The Stone Implements of the Maori
When writing my book on "Maori Art," published by the New Zealand Institute, I found it impossible to give any detailed account of the numerous forms of stone implements used in ancient days by the Maori, partly on account of want of space, and largely on account of the meagre information then available. I promised, however, in a footnote on page 195, to return to the subject on some future occasion. Many years have passed, many new facts and specimens have come under my notice, and recently I have been fortunate in securing the services of Mr. Elsdon Best in the work of the Dominion Museum. A favourable opportunity has therefore at last occurred for bringing together the various items of knowledge that have been recorded by writers on New Zealand ethnology in this subject, and, what is more important, the opportunity of getting a good deal of first-hand information from the older living Maoris by means of Mr. Best's intimate knowledge of the language and mode of thought and expression of the Maori people. For fifteen years he has devoted himself to ethnological research in the heart of old Maoriland, among the Tuhoe people, and has thus won experience in the methods of acquiring information on ethnological matters on modern lines which is beyond price. His numerous papers on the Ure-wera show careful and methodical treatment of the subjects that he has taken up. Through Mr. Best's labours at the Museum we are now building up a much more detailed description of the arts and industries of the Maori race than has yet been recorded.
The collections in the Dominion Museum have steadily increased in all departments of Maori ethnology, largely through the presentation to the Dominion by Mr. W. L. Buller of the late Sir Walter Buller's magnificent collection of specimens, illustrating Maori ethnology. Amongst these specimens is the largest and best specimen of stone adze yet found in New Zealand, which will be described in this paper.
I have received most cordial assistance from the Curators of the Museums in the Dominion and from private collectors; and I have been able to figure a large series of the typical forms of Maori stone implements from the specimens in the Dominion Museum.
The descriptive matter collected has grown to such length that we we have been compelled to defer to another opportunity the detailed page 10description of the minor works in stone, such as the ruder class of knives and cutting-flakes.
I must not forget to acknowledge the kind permission given by the Hon. the Minister of Native Affairs, by which we have been able to examine the whole of the unpublished portion of the manuscript purchased by the Government from the late Mr. John White, collected by him mainly in the north about the middle of last century, and even earlier, much of which was derived from manuscript written by old Maoris in the early "forties."
We have also to express our acknowledgments to Te Whatahoro, of Wai-rarapa, for the loan of manuscript originally written by well-instructed learned men in the "fifties" and "sixties" of last century, and for much oral information from Te Whatahoro himself.
Many of our European friends in New Zealand and abroad have been most kind and helpful.
As we have stated in the paper itself, the majority of the Maoris now living, and over fifty years of age, know nothing of the details of the daily life of their fathers and grandfathers; it is only those who were duly instructed in the local wharekura, and who possessed exceptional opportunities or intelligence, who really knew the ethnological details we wish to find out.
Two questions in particular have been most troublesome-the question of whether there was a stone implement used as an axe (toki tikaha) and the question of the kind of drill used in New Zealand before contact with European civilisation. On account of the difficulty in investigating and deciding these questions the evidence has been given in detail rather more fully than would otherwise have been done, so as to show the diverse statements made by the natives of the present day.
As it stands now, it is published as a basis for further research for week by week fresh items are gathered in, and there seems to be no prospect of finality in this or other matters.
One result of our work is that I am more than ever assured in the conviction that the only way to arrive at satisfactory conclusions on matters of Maori ethnology is to endeavour to localize the statements that are and have been made on the various subjects.
The customs and terms used by the people of one district were, and are, so distinct that every item that has appeared and been placed on record should have been localized as closely as possible, and, if practicable, authenticated or given weight to by the name page 11of the person on whose authority it was stated. The culture of the people on the east coast of the North Island in olden time, and the terms used by them, differed so much from those of the people living at the same period on the west coast of the North Island that to attempt to treat them as an ethnic unit is to invite confusion and doubt.