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The Stone Implements of the Maori


(See Diagram, p. 221)

The most common form of Maori stone adze, the type most frequently met with, may be described as follows:—

The sides taper off gradually from the cutting-edge backward to the poll; thus the tool is widest across the cutting-edge. In forms possessing a curved or segmental cutting-edge, such a curve has, of course, the effect of making the chord of such arc the widest part of the tool. Specimens in which the widest part is across the shoulder are rarer than the above. A straight cutting-edge is more frequently seen in small adze-shaped tools, many of which were used as chisels, and hafted as such, than in the larger forms.

The sides are convex transversely and longitudinally. The longitudinal edges are rarely sharply defined and rectangular, but are somewhat rounded, a form probably caused in some cases by the implement being rubbed in a more or less deep groove in a block of sandstone when being ground. The transverse convexity of the face—and, in many cases, of the back also—naturally tends to impair the rectangular appearance of the implement, and to impart a rounded aspect to its longitudinal edges.

The face of the tool is convex longitudinally, and in many cases transversely also. The usual form of the back is also convex in the majority of specimens, but the straight form of back is not rare, and some have the back concave longitudinally. There are two types of convexity seen on the backs of these adzes. In some it extends the whole length of the tool, but in others the apparently persistent convexity is caused by the longitudinally convex bevel to form a cutting-edge at the one end, and a tapering-off of the butt end at the other. Thus, in some cases the back is straight in its middle part, but the appearance of uniform convexity is given to it by the tapering shape of the two ends.

The thickness of the adze usually diminishes toward the butt end, the thickest part being at the shoulder, or in some cases the tool preserves a uniform thickness from the shoulder back to the middle, or further, here it diminishes in size.

The poll (reke) is rarely flat, but is usually rounded off both ways, though not conical. In most cases it is not ground. On the east coast the term poike is usually applied to the butt end of a stone adze or axe, and is there held to be a more suitable term for it than reke.

page 221

The average form of adze has a blade formed by two bevels, on face and back, the latter being the principal one. That on the back is the true bevel, having a sharply defined shoulder-limit, as a rule. Still, in a good many cases the shoulder has been ground off, and the longitudinal convexity of the blade merges into that of the back imperceptibly. This convex form of the blade is exceedingly common, save in the diminutive implements of adze-form. The average angle of the bevel of the blade is about 50° or 55° on its lowest part. It is this heavy bevel pn the back of the implement that forms the adze-like blade. The bevel on the face of the tool is usually not a facet with a sharply defined shoulder-limit, but is simply an accentuated Sketch of axe heads page 222 continuation of the longitudinal convexity of the face. This curve or convexity of the face is equivalent to that seen in the modern steel adze, and it is equivalent to the slight curve seen in the blade of a steel hewing or squaring axe near the cutting-edge. Both of these are introduced for the purpose of causing the tool to cut freely, to free itself, and not bind or stick in the timber.

Apparently there is no Maori form, save in diminutive types, wherein the cutting-edge is in exactly the same plane as the face, even in cases where the face is not convex longitudinally. Such a form would be awkward to use, either in stone or steel, and that drawback might be remedied either by a slight bevel on the blade or the continuation of a slight longitudinal convexity of the face.

The cutting-edge of the ordinary type is somewhat curved, either intentionally so or as the result of grinding. It is easier to grind such an edge to a point than it is in the case of a straight edge.

The average length of these stone adzes is probably about 7 in., not taking into account the very small forms, many of which were really used as chisels. The usual width of a 7 in. adze is about 2 in. to2½in.

In those specimens that are of axe-form—that is, that have the blade formed by two equal bevels, thus bringing the cutting-edge into the axial centre of the blade, as in our steel chopping-axes—the thickest part of the tool is at the middle, from which the face and back curve gradually to form the blade and cutting-edge, no sharply pronounced shoulder being visible on either face or back, save in rare cases.