The Maori head has been in the UK for the last 150 years, but it will soon be making its way back to New Zealand because of its ‘great cultural importance’.

Stored at The Warrington Museum in Cheshire, manager, Janice Hayes, said: “We don’t know the precise origin of the head. We do know that the Maoris used to preserve severed heads for two reasons – either to venerate a loved one, or to ridicule an enemy defeated in battle.

“But we also know that some Maoris, when they learned that Europeans would pay gold for the old artefacts, began to manufacture more heads for sale.”

Maoris believe the head is the most sacred part of the body. Male warriors would have their heads and faces tattooed in the belief that it would bring them “additional sacred powers”.  

Mrs Hayes said “After their death their head was smoked and dried in the sun to preserve it and ensure it was still possible to see their unique moko which allowed them to be identified, almost like a finger print.”

The head’s flight home is being covered by one of New Zealand’s national museums,  Te Papa Tongarewa, which is planning a ceremony to thank the Warrington Museum for caring for the sacred head, which was brought to the UK in 1840.

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