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The Stone Implements of the Maori

Tools Used in the Manufacture Of — Stone Implements, Etc

Tools Used in the Manufacture Of
Stone Implements, Etc

Mr. John White furnished the following information to Mr. Chapman for his paper on nephrite: "The pounamu (nephrite) was broken, as best they could break it, into pieces when in boulders or large blocks, but it was not chipped, it was bruised (hammered) to take any angle or point off. It was then rubbed into shape with a stone called mataikona, takiri-tane, hoanga, onetai, patu-tane* and ure-onetea, with chips of kiripaka as a drill. These stones were called by different names in the localities (by the natives of the districts) in which they were obtained. In some instances a piece of pounamu (nephrite) would be found of a flat or slab shape. The mataikona was then used to cut a line (groove) on each side of the slab, and when page 56the cut was sufficiently deep the slab was broken into pieces … the mataikona was used to form a tiki."

Te Whatahoro informs us that takiri-tane is another name for huka-a-tai, a light-coloured stone, the former being a common name for it. He also states that onetai is a stone resembling rangitoto, but has a finer grain. Patu whitau (fibre-beaters) were made of it. Ure-onetea is a stone used as a grinding-stone for adzes, &c.

The stones used for working nephrite—as for graving-tools, and saws, or rubbers, &c.—according to Mohi Turei, of Ngati-Porou, were-mataa, para, matuoruhi, kahurangi, and tuhua (obsidian). The first mentioned is a name applied to quartz and flint, also obsidian, though apparently when applied to the latter it should properly be mataa-tuhua. The motuoruhi, as Mohi explained to the Rev. H. Williams, is a stone found embedded in a stone called hine-waiapu. Tregear's Dictionary has "Huatawa, a dark variety of the siliceous stone called mataa-waiapu."

The expressions mataa waiapu and mataa paia are employed by the Maori to denote certain stones, showing that this word mataa is applied to several kinds of stone, as our term "flint" often is, and often needs to be supplemented by a particular name in order to show what kind of stone is meant. The mataa paia is a black or dark-coloured flint-like stone. It is a hard stone, and adzes were made of it.

The Rev. Mr. Stack supplied the following notes on this subject for Mr. Chapman's paper: "Kuru pohatu, a stone hammer; nothing more than a conveniently shaped boulder … about the size of a human skull; if the piece to be broken off was for a mere (a short weapon), it was necessary to ensure against any cracks; this was done by cutting a deep groove before striking the piece off. Parihi pohatu, a sharp-edged chip of trap, or any other hard stone, for cutting grooves. Kurupaka, a micaceous stone, used for rubbing down and polishing. Mataa, obsidian, for pointing the drill, (?) or pirori. Having pro-cured a suitable-sized piece of stone for the article to be made, the workman placed it either on the ground or on a slab of wood cut to fit it. The surface was then rubbed down with a hoanga (grinding-stone), the greenstone (nephrite) being kept constantly moistened with water. The only tools employed in forming the heitiki were those above mentioned."

Obsidian would not be of any use as a drill-point. The name mataa is also applied by Maoris to quartz and flint, stones that were so used. This was probably what was meant by Mr. Stack's native informant.

page 57

All these quotations refer to the working of nephrite only. The Rev. Stack's remarks seem to show that a grinding-stone, a hoanga of sandstone, or other gritty kind of stone was rubbed on the nephrite. This probably refers to the stone while it was in block form. After it was reduced to the desired size and form, the implement would be rubbed on the grinding-stone.

Mr. Chapman remarks that he has "made a large and interesting collection of stone hammers, some of which must have had wooden handles, while others were used in the hand. They are of trap, quartz, and various other stones. I have a great many hammers of very small size, evidently for very fine work."

Bruising is mentioned by White and others as a mode of reducing angles and points.

The Rev. Mr. Stack states. "Before the European occupation of the country, greenstone (nephrite) was fast being recognized as the medium of exchange…. Obsidian and chips of hard stone, but no chisels, were used in making heitiki. Very hard stone, obsidian, and a grindstone were the tools used in shaping greenstone…. Sometimes greenstone could not be broken by any other stone than greenstone."

It is not impossible that obsidian may have been so used, but, as previously observed, the same term (mataa) is applied by natives to obsidian, quartz, and flint, and it is often mistranslated. Obsidian is a very brittle glass-like stone.

The sawing process was, as explained, used principally in working nephrite, but other stones were sometimes cut in this way.

In the Christchurch Museum are two pieces of basalt which show marks of having been so cut, the process not having been completed; also pieces of obsidian, nephrite, and sandstone that have been used as cutters or rubbers in such operations.

* Written as pahu-tane in Mr. White's mss.