While Maori used treasure boxes, also called waka huia, to store important contents, the boxes themselves also endure as exquisite works of craftsmanship and as personal objects that were highly valued in their own right. Carvers produced boxes like this one in their leisure time, not only following the visual styles of their tribal communities but also injecting the designs with their own creativity. The present box incorporates spirals and rounded curves with a dogtooth pattern, as well as figureheads at each end that face downwards.
Treasure boxes were most notably used to store items considered to be tapa, or sacred; this category primarily encompassed any articles that had come into contact with a chief’s head or neck, such as feathers, combs, and pendants. Since the sanctity of these items was thought to have the capacity to harm those of a lesser rank, the boxes would hang suspended from the rafters of a house to be kept out of the reach of children, thus allowing the box’s underside to be viewed from below.