part of the mantle. When these deep mantle rocks (serpentinite) and crustal rock (mafic igneous rocks) are heated up (metamorphosed) together, pounamu can be formed at their contact.[11]

The Dun Mountain Ophiolite Belt has been metamorphosed in western Southland and pounamu from this belt is found along the eastern and northern edge of Fiordland.[12] The Anita Bay Dunite near Milford Sound is a small but highly prized source of pounamu.[13] In the Southern Alps, the Pounamu Ultramafic Belt in the Haast Schist occurs as isolated pods which are eroded and found on West Coast rivers and beaches.[14]

One source of īnanga pounamu at the head of Lake Wakatipu is possibly the only jade mining site in the world with Government protection.[2]

Significance to Māori edit

A wide range of pounamu objects

Pounamu plays a very important role in Māori culture and is a taonga (treasure). It is and has been an important part of trade between the South Island iwi (tribe) Ngāi Tahu and other iwi. Adze blades made from pounamu were desired for carving of wood, and even with the arrival of metal tools pounamu tools were used. These were often reworked into hei tiki (stylised human figures worn as pendants) and other taonga when they were no longer useful for carving wood. After the arrival of Ngāi Tahu in the South Island in the middle of the 18th century, the production of pounamu increased. Pounamu crafting and trade was important to the economy of Ngāi Tahu.[15]

Hei tiki; signs of wear indicate longevity of active possession due to the hard nature of the stone.
Large pounamu boulder at Te Papa Tongarewa o Aotearoa

Pounamu taonga increase in mana (spiritual power or prestige) as they pass from one generation to another. Pounamu is believed to absorb the mana of its past owners, and some heirloom pieces are named after a former owner in memory of their position and authority.[2] The most prized taonga are those with known histories going back many generations: these are believed to have their own mana and were often given as gifts to seal important agreements.

Pounamu taonga include tools such as toki (adzes), whao (chisels), whao whakakōka (gouges), ripi pounamu (knives), scrapers, awls, hammer stones, and drill points. Hunting tools include matau (fishing hooks) and lures, spear points, and kākā poria (leg rings for fastening captive birds); weapons such as mere; and ornaments such as pendants (hei tiki, hei matau and pekapeka), ear pendants (kuru and kapeu), and cloak pins.[16][17] Functional pounamu tools were widely worn for both practical and ornamental reasons, and continued to be worn as purely ornamental pendants (hei kakī) even after they were no longer used as tools.[18]

Store selling carved pounamu in Hokitika, New Zealand

Pounamu is found only in the South Island of New Zealand, known in Māori as Te Wai Pounamu ('The [land of] Greenstone Water') or Te Wahi Pounamu ('The Place of Greenstone').[19] In 1997 the Crown handed back the ownership of all naturally occurring pounamu to the South Island iwi Ngāi Tahu (or Kai Tahu),[20][21] as part of the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement.

Pounamu was of such value to Māori that peace was cemented by the exchange of valuable carved heirlooms, creating what was figuratively called a tautau pounamu (door of greenstone), as in the saying Me tautau pounamu, kia kore ai e pakaru, ake, ake (Let conclude a peace treaty that may never be broken, for ever and ever).[22]

Pounamu trails edit

There were a dozen major pounamu trails used in the trading of pounamu[23] and many more minor routes. Parties of 6 to 12 are thought to have used the tracks in summer, particularly via Harper Pass.[24]

Modern use edit

Jewellery and other decorative items made from gold and pounamu were particularly fashionable in New Zealand in the Victorian and Edwardian years in the late 19th and early 20th century.[25][26] It continues to be popular among New Zealanders and is often given as gifts. In 2011, the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key presented the President of the United States, Barack Obama with a wahaika (a type of Māori weapon) created from pounamu carved by New Zealand artist Aden Hoglund.[27]

An exhibition curated by Te Papa in 2007 called Kura Pounamu showcased 200 pounamu items from their collections and linked New Zealand and China through both the geographical location of nephrite and also the high level of artistry achieved in ancient China and then thousands of years later amongst Māori. The exhibition marked 40 years of diplomatic relations between countries when it toured to five venues in China in 2013.[28]

In the 2016 animated movie Moana the central premise is to return the stolen heart of Te Fiti which is manifest in a pounamu stone amulet.[29]

Fossicking for Pounamu is a cultural activity in New Zealand and allowed on designated areas of the West Coast of the South Island (Te Tai o Poutini) and is limited to what can be carried unaided;[30][31] fossicking elsewhere in the Kai Tahu tribal area is illegal, while nephrite jade can be sourced legally and freely from Marlborough and Nelson. In 2009 David Anthony Saxton and his son Morgan David Saxton were sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment for stealing greenstone, with a helicopter, from the southern West Coast.[32]

Gallery edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "The Greenstone Waters, New Zealand". NASA. 22 May 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Hanna, Neil (1 January 1995). Pounamu: New Zealand jade. Jadepress. ISBN 978-0-473-03012-4.
  3. ^ "Pounamu – An iconic stone". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  4. ^ "Īnanga pounamu". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Kahurangi pounamu". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Kawakawa pounamu". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Tangiwai pounamu". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  8. ^ Best, Elsdon (1912). The Stone Implements of the Maori. Government Printer. p. 410.
  9. ^ Coleman, Robert Griffin (1966). New Zealand serpentinites and associated metasomatic rocks. Dept. of Scientific and Industrial Research, N.Z. Geological Survey. p. 101.
  10. ^ Beck, Russell J; Mason, Maika (2010). Pounamu : the jade of New Zealand. Photographer Andris Apse. North Shore, New Zealand: Penguin/Viking. pp. 51–87. ISBN 978-0-670-07488-4. OCLC 679547252.
  11. ^ Adams, C.J.; Beck, R.J.; Campbell, H.J. (2007). "Characterisation and origin of New Zealand nephrite jade using its strontium isotopic signature". Lithos. 97 (3–4): 307–322. Bibcode:2007Litho..97..307A. doi:10.1016/j.lithos.2007.01.001. ISSN 0024-4937.
  12. ^ Coombs, D. S.; Landis, C. A.; Norris, R. J.; Sinton, J. M.; Borns, D. J.; Craw, D. (1976). "The Dun Mountain ophiolite belt, New Zealand, its tectonic setting, constitution, and origin, with special reference to the southern portion". American Journal of Science. 276 (5): 561–603. Bibcode:1976AmJS..276..561C. doi:10.2475/ajs.276.5.561. ISSN 0002-9599.
  13. ^ Coutts, P. J. F. (1971). "Greenstone: the prehistoric exploitation of bowenite from Anita Bay, Milford Sound". The Journal of the Polynesian Society. 80 (1): 42–73.
  14. ^ Cooper, A.F.; Reay, A. (1983). "Lithology, field relationships, and structure of the Pounamu Ultramafics from the Whitcombe and Hokitika Rivers, Westland, New Zealand". New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics. 26 (4): 359–379. Bibcode:1983NZJGG..26..359C. doi:10.1080/00288306.1983.10422254. ISSN 0028-8306.
  15. ^ Austin, Dougal (2019). Te hei tiki : an enduring treasure in a cultural continuum. Wellington, New Zealand: Te Papa Press. ISBN 978-0-9951031-4-6. OCLC 1118991633.
  16. ^ "Pounamu taonga". Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  17. ^ Keane, Basil (2 March 2009). "Pounamu – jade or greenstone – Implements and adornment". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. New Zealand Ministry for Culture & Heritage. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  18. ^ Chris D. Paulin. "Porotaka hei matau — a traditional Māori tool?". Tuhinga. 20. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa: 15–21.
  19. ^ "Māori names for North and South Islands approved". RNZ National. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  20. ^ "Pounamu Management Plan", Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
  21. ^ "Ngāi Tahu and pounamu", Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
  22. ^ Brougham, Aileen E. (2012). The Raupō book of Māori proverbs. A. W. Reed, T. S. Kāretu (5 ed.). Auckland, N.Z.: Raupo. ISBN 978-0-14-356791-2. OCLC 796934005.
  23. ^ "Pounamu trails". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 3 January 2023.
  24. ^ Roberta McIntyre (2007). "Historic heritage of high-country pastoralism: South Island up to 1948" (PDF). Department of Conservation.
  25. ^ "Pounamu – a special gift". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  26. ^ "Pounamu items from the history collection". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  27. ^ Wood, Stacey (23 July 2011). "Hokitika man's carving fit for a president". Stuff. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  28. ^ Panoho, Rangihiroa (2015). Māori art: history, architecture, landscape and theory. Auckland, New Zealand. ISBN 978-1-86953-867-5. OCLC 911072426.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  29. ^ Herman, Doug. "How the Story of Moana and Maui Holds Up Against Cultural Truths". Smithsonian. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  30. ^ "Greenstone rules". Otago Daily Times Online News. 7 February 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  31. ^ "Ngāi Tahu Pounamu Resource Management" (PDF). Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  32. ^ "Greenstone thieves sent to prison". Stuff. 31 January 2009.
  33. ^ "Kapeu and kuru – ear pendants". Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  34. ^ "Pounamu and hunting". Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 18 October 2020.

External links edit