Greenstone Hand-Clubs, Mere Pounamu Mere pounamu, teardrop-shaped hand-clubs made of greenstone, are among the very most precious of all Maori cultural treasures. Pounamu greenstone, although often called jade in older Western sources, is actually an indigenous category of stone spanning two geological classifications: Nephrite and Bowenite. Both copper-rich stones occur in close proximity near the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, and have been distributed throughout New Zealand through complex trade networks for centuries. Besides a range of different subtypes of pounamu, the major stylistic characteristics of the mere are its two orthogonal lines of axial symmetry, its thinner section in comparison to the fatter wooden patu and the patu onewa types, and the ridged pommel moulding (usually pierced through). This ridging on the pommel is interesting, as it essentially replicates the concentric ovals on the butt end of the patu onewa, albeit on a structure too narrow to permit its faithful reproduction; in this way, we can see that the patu onewa was the mere pounamu’s ancestral template. Another notable feature of mere pounamu is their drastic variation in scale, from many that would fit on a man’s palm (and are perhaps the most practical weapons) to those which exceed 40cm in length and are almost half as wide at the head; great ground plates of stone, such vast mere were the regalia of powerful chiefs, and many such giant clubs (of which 47/2010.1 is a very fine example indeed) were depicted by the noted portrait painter Gottfried Lindauer in the 19th century.

Object Summary

Museum Number E1645
Simple Name weapon
Full Name hand club
Collection Country New Zealand
Common Name club
Production country New Zealand
Collection class Arms and armour
Collection continent Oceania
Collection area/region Australia and New Zealand
Production continent Oceania
Production year high pre 1874
Function name weapon