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photograph of current display in the Grand Vestibule

A display highlighting the interaction between the monarchy and the wider world

Maori

Treasure box (papahou) c.1953-4

RCIN 94943

Grand Vestibule, Windsor Castle

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Maori treasure boxes (papahou) like this were used to store ornaments, feathers and other precious objects owned by high-ranking individuals. Because these accessories came into close contact with chiefly individuals, they were considered sacred (tapu) and kept separately from other objects. Over time, the boxes themselves also came to be regarded as tapu.

The boxes were usually hung from the rafters of the house, so they often feature elaborate carving on the underside. On this box, the open-mouthed figures which appear on the lid are repeated underneath. The design is typical of the intricate, low-relief carving which characterises much Maori artwork.

This papahou was presented to Queen Elizabeth II at Rotorua in New Zealand during her 1954 Commonwealth Tour.