Mokomokai: Tattooed Maori Heads And The Musket Wars

In the early 19th century, a deplorable trade developed in New Zealand between the indigenous Maori people and the European merchants. The westerners supplied the islanders with firearms, and in return the Maoris provided the English merchants with decapitated and dried heads of deceased Maoris, featuring beautiful patterns tattooed on the skin. These heads are known as mokomokai, and they are a valuable Maori artifact.

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Mokomokai collection of British army officer Horatio Gordon Robley. Photo: Wikimedia


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