Several years ago the Tauranga Heritage Collection embraced the return of a mahe (Māori anchor/sinker stone) found by the late Mr Noel Sharp some seventy-five years ago on the beach front directly below the old Otumoetai Pa. The pa, which belonged to the Ngamarama people, was referred to by missionaries as the capital of Tauranga.
According to archaeologists ‘fishing was a key activity for the people of Otumoetai pa: they ate a lot of fish. Bones excavated and analysed show that snapper was the most popular, followed by horse mackerel. Smaller numbers of terakihi, kahawai, red gurnard, trevally and barracoota were also found.’
Carved Mahe of this nature are very unusual and were used to anchor large fishing nets or small canoes. The incised patterns could resemble manaia (mythical creatures) and koruru (face/head) or surface decoration like raperape (spirals). This type of carving signified they were the property of a noted chief and would also have possessed a special name. The importance of these taonga can be remembered in the whakatauaki (proverb).
“Ko te punga o te waka a mea, he raperape”
“The anchor stone of an important object was adorned with the appropriate markings”