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The Stone Implements of the Maori

With Wedge-shaped Blade (The Axe-like Form)

With Wedge-shaped Blade (The Axe-like Form)

We have noted the fact that the majority of the New Zealand stone implements under discussion have blades formed by two bevels, one of which is a true facet and much more pronounced than the other, thus imparting a chisel-or adze-like form to the blade. There are, however, a certain number of toki (as the Maori terms all of these stone forms) that are equally bevelled on both faces, in order to form the blade and cutting-edge. This blade might be termed cuneiform, or wedge-shaped, but for the fact that it is usually convex longitudinally, the cutting-edge never being formed by the junction of two perfectly straight lines, save in the case of some diminutive forms that may have been used as chisels. Thus the blade is more of an axe-like form, the cutting-edge being on the plane of the longitudinal centre of the tool, both faces curving in to form the same. A few of these forms have the butt end dressed down to receive the lashing, as we have noted in the case of the true adzes. This does not prove that these tools were hafted as adzes, for such a reduced butt end would be equally advantageous were the tool mounted axially on a long shaft, like a huge chisel, as was the tool termed poki by some authorities. (Cf. also the toki titaha of Mr. page 261T. H. Smith, although we must object to that name being applied to a tool mounted axially on its shaft.)

These are in most cases thickest in the middle, and from that part diminish in size both ways. This diminution in size toward the poll is both in thickness and width, thus forming a small-sized poll for so heavy a tool. The wedge-or axe-shaped specimens also diminish in width and thickness toward the cutting-edge, the widest part being thus in the middle, or near it. They also show the peculiarity of having, as a rule, no shoulder-angle or prominence to mark the commencement of the bevels to form the blade and cutting-edge. On the other hand, the bevels extend gradually from the middle of the tool, and show a convex longitudinal section. One specimen in the Dominion Museum shows the thickest part not in the middle of the tool, but at some two-thirds of its length from the cutting-edge. Many specimens of this axe-blade type are peculiar for the small size of the rounded poll exhibited. A few of these thick wedge forms have the face at the butt end worked down for some inches, in order that the lashing might fit it better and be more tightly secured. This rounding-off of one face of the butt end was effected by pecking and bruising the two longitudinal edges of the face from the poll as far as the lashing extended. One specimen so rounded off on the butt end shows two distinct ridges left, one at the poll or extreme end, and the other at the place where the rounded part ends; hence any lashing so confined between these two ridges would tend to hold the tool firmly in position, and prevent it from being forced up under the lashing by the shock of a blow when used. It is, of course, quite possible that some of these implements were hafted as the poki described by Mr. Percy Smith, by being lashed on in line with the handle.

Another shape met with is one in which the cutting-edge is in the centre of the tool, or nearly so, but the bevels are not equal, one being longer and less abrupt than the other.

Other specimens, again, show a cutting-edge somewhat out of line with the longitudinal centre of the tool, but not of the ordinary adze-type, though apparently hafted as such. These gradually merge into the ordinary adze-form.

The most remarkable specimens with axe-shaped blades are large thick tools, under which heading we have inserted some notes of them. One of the representative specimens is 10¼ in. long (see Fig. 45, Plate VIII), 2⅝ in. wide in the middle, and 1⅝ in. wide at the cutting-edge, but 2⅜ in. wide at the butt end. It is 2 in. thick at the sides for about 3 in. of its middle portion, then tapers slightly to the butt end; and the blade is formed not by a facet bounded with a shoulder, but by the two faces gradually converging in long curves to form the page 262cutting-edge. This absence of any shoulder at the bevel-line is a characteristic of this wedge-or axe-shaped type.

This specimen is convex on both faces, both longitudinally and transversely, and it is thickest in the middle. Its greatest thickness is a little over 2¼ in. Weight, 4¼ lb. The sides are flatter and straighter than in most forms, and a cross-section would show of a more rectangular form than is common in this type. The blade is thick, and cutting-edge seems a misnomer when applied to the point.

It is difficult to define the angle of inclination of the blade in this type, the blade and cutting-edge being formed by a gradual converging curvature of the faces. It is apparent that such tools were fashioned so as to withstand heavy shocks. This item (Fig. 45, Plate VIII) is made from sandstone showing fragments of slate.

Another specimen with a similar blade (see Fig. 45a, Plate VIII), but of not so rectangular an outline, is 7¾ in. long, 2¼ in. wide in the middle, and 1⅝ in. thick at the same part. From the middle it diminishes in width to a rounded poll, which has been curiously grooved like the butt of a stone patu (a short stone weapon), and also slightly toward the cutting-edge. In thickness it also diminishes both ways from the middle. The blade is somewhat thicker toward one side than the other, and its edge is of a clumsy appearance.

Another axe-bladed specimen (Fig. 46, Plate X) has a curved edge and poll, rounded sides, and is a little flatter on one face than on the other; it is 9¼ in. long, about 1⅜ in. thick, and 3 in. wide at the widest part, which is at the upper part of the blade-bevel. Weight, 2½ lb. Both of these specimens have been ground over the whole of their surfaces, but the surfaces are not polished, the stone being a somewhat coarse-grained grauwacke. The cutting-edges of Figs. 45 and 46, Plates VIII and X, are thick.

Another well-ground but rough-grained specimen of this type is almost a true oval in transverse section, so much rounded are its longitudinal edges. It is 7¼ in. long, 2 in. wide at the top of the blade-bevel, from which point it narrows back to 1½ in. near the poll. All these specimens, except the first one described, have polls much rounded both ways, in some cases almost conical. One is almost petaloid in form, with rounded edges, curved blade, and tapering butt. It is convex in every way, and, being well polished and but 1 in. in thickness, it is a fine symmetrical specimen.

A smaller tool, 6½ in. long, with much flatter sides and faces, has apparently been fashioned in adze-form, but a short facet of about 5 lines has been ground on the face of the blade-point, thus bringing the cutting-edge into the centre of the tool.

page 263

Though many well-finished chisel-bladed adzes have rough unground polls, yet it is noted that the specimens with a cuneiform, or rather axe-shaped, blade have well-finished, ground; rounded polls, which does not support the theory of their being used as wedges in splitting timber.

An excellent illustration of the wedge-or axe-like form of adze is a specimen 8½ in. long, and weighing 2 lb. 14 oz. Width in middle, 2⅞ in.; across cutting-edge, 2 in.; at poll, 1½ in. Thickness of sides— half-way from poll to cutting-edge, 1½ in.; at poll, ⅝ in. The thickest part of the tool is in the centre, equidistant from the two sides, on account of the transverse convexity of face and back. All surfaces are even, though not polished, and the poll is rounded and even, both of which are peculiarities of axe-shaped tools of this form and material. The longitudinal edges are somewhat rounded. The angle of inclination of blade near the cutting-edge is about 50°. This is the type of tool termed toki tata by Te Tuhi, a matter that requires further inquiry. As usual in this type, there is no shoulder visible, the two faces converging gradually, in long curves from the middle, to form the blade and cutting-edge. At no part can the observer note where the blade impinges upon or connects with the back or face of the implement, so gradual and even are the aforesaid curves. The sides of this specimen are somewhat flat transversely. The stone is a dioritic sandstone. (See also Figs. 98, 99, 100, Plates XI and XXVIII, which are of the axe-shaped type.)

Of the small-sized tools of this axe-blade type, one such, of black siliceous mudstone, is 3 in. long (Fig. 48, Plate VII), 1¾ in. wide at the cutting-edge, and tapering thence to a much rounded poll. It is ⅞ in. thick. Weight, 4 oz. Another is but 2¼ in. long, and 1⅛ in. wide at the cutting-edge. All surfaces have been well ground.

Many of these specimens with axe-shaped blades have much rounded, almost conical polls, none of which show a battered appearance. Some are so thin that they could not possibly have been used as anything but cutting or chipping tools. Nor is it likely that the thick forms could possibly stand the shock of being struck with a heavy beetle when bound or gripped in a tight cleft. The double concussion would probably break the stone, though the maul used be a wooden one. Even iron wedges are so broken by woods-men. Moreover, the chipped foundation for the lashing seen on some of the more thick and wedge-like forms shows plainly that they were hafted, possibly as poki.

It will be noted that in the thickest forms of these axe-bladed or wedge-shaped tools the widest part is at the middle, but in the thinner forms the greatest width moves toward the point.

page 264

It is not worth while to explain or illustrate the gradual merging of the wedge-shaped blade into that of adze-form, so many little-marked gradations are there.

In one specimen of this wedge-or axe-like type, which is 9 in. long, 2 in. wide at its widest part, and 2 in. thick in the middle, there is, as usual, no distinct shoulder, but across the blade on one face, 2¼ in. from the cutting-edge, is a slight ridge left in grinding the tool. This, together with the fact that the tool has a somewhat more rounded form at the butt end of the face, opposite to that on which the transverse ridge is, gives the impression that the ridged face is the back of the implement, and that it must have been hafted as an adze. In all cases where a transverse ridge has been left at the shoulderline, such ridge is on the back of the tool. Weight, 3½ lb.

A specimen similar to the last in form is 12 in. long, 1½ in. wide at the cutting-edge, 3 in. across the middle, and thence narrows on faces and sides to a smooth, rounded, almost conical poll. Its thickness in the middle is almost 2¾ in., and it weighs 6 lb.

A contribution of much interest has been sent to us by Mr. H. Stowell, of the Native Department, in connection with the form of stone adze having two shoulders or bevels. It also opens up a very peculiar question in regard to the adzing of the outer surface of the hull of a canoe: "When a boy I took a particular interest in canoe-building operations, tarai waka. Being already aware of the pakeha penchant for leaving his woodwork smoothly planed, I was struck by the fact that the Maori deliberately left the outsides of his canoe widely grooved, with narrow intervening ridges, thus: Shape of grooves on the outside of canoe. I therefore asked one of our old tohunga tarai waka (canoe-adzing adepts) what the object was in doing so. He explained to me that the toki umarua (double-breasted adze) was specially made to pare ngarungaru the exterior of the canoe: 'Kei piri te wai ki te waka' (to prevent the water clinging to the canoe, and so impede its progress). The object, therefore, was to 'break up' the water which the canoe was passing through, and so to give it greater speed, or to make the business of paddling easier. There may be science in this. Note the polished exterior of the pakeha (European) racing skiffs. Does not the water cling to the sides, and act as a break from end to end?" The expression pare ngarungaru employed by the old adept, seems clear: pare, to turn aside, to ward off; ngaru, a wave.

Figs. 54a and 54b, Plate IX, have their cutting-edges practically in the axial centre, although raised ridges on one face give to them the appearance of possessing a prominent shoulder. True shoulder, however, they do not possess.