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The Stone Implements of the Maori

Perforated Toki Pou Tangata, or Ceremonial Implements

Perforated Toki Pou Tangata, or Ceremonial Implements

Fig. 77, Plate XVIII, is an interesting specimen of the above type—the thin implements mounted on carved and otherwise ornamented hafts—inasmuch as it is perforated at the butt end, a thing very rarely seen in Maori adzes. It is of nephrite, apparently a somewhat inferior quality from the Maori point of view, opaque, and has page 288apparently been long exposed to the weather, the surface having lost its fine polish and assumed a grey weather-beaten appearance. It is 6¼ in. long, 2½ in. wide across the cutting-edge, and 1¾ in. wide at the butt end. The sides are straight, with rounded edges save for some 3¼ in. along one side, whereon are two parallel grooves with a ridge between, showing where the stone has been divided by sawing, the broken part in the middle being scarcely 1 line in thickness. The implement averages about ½ in. in thickness, and the cutting-edge is of axe-shape, bevelled equally on both sides. The cutting-edge is slightly curved, and the specimen has been ground over its whole surface, and well finished, save the sawing-grooves on one side that have not been quite ground out, and the poll, which shows a rough fracture. Weight, 9 oz. The perforation is situated 1 in. from the poll, and is the usual form of hole, made by a cord drill with a point of hard stone. The diameter of the mouth of one of these crater-like holes is 7 lines, the other a little less. The operator of the drill has not made a good job of his task, and the two holes do not meet fairly, which has entailed some extra work. It is highly probable that this specimen has been perforated for the purpose of suspension from the neck. Being of nephrite, a native would consider it a very desirable neck-pendant, and we note some small adzes that have been perforated apparently for the same purpose.

Another specimen of a perforated nephrite adze shown in Fig. 78, Plate XVIII, is thicker than is usual in items of this class, and, as it has an adze-like blade with a keen cutting-edge, it is quite probable that it was not a pou tangata implement, but a timber-working tool. This view is borne out by the fact that the stone is an inferior piece, with some ugly flaws on the face, and hollows on the back too deep to be ground out. It has evidently been made from a thin slab of stone struck off from a boulder, the slab being curved at one end, and also possessing a curious axial twist that has been retained by the ground tool. This specimen weighs 1½ lb., and has what is apparently a natural curve, which imparts to it the form of a curved steel adze, such as were named kapu by the Maoris when first introduced by voyagers, traders, &c. Thus, the back of the tool is concave longitudinally, though flat transversely, and the face is curved to a considerable extent at the blade end. The back is marred by several deep hollows and grooves of fracture, and the face is also much disfigured by flaws. Though possibly not hafted and used as a pou tangata adze, yet it has been perforated at the butt end. It seems that such nephrite implements, and even rough pieces of the same stone, were sometimes perforated and worn suspended from the neck. The boring of a hole in this specimen has been done within ¼ in. of the page 289poll. A deep hole, with a wide crater-mouth, has been drilled from the face almost through the tool, which has then been turned over, and a small hole bored on the back until it met the other. It is worthy of note that across the back of the poll, in line with the centre of the drilled hole, runs a small groove formed by rubbing with a hard cutter. Apparently this was formed in order to hold the point of the drill at the desired spot when the work of boring began. Regarding the blade, a pronounced bevel or facet of ½ in. in depth on the back intercepts the curved-in face at an angle of about 35°, forming a keen and slightly curved cutting-edge. We have seen steel adzes with a cutting-edge angle no more acute than this. A peculiar series of small notches have been made, presumably with a hard cutter, by rubbing on the longitudinal edges of the back of this implement. The first series commences at about 1½ in. from the cutting-edge, and there are ten such small notches on each edge. Then comes, on both edges, a blank space of a little over 1 in. ere the next series begins. In this the notches or serrations do not agree in number on the two edges, there being eight on one edge and six on the other. Then comes another blank space of 1 in. ere the third and last of the series is reached. In this there are seven notches on one side and four on the other. Apparently these serrations were intended as an ornamental design. Serrated edges are common in wooden implements, even on such items as bird-snare perches. One side of this implement shows plainly the two grooves made by the workman when sawing this piece of stone from the parent slab. The line of fracture, only partially obliterated by grinding, shows that the two cuts were carried within 1/12 in. of each other ere the piece was broken off. The weight of this tool is 1½ lb. Length, 10⅝ in. Width at cutting-edge, 3⅜ in.; at butt end, 1⅝ in. Thickness, ⅝ in.

Another, and far superior, specimen (see Fig. 79, Plate XVIII) of a perforated nephrite adze of this type, perfect in form and finish, save for the unsymmetrical poll, is 10½ in. long, 2 in. wide on the face at the cutting-edge, and 1 7/16 in. at 1 in. from the poll. In the middle, its heaviest part, it is ½ in. thick, from which point it thins somewhat in both directions. Weight, 1 lb. The back of this implement is considerably narrower than the face, quite ¼ in., caused by the inward slope of the sides, as observed in a number of other adzes described elsewhere. The whole tool is remarkably well formed and beautifully polished. Its one blemish is an old fracture at the poll, which has not been fashioned or ground. Otherwise the surfaces are well smoothed and polished. The face is slightly convex transversely, but straight longitudinally from the poll to a point 3 in. from the lower end, whence it falls away to the cutting-edge, which is straight, page 290and forms an angle of over 30°. The short facet on the back of the blade is about ½ in. long. The back is almost flat transversely, and quite so longitudinally for three-quarters of its length, but falls away at the poll. The sides are straight. The two longitudinal edges of the face have a series of minute notches, arranged in groups, cut in them. On the face of the implement there are on the right edge, at the middle, two groups, one composed of four and one of three very light notches, a blank space of ¾ in. separating the two groups. On the left-hand edge there are four such groups, each of four notches, the first group being 2 in. from the cutting-edge. A blank space of ⅝ in. separates the second from the first group, then comes a blank space of 1 in., then the third group, and then a space of 1¼ in. ere the fourth group is reached. Each group of four notches occupies a space of ¼ in. The perforation of this specimen is near the poll, and is of the usual type, showing two crater-mouthed holes. The upper edges of these holes show signs of wear, the rims of the two craters at those parts having been worn down smoothly, evidently the result of the chafing of the suspending-cord throughout generations. This shows it to be an old specimen. Any old-time Maori would have been only too glad to have worn such an item suspended on his breast by a cord passed round his neck. Such a mode was quite common with any prized and admired object, and we know that nephrite implements were sometimes worn in that manner. At any time such an implement as the above could have been attached to its haft in a few minutes, and so used as a weapon or as an emblem of rank, carried in the right hand during the delivery of a speech or the arranging of a company for the ceremonial dances of the people.

Another item (Fig. 79a, Plate XVIII) is a somewhat doubtful one, and it is impossible to say whether it was used as an ordinary nephrite adze or as a tokipou tangata. It will also be seen that its perforation is a doubtful quality. It is 5 in. long, land weighs 6 oz. Width across cutting-edge, 1 15/16 in.; across poll, 1⅜ in.; thickness, ½ in. The face is convex in both directions. The back is of a similar form, though less curved lengthwise than the face. The sides are straight, though, as we have shown, not parallel. They are, in their upper parts—that is towards the poll—much rounded, as though to accommodate the lashing. But the lower half of the sides has not been ground down, and shows the double grooves left by the stone-sawer when he cut this piece of stone from the parent slab. In both cases the two cuts were carried to within a very little way—less than ⅛ in.—of each other ere the piece was broken off. The blade is of the usual adze-type, and carries a clean, slightly curyed cutting-edge of an angle of about 40°, possibly somewhat less. The tool is ground smooth, and page 291carries a fine polish. The poll is, as often occurs in nephrite adzes, unground, and shows a fracture-surface of apparently considerable antiquity. This fracture seems to have been across an old perforation of the poll, inasmuch as on each face is a semicircular hollow resembling half of a crater-mouthed perforation as performed by the cord drill with a stone point. An item that tends to upset this idea is that the two hollows are not opposite each other, the two centres thereof being nearly 3/16 in. apart. This would have meant excessively poor judgment on the part of the driller, but, as before observed, the question is a doubtful one.

There are two other items to come under the head of "perforated adzes," and these it is proposed to describe here, though it is quite likely that they were not used as pou tangata adzes. They were probably intended as light tools for finishing-work, and, being made of the prized nephrite, were perforated so as to be worn suspended from the neck or ears.

The first of these (Fig. 80, Plate XIX) is a small adze-shaped implement, 2¼ in. long, and weighing 1¼ oz. Width across cutting-edge, 1¼ in.; across poll, ¾ in. Thickness in middle, ¼ in., whence it thins to either end. The sides are straight, one being ground flat, while the other is ridged, such ridge being the line of fracture where the stone was divided, both saw-grooves being plainly visible. Otherwise this item has been ground smooth on all its surfaces. The cutting-edge is dull, and the poll thin and flat. The perforation is within 3/16 in. of the poll, and is not quite in the middle of the butt end. The holes bored are of the usual form, one having been drilled about three-quarters of the thickness of the stone and then met with a smaller hole from the other face.

The next specimen (Fig. 81, Plate XIX) can only be termed "perforated" by courtesy, inasmuch as the operation of drilling a hole through it was never completed. A wide-mouthed and wide-bottomed hole, made with a very blunt pointed drill, has been carried in for somewhat more than half the thickness of the butt end, and within ⅛ in. of the poll, but the corresponding hole on the face, to meet the former, has not even been commenced. This specimen is 2⅞ in. long, and weighs 1 oz. It is 11/16 in. wide across the poll, and was originally about 1⅛ in. across the cutting-edge, of which one corner has been broken off. Thickness, 3/16 in. A flat thin specimen, with straight sides, thin blade, and ground smooth all over, except the rough thin poll. The angle of the cutting-edge does not appear to exceed 25°. On one face near, and parallel to, one of the sides is a groove not quite ground out, showing the work of the stone-sawer when he cut the piece from a block of nephrite.

page 292

We have lately received photographs of an interesting toki pou tangata that is in the Blackmore Museum, Salisbury, and of which the Director, Mr. Blackmore, sends us the following description:* "The handle is 17½ in. in length, and is carved all over. The blade is a thin piece of jade (nephrite), which appears to retain the natural shape of the stone. It is 11¼ in. in length, 9/16 in. thick, and its greatest width is 2½ in. The upper part (butt end) tapers gradually to a point, which is perforated ½ in. from the end. The foot of the handle has been carefully hollowed out to receive 3½ in. of the butt end of the implement, which has been fixed in with some kind of gum or shellac composition, and, in addition, is secured by four strands of strong twisted fibre, which pass through a curved hole and slot in the handle and is secured on the top of the blade. The conical poll of the adze passes through the foot of the handle into the space between it and the back of the carved figure, but does not come in contact with the latter. Through the perforation near the poll of the adze a metal nail has been passed in order to secure it." It is evident that this perforation of the adze mentioned by Mr. Blackmore is one made for the purpose of suspension, as explained elsewhere, and not for the passing of nail or cord through. A small cavity at the side of the handle filled with gum is thought by him to be a hole pierced in order to receive a cord, which originally passed also through the hole in the adze so as to secure it. This mode of securing an implement to its handle is, however, quite foreign to Maori usage. Moreover, such a hole would not lend itself to such an object; the holes in handle and tool would be at right angles to each other. It will probably be found that the cavity in the handle has at one time contained a piece of paua shell as an ornament, as seen on other parts of the handle, and that it is but a shallow one. The cord-lashing on the adze is essentially orthodox, the two unique items in regard to this implement being the conical poll and the insertion of the same in a hole piercing the handle, so that is projects into the open space behind the carved figure. These peculiarities we here observe for the first time. The gum said to be used in order to retain or fix the adze-blade on the handle is also a non-Maori feature, but may be capable of some explanation. Of the serrations noted on the longitudinal edges of the adze, there are thirty on one edge and thirty-five on the other. These seem to have been for ornament only, according to native authority. The theory that they were used as a tally in reciting genealogies appears to have been evolved by Europeans. The whole of the handle is carved, even the hand-grip, page 293the latter being most unusual, though Mr. Blackmore states that part of the handle has been worn smooth by friction of the hand in use. The carving is apparently of good execution, and the designs purely Maori. This item was obtained forty-five years ago from a London dealer, who knew nothing of its history.

The above museum also contains a long thin nephrite blade, 14½ in. by 3½ in., which is perforated at its pointed poll, and six other nephrite adzes of a smaller, shorter type, not perforated. We have seen but one specimen of the conical polled toki pou tangata, or ceremonial adze. This item is in the Buller Collection, and is evidently an old implement. Its length is 9¼ in.; breadth at widest part, 2⅞ in. Its greatest thickness is ⅜ in., which shows it to be a very thin form. The curious conical poll is very unusual, and the Museum has been fortunate in securing this item, which, curiously enough, came into its possession a few days after the receipt of the description of the Salisbury specimen. This specimen is somewhat curved longitudinally. The face is convex both ways; the back, convex transversely and concave longitudinally. The sides are almost feather-edged, so narrow a facet do they present. A longitudinal hollow on the back is probably an old saw-cut, and another small transverse cut is seen near the butt end. This implement is well finished, being ground and polished all over, albeit the cutting-edge is somewhat irregular.

The following notes contain a reference to a very curious form of ceremonial axe of the Cook Islands: The adzes of the Hervey-Islanders are frequently hafted with carved pua wood, the carving being done with sharks' teeth. The fine pointed pattern is nio mango (shark's teeth). Other figures are: a man squatting down (tikitiki tangata); large square holes, ai tuna (eel-borings); lateral openings, clefts (kavara). The method of fastening axes to their helves was taught by the gods. A famous god, Tane-matariki, was considered enshrined in a triple sacred axe, which symbolized the three priestly families on the island. We have heard of the double-bladed stone adze of Melanesia, but this three-bladed one is probably unknown elsewhere. It would be interesting to know what a three-bladed axe—or adze, as it probably is—represented, and its use or application in ceremonial.

In his "Antiquities of Manabi, Ecuador," Mr. Saville mentions a stone axe found on the Island of La Plata, that was 19½ in. long, 12½ in. wide and only ¾ in. thick. This item could not have been used as an axe. The above writer says, "It is highly polished, and in all likelihood was only used ceremonially, although it is more probable that it served as a gong, as, when struck, it gives a clear resonant page 294sound not unlike that of a bell." The same writer figures another so-called stone axe from Ecuador, which is 16½ in. long, 7½ in. wide, and ½ in. thick in its thickest part. It is quite impossible that this could have been used as an axe. The writer himself, though styling it an axe, says, "As this stone has a clear resonant sound when struck, it is highly probable that it was a gong, as its large size renders it entirely unsuitable for use as a weapon or implement."