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The Mystery of the Korotangi


The most mysterious, sacred and remarkable of all Maori relics, 'The Korotangi' is the name given to a stone bird brought from Hawaiki to Aotearoa by the Maori in the Tainui hūhunu (ocean-going canoe).

Carved from a green mineral called serpentine found in China and Indonesia, the bird measures 10.25 inches (26.5 cms) from point of beak to tip of tail and weighs a total of 4 lb (1.81kg).

The Korotangi is not of Maori or even Polynesian origin as it was made with metal tools of which the people of the Pacific had no knowledge. The Maori’s  know they didn’t make it, and they don’t know who did. It is the opinion of most ethnologists is that the Korotangi is of indonesian origin and dates to around 790 ad.

How it came into the Maoris ancestors hands and to board the Tainui canoe is a mystery. Perhaps its original owners gifted it to the Maori in their homeland of Hawaiki, or perhaps it was lost in New Zealand by a group of people who passed through Indonesia on their way.

It is possible the Korotangi stone was mined in Sulawesi and carved in Java or Formosa Island and traveled along a trade route from Jakarta which was then an Arab-held trading port.

The Korotangi bird is supposed to have been brought from the ancient homeland, Hawaiki, by the Maori’s and finally to New Zealand in the Tainui canoe about 1350. During these long voyages the Korotangi was used as a protecting power and an oracle. It is credited with the responsibility for the safe arrival of the immigrants after traversing 13,000 miles.

The Korotangi is a taonga, a sacred treasure, Interpreted by many authorities as "the crying dove." It has mana (prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power) And it is tapu (sacred), it has a quality, a power, a connection with the past,and the ancestors of the past, that must be respected to avoid conflict between the world of the dead and the vulnerable world of the living.

For many generations the Korotangi was  in the possession of the Kawhia Maoris, who carried it on their war excursions and consulted it to determine fortunes of battle. During war times, the bird was set on a hillside near the battle scene, the war party would then gather around it and ask for its assistance.

About the year 1880, the Korotangi was found buried in Kawhia, entwined in the roots of a Manuka tree which had blown down in a gale. It was supposably hidden under the tree by (Tohunga) Tainui keepers of the treasure (Taonga). This behavior would occur during inter tribal warfare.

After almost a century in the wrong hands, The Korotangi was returned in 1995 to the Tainui people as part of the government settlement of their claims under the treaty of Waitangi.

The Korotangi bird is now in Ngaruawahia. (a town in the Waikato region of the North Island of New Zealand)