Ethnology of Tongareva
Parts of the Hook
The hook is conveniently divided into the shank, the bend, and the point. Beasley (1) and Gudger (7), the most recent writer on Polynesian fishhooks, refer to the point as the “barb,” but as the term “barb” is specifically applied to a projection near the point in trade metal hooks and some forms of Polynesian hooks, its use as a general term to include hooks without the special barb projection is apt to convey an erroneous impression. The barb is a distinct invention added to the point to prevent the hook from working free during the struggles of the hooked fish. Most Polynesian hooks obtained a like result from the extra inward curve of the point toward the shank, and form a marked contrast in shape to hooks of foreign make which are more open. In the open point of the bonito hook neither the inward bend nor the barb were desired, as quickness in detaching the hook and retrolling it was important when the fisherman was on a school of bonito. The skilled fisherman could either flick the fish off into the canoe page 203 with a jerk of the rod, or as he brought it in, strike the fish with his hand to jerk the body upward so that it fell off the hook. Neither of these methods of quick detachment could be so readily carried out if the hook had an inward bend or a true barb.
The bend of the hook is either curved or rounded, but in some hooks it forms an angle. It is then convenient to distinguish the two limbs formed as the shank limb and the point limb. In simple hooks (fig. 58) made from one piece of material, the shank, bend, and point are quite clear. In composite hooks made of two pieces the form of the point element affects the terms used. The upper end of the shank is provided with a projection on the outer side or part remote from the point. The projection is triangular, with the lower side at right angles to the shaft and the upper side sloping upwards and inwards, sometimes with a distinct, concave curve. The Tongarevan term for the projection is reke (knob), and as it is constant in most types of hook, it may be conveniently termed the shank knob. Its use is to prevent the lashing which binds the snood to the shank from slipping. The bend is termed kopu (belly) and the point, mata (point).
One-Piece Shell Hooks
The two types of baited hook described as native to Tongareva are simple hooks with the shank, bend, and point shaped from one piece of pearl shell. Both types are provided with shank knobs, and the points are without barbs. They may be classified as U shaped and circular.
Figure 55. One-piece pearl shell hooks: a, U shaped ruhi hook in course of manufacture; b, completed U shaped hook; c, circular hook. a, U shaped hook in course of manufacture: 1, part of shell to become shank knob; 2, part to become point; 3, bend. Shell 63 mm. long by 47 mm. wide shaped to oval form; gap cut out at smaller end to form inner curve 29 mm. long by 15 mm. at widest part; dotted lines show shell in completed hook, though part of left gap is broken off and knob might actually be higher. b, c, completed hooks: 1, shank limb; 2, point; 3, bend; 4, point limb; 5, shank knob. Shank knob has same form in both hooks.
The circular hook is used for catching fish less than 9 inches in length, such as the marau and the kokiri.
No Tongarevan baited hooks with lashings were seen but, judging from similar Rakahangan hooks, they must have been attached to three-ply twisted snoods of sennit fibre. The lower thicker end of the snood was unravelled, and each ply separately bound round the shank and knob in a particular technique. A fine two-ply twisted thread of sennit was then bound over the snood attachment by making figure-of-eight turns around the shank on one side and alternately above and below the shank knob on the other. The end of the thread was finished off with a number of close transverse turns around the snood ending in half hitches and stoppered with an overhand knot.
A bait string (nape) is formed of a fine two-ply twisted sennit cord, which is tied with a slip knot below the angle made by the point with the point limb. It is used for tying the bait on to the hook.
1. The pearl shell bonito hook (matau uhi). Whether introduced or not, the bonito hook deserves description, as it is now made locally.
The hook is composite, consisting of a shank and a separate point. (See pl. 8.) The shank is made of strips of shell averaging 18 mm. in width and cut so as to include a part of the thick hinge at one end. Four shanks in Bernice P. Bishop Museum range in length from 113 to 124 mm. The hinge end is termed the head, and the other thinner end, the tail. The nacreous inner surface of the shell forms the front of the hook. The rough outer surface forming the back of the hook is ground down to remove the rough dull material and form a clear shiny surface which has irridescent colors toward the tail. (See fig. 56, a, b.)
The point of the composite hook is made of pearl shell taken from near the edge of the shell away from the hinge. The point piece is cut out on the flat, so that one side shows the natural inner surface of the shell, and the other shows the black outer surface which is smoothed down but not polished. The point piece is fitted against the front of the shank, and the part which fits against the shank may be termed the point base. The problem is to extend this base to make it long enough to support two lashings and so to render the attachment firm. The Tongarevan point follows the form of the Samoan hook, in which the base is prolonged proximally or on the same page 205 side as the functioning point. As the point has to be cleared, the part of the shell between the point and the base has to be hollowed out. The point piece thus carries the technical “bend” of the hook as well as the functional point and the base for lashing. For lashing purposes two holes are drilled through the base, which must be deep enough to hold the holes. (See fig. 56, c, d, e.) In three out of four hooks in Bernice P. Bishop Museum the proximal perforations broke through the upper edge, forming grooves. In three hooks the point was everted.
The Tongarevan point is characterized by the proximal prolongation of the base with two holes for lashing and the material of shell. Beasley (1, pi. 14) figures a point with the typical proximal prolongation of the base but with three lashing holes, giving bone as the material. No mention is made in the text of the hook to which the point belonged. Because of the difference in material and number of holes the locality needs confirmation.
Supporting the theory that the bonito trolling hook was introduced, Solomon of Tautua stated that the drill with the crossbar and two cords was unknown in ancient times.
Figure 56. Bonito hooks: a, b, shank; c, d, e, points. a, front; b, side of shank: 1, thick hinge part ground on both sides in curve to proximal point; 2, point; 3, median line at meeting of sides ground inward at slant, forming triangular head, maximum thickness about 14 mm.; 4, surface of hinge; 5, transverse hole drilled through horizontally below median ridge at about 18 mm. from point; 6, shank beyond head, gradually diminishes in width to about 12 mm. and in thickness to 4 or 5 mm. at tail end, where it is cut off square or with slight convexity from side to side; 7, two shallow grooves cut vertically on both sides at tail end. Longitudinal natural curve of back and corresponding front concavity apparent. c, d, e, points, side view: 1, base in c, 22 mm. wide and 6 mm. high in clear proximal part, in d, 19 mm. wide but only 5 mm. high in clear proximal part, causing proximal hole (5) to break through upper edge, and in e, 23 mm. wide; 2, point, slightly everted (c, d) and straight (e); 3, bend cut out between base and point; 4, distal hole bored through base; 5, proximal hole or hole broken through to upper edge (d, e) because of high placement, and leaving groove (e) effective in lashing; 6, distance between point and shank (c) 21 mm., and corresponding clearance (d, e) between point and shank 17 mm.
Figure 57. Snood loop and lashing of proximal hole of bonito hook. a, snood, matai (1), is passed around base of point (2) with its end (3) overlapping by about 15 mm. b, two-ply twisted thread commences distally to lash overlap together by burying end of thread under subsequent transverse turns which cross it; transverse turns are continued for length of overlap; end (4) is turned back under three loose turns which are subsequently tightened; slack is removed by drawing on end; end is cut off short. c, overlapping ends of some loops are spliced (3) for distance of about 10 mm., a method probably recent. d, side view: point (2) is placed in position on tail end of shank (3) with back edge projecting a little beyond end of shank; grooves (6, 7) are cut on sides of shank opposite holes (4, 5) in point; loop (1) of snood is placed around base of point and loop end bent down under projection formed by protruding back of point base. e-h, back of the shank tail. e, with point and snood loop in position, lashing thread (1) is laid on back of shank (4) between pair of proximal grooves (7, 7); end is bent down at angle and held in position by left thumb while left forefinger keeps point in position on other side of shank; thread is passed transversely to left by right hand to lateral groove (7) up over snood loop and through proximal hole of point base. f, thread descends on the right side over other limb of snood loop and right groove (7) of shank to reappear on back, where second turn (2) in passing transversely across to opposite groove crosses obliquely bent end of first turn (1). g, oblique end (1), crossed by the second turn (2), is bent over second turn, h, third turn (3), after passing through point hole in making transverse turn around shank, crosses and doubly fixes end (1); five or six lashing turns are made through the one hole. i-l, side view, i, six lashing turns (9) pass through hole (5) of point (2), over snood (1), and around shank (3). j, thread (8) is brought up on right side and passed from proximal side under lashing (9) in space between shank (3) and lower part of snood (1). k, the thread (8) is brought back over lashing (9) and looped through under its standing part to form overhand knot (10). l, two other loops with overhand knots are made and thread (8) is continued on through hole (5) to other side, where it makes similar set of loops and knots over lashing; thread end is cut and proximal lashing of base is completed.
Figure 58. Bonito hook lashing, distal hole and pig's hair hackle: a, lashing thread is fixed on under side of shank (1) in exactly same technique as proximal hole, and hackle (4) is laid transversely along over lashing on under surface of shank; b, the thread (3) is brought around on right and crosses hackle (4) obliquely (5) to the left, on distal side, to continue lashing turn through hole in point base; c, thread (3) is brought around on right on distal side of hackle (4) which is bent forward to approximate limbs of hackle, crosses bend of hackle obliquely to left on way to lateral groove to continue lashing turns—second turn (6) over hackle also crosses first turn (5) in middle line; d, thread is brought around on right proximally to hackle and makes turn (7), keeping on far side of the first turn (5), passes on through point hole and, coming back on right or distal side of hackle, makes crossing (8), keeping to far side of previous turn (6) in same direction. Second pair of turns (7, 8) lashes limbs of hackle and maintains them in bent position, and thread carries on with finishing turns around lashing on either side as in figure 57, j-l.
Figure 59. Bonito hook, completed lashing of point, snood loop, and hackle: 1, shank; 2, head; 3, point; 4, snood drawn over mesial ridge of head; 5, snood loop fixed under lashings of point; 6, first lashing through proximal hole of point; 7, second lashing through distal hole of point; 8, hackle fixed on back of shank by second lashing; 9, hole through head.
Figure 60. Bonito hook, lashing of snood to shank head: a-d, front view, e, f, side view. a, snood (1) rests on median ridge of shank head (2) with transverse head hole (3) showing below snood on either side; lashing thread (4) is passed through hole, and short end (5) on right is bent upward. b, lashing thread is brought over snood (1) from left and down through hole on right, passing over bent short end; short end (5) is bent upward over first turn, and two more turns are made through hole and over snood; short end (5) is thus fixed in position. c, next turn (7) passes from left over snood (1), makes complete turn around it, crosses itself on middle of snood, and passes down on right through hole to prevent snood from slipping off median ridge—three similar turns were made on the hook examined and then straight turn without looping around snood. d, eight more turns with loop around the snood are made, first crossing (8) being distal and subsequent ones following on near side, so as to develop neat ornamental pattern. e, two to four circumferential turns (9) are made by passing thread (4) between snood and head and over both limbs of lashing (6). f, thread is continued on in close spiral for about 8 turns (10) around snood and fixed with a couple of half hitches (11).
2. The Ruvettus hook. The wide distribution of the composite wooden hook for catching the castor-oil fish (Ruvettus pretiosa) has been shown by Gudger (7) and Beasley (1). Hedley (11) calls attention to the manufacture of the hook from a forked branch, Kennedy (13, pp. 12–27) gives details of the hook in the Ellice Islands, and Nordhoff (19, pp. 221–232) discusses its distribution and its diffusion in the Society Islands, Cook Islands, and elsewhere. The typical hook (kau) is now used in Tongareva, but the inhabitants think it was introduced. None was seen, but they are said to be made of ngangie wood (Pemphis acidula or a closely allied species) and shaped like those used in Rakahanga and Manihiki.
The Ruvettus is a deep sea fish, and a considerable length of line is required. The sinkers are attached in such a way that on reaching the bottom they automatically detach and so relieve the fisherman from drawing up the page 209 heavy sinker in addition to the fish. The Tongarevan method of attaching the sinker to the hook by a forked branch differs from the usual method, the use of the detachable loop. The local names for the parts of the hook and the sinker attachments as described by Nordhoff (18, pp. 42, 43) are shown in figure 61.
Figure 61. Ruvettus hook: a, parts of hook; b, c, sinker attachments from Tongareva and Cook Islands (after Nordhoff). a, parts of hook: 1, shank limb; 2, point limb; 3, bend (kopu); 4, knob (reke) to support lashing; 5, lashing of snood and shank; 6, snood (matai); 7, point (reinga); 8, lashing, point limb to vertical end of point. b, Tongarevan attachment: strip of hala (1) is knotted at one end (2), which is passed through split made in strip to form running noose around coral sinker (3); other end is tied to straight end of forked stick (4); fork (5) is hooked over bend of hook (6); baited hook is lowered and, when sinker touches bottom, forked stick falls away from slackened line, and sinker is detached. c, Cook Islands attachment: longer strip of hala (1) in similar method attaches sinker (3), but upper end of strip (1) is passed over hook bend, brought around shank limb, and end (5) is passed under loop; weight of stone presses short end against hook and prevents it from slipping; on release of pressure when sinker touches bottom, loop slackens and frees sinker.
3. Shark hooks. Composite wooden shark hooks are made of ngangie wood and differ from Ruvettus hooks in that the shank leg and point leg meet at a curve rather than at an angular bend. The separate point, also of ngangie wood, is curved so as to carry the point of the hook toward the shank limb.
The wood is hard and tough and does not break easily. Gudger (7, p. 230, 232) infers that the shark hooks examined by him were made of the roots, but it is unnecessary to suppose that the growing roots were trained to the required curve. The ngangie is a stunted plant with very crooked branches, and naturally curved branches were selected. The curve could be exaggerated in young growing branches by bending and tying them in position, and the subsequent growth would make the curve permanent. In New Zealand the young growing branches of straight branched trees such as the tanekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides), were formed into page 210 a loose overhand knot and allowed to grow into a permanent curve for wooden fishhooks.
Two shark hooks collected in Tongareva by the Wilkes Expedition are now in the United States National Museum. If the hook illustrated by Wilkes (31, vol. 4, p. 287) is intended to represent either of the two in the National Museum the artist, according to Gudger (7, pp. 230–231), has not made the bend sharp enough. (See fig. 62, a.)
Figure 62. Shark hooks collected by Wilkes Expedition: a, hook figured by Wilkes, no description, probably meant for hook no. 3674 in National Museum, but bend (1) made too rounded; b, hook figured by Hough, National Museum no. 3674; c, hook after Gudger (7, p. 230, fig. 19), described as largest hook in National Museum.
Hough (12, pl. 26, no. 1) pictures a large hook, similar to the one represented by Wilkes in the lashing of the snood, and a sharper bend. (See fig. 62, b.) In Hough's description the hook is wrongly labelled “Fiji,” and Gudger (7, p. 231) states that the same hook was labelled “Tahiti.” H. W. Krieger, Curator of Ethnology of the U. S. National Museum, says in correspondence that it is the larger of the two Tongarevan hooks in the Museum, and gives an additional description:
The shank leg (straight line measurement on outside) is 9 inches, the barb leg 4 inches, and the barb (point) measures from lashing tip 2.5 inches. The tip of the barb (point) approaches to 15–16 of an inch of the shank leg. The attached cord of sennit is 44 inches in length. It is a flat braid of three-ply twisted fiber of coconut palm which tapers toward the knotted end. At the shank end the cord is separated into its component parts which are again subdivided into two-ply strands lashed about the shank end where they are partly embedded in an encircling groove. Loose strands are used to cover 7 inches of the proximal end of the attachment cord where it is attached to the shank. This ferrule is loosely plaited. The point of attachment of barb [point] to barb leg is ferruled with a two-ply braid of sennit like that of the lower end of the attachment cord. The form of the lower end of the hook made by shank, barb leg, and barb [point] is roughly that of an acute triangle with slightly rounded angles.
Gudger also describes the two hooks in detail. As he states (7, p. 231) that the smaller of the two hooks is more like Wilkes' and Hough's figures and states that Hough's figure is taken from the larger hook, some confusion is evident. Gudger states that a long-fibered material was used to seize the lashing in both hooks. The textile-like stipule (kaka) from the page 211 base of the coconut leaves was used in Manihiki to protect the lashing and snood, and as this is the only fibrous material besides sennit available in Tongareva the material mentioned by Gudger is probably the same.
A metal hook with two long limbs meeting at an acute angle with the point bent in toward the shank leg is said to have been introduced from the islands to the south.