Pounamu

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Pounamu pendant.
From space, the west coast of New Zealand resembles the greenstone after which it is named.

Pounamu refers to several types of hard, durable and highly valued nephrite jade, bowenite, or serpentinite stone found in southern New Zealand. Pounamu is the Māori name. These rocks are also generically known as "greenstone" in New Zealand English.

There are two systems for classifying pounamu. Geologically, the rock falls into the three categories named above, but Māori classify pounamu by appearance.[1] The main classifications are kawakawa, kahurangi, īnanga, and tangiwai. The first three are nephrite jade, while tangiwai is a form of bowenite.[2]

  • Īnanga pounamu takes its name from a native freshwater fish (Galaxias maculatus) and is pearly-white or grey-green in colour and varies from translucent to opaque.[3]
  • Kahurangi pounamu is highly translucent and has a vivid shade of green. It is named after the clearness of the sky and is the rarest variety of pounamu.[4]
  • Kawakawa pounamu comes in many shades, often with flecks or inclusions, and is named after the leaves of the native kawakawa tree (Macropiper excelsum). It is the most common variety of pounamu.[5]
  • Tangiwai pounamu is clear like glass but in a wide range of shades. The name comes from the word for the tears that come from great sorrow.[6]

In modern usage pounamu almost always refers to nephrite jade. Pounamu is generally found in rivers in specific parts of the South Island as nondescript boulders and stones. These are difficult to identify as pounamu without cutting them open.

Significance to Māori[edit]

pounamu plays a very important role in Māori culture. It is considered a taonga (treasure). Pounamu taonga increase in mana (prestige) as they pass from one generation to another. 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 chisels (whao) and adzes (toki), fishing hooks and lures, and bird leg rings (kākā poria); weapons such as mere (short handled clubs); and ornaments such as pendants (hei-tiki, hei matau and pekapeka), ear pendants, and cloak pins.[7][8]

It 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"). In 1997 the Crown handed back the ownership of all naturally occurring pounamu to the South Island tribe Ngāi Tahu,[9][10] as part of the Treaty of Waitangi claims and settlements#Ng.C4.81i Tahu|Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement

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.[11][12] It continues to be popular among New Zealanders and is often presented as gifts to visitors and to New Zealanders moving overseas. Viggo Mortensen, Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, took to wearing a hei matau around his neck. Michael Hurst of the television programme Hercules was given a large and heavy pounamu pendant necklace which he wore on the programme. During a particularly energetic action scene the pendant bumped his teeth. The producers felt the ornament suited the nature of the programme yet considered it a safety risk, and had it replaced with a latex replica.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Pounamu - An iconic stone". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  2. ^ Keane, Basil (2 March 2009). "Pounamu – jade or greenstone - Pounamu – several names". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture & Heritage. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  3. ^ "Inanga pounamu". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  4. ^ "Kahurangi pounamu". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  5. ^ "Kawakawa pounamu". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  6. ^ "Tangiwai pounamu". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  7. ^ "Pounamu taonga". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  8. ^ Keane, Basil (2 March 2009). "Pounamu – jade or greenstone - Implements and adornment". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture & Heritage. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  9. ^ "Pounamu Management Plan", Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
  10. ^ "Ngāi Tahu and pounamu", Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
  11. ^ "Pounamu - a special gift". Kura Pounamu Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "Pounamu items from the history collection". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 

External links[edit]