Gourd liquid, and solid, containers

Subtitle: Intriguing

Stopped by the Canterbury museum today and in the Māori section of the Museum there were several of these 'gourd' containers.

They looked intriguing, from a metre away behind glass I wasn't so sure what they were made of and as one of them looked mightily like a rather large pear which are not native to New Zealand I was intrigued. So I went away to find a museum guide and she told me that they were gourds, and told me that gourds were like pumpkins when I tried to figure out if that's what she meant by 'gourd'. Admittedly some are somewhat pear shaped, but this one was almost perfectly pear shaped. So I wasn't convinced and pressed and said was she sure of the material because to me it seemed that they could be metal (in Stone Age New Zealand) or even pottery (the Lapita culture of 3000 or so years ago in Fiji had made pottery). She said no they were Gourds and I added that I doubted the utility of these vegetables for such a purpose and as they were not grown in New Zealand how would they replace the broken ones. She said that they were known in Polynesia & I said something like I understood that they might have been bought here by travelers from there or South America but couldn't figure out how they'd replace the broken ones, which I figured was probably a pretty regular requirement. Anyway, we went our separate ways but then about 30 minutes later after an obvious discussion elsewhere in the museum I was approached by another employee and I went back down with him to the 'gourds' and we had a similar discussion. There are now by my count 3 intrigued investigators of these 'gourds'. For those also intrigued, these gourds are neither native to New Zealand (but then nor is the Kumara) nor easily grown in the South Island (once again pretty much as per the Kumara).

By sight it's pretty hard to discern the material and they may indeed turn out to be the outside parts of a gourd but then that still fails to answer where they came from as I'm not sure that gourds were actually grown in New Zealand and certainly not in the South Island. Now it's also possible that they were traded from elsewhere in the country, as another part of the museum indicated their was a lively pre-European trade in stone manufacture from the Nelson Region but this belies the current understanding of Māori society at the time of British arrival as well. Whichever way this goes, I think the answers will be interesting. If they are indeed not actually gourds, the answers will be very interesting.

Somewhat of a postscript. Although it seems gourds are regularly used for such purposes, albeit with manufacture techniques more suited to New Mexico than to Whangerei or Kaikoura, gourds of the size in the Canterbury museum are proving difficult to replicate as per this paper.

It would be easy to settle this with a fairly non invasive dna sample taken, if gourd, and the most likely explanation is that the gourds are from elsewhere rather than metal or pottery, but somehow I think that under the current regime that may be asking too much.

Pottery pot of the Bunun. Pottery pot of the Bunun. (Source: Aboriginal Arts in Taiwan. Taipei: Taiwan National Museum of History, 1997. 28.)

“New Zealands long lost Taiwanese cuzzies” https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/destinations/asia/67390585/new-zealands-long-lost-taiwanese-cuzzies

#politics #maori #aotearoa

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.