Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga
Bonito Hooks, Comparative Study
Bonito Hooks, Comparative Study
Nordhoff (21, p. 233) has referred to the varieties of bonito hooks being spread from the Tuamotus to New Guinea, and from New Zealand to the Carolines, Marshall Islands, and Hawaii. He suggests dividing them into two broad categories, the Melanesian type with the snood attached directly and to the head of the shank alone, and the Polynesian type with the snood attached directly to the point, and secondarily to the head by a lashing of fine thread. The Micronesian hooks come under the Melanesian type in this general category, but there are some outstanding differences between them, as exemplified by the Melanesian hooks of Solomon Islands and the Micronesian hooks of Marshall Islands.
The Melanesian hooks of Solomon Islands have shanks of pearl shell cut radially through the hinge with the thick hinge part shaped to a raised page 188 triangular knob to give support to the snood lashing. The points are made of turtle shell and are definitely more curved in toward the shank than either the Micronesian or Polynesian points. The base of the point is prolonged distally to take a second lashing either over the projection or through a hole. (See fig. 102, a-c.)
Figure 102. Melanesian and Micronesian bonito hooks: a-c, Solomon Islands hooks; d, Marshall Islands hook. a, hinge part of slender shank (1) forms head, worked into projecting knob (2) on front; point (3) has marked incurve to functional point (4) and distal projection (5) at base; one shank lashing (6) of point passes obliquely over slight nick in point, other (7) over distal projection; hackle (8) of beads, post-European adaptation. b, similar slender shank (1) with head knob (2); point (3) has similar incurved point (4) but distal projection (5) much deeper, forming upper acute angle with point limb, and back edge oblique instead of vertical; oblique back edge serrated for ornamentation; hole bored through large distal projection; one lashing (6) over high upper angle of distal projection, other (7) through hole in projection. c, shank, front view: shank (1) shows somewhat triangular knob (2) formed from hinge on front surface, with base grooved to form bifurcation; knob supports snood lashing and snood has no connection with point; tail end of shank which supports point has two paired lateral projections (6, 7); two lashings of point pass around shank on head side of these projections, which prevent lashings from slipping back over narrowing tail end. d, Micronesian hook: thick shank (1) with projection (9) on front formed by raised hinge and transverse hole (2) bored through projection of hinge at head end; long point (3) has no incurve and is simple without any projections at base; hole (10) bored through point limb to take lashing which is more complicated than in Melanesian hooks; another hole (11) pierced through above but does not function in lashing; hackle (8) cut off but is very large and long, composed of strips of bark bast; paired lateral projections at tail end prevent point lashings from slipping back.
The Micronesian hooks of Marshall Islands are larger in both shank and point. The shank is rough and wide, formed from a section cut along the hinge. The head end is not artifically shaped, but a transverse hole is bored through the natural projecting part of the hinge to take the snood lashing. The point of pearl shell is very long, without any incurve, and is pierced by a hole to take the shank lashing. The point may be termed a simple point, as it has no projections at the base, either distal or proximal. (See fig. 102, d.)page 189
Another point of resemblance between the Melanesian and Micronesian hooks, in addition to the lack of attachment of snood to point, is the presence of paired lateral projections on the shank to assist the shank-point lashings. The main differences between the two types are as follows:
|Shank||Section radially through the hinge||Section along the hinge|
|Snood attachment||Shaped triangular knob||Transverse hole through natural hinge|
|Point material||Turtle shell||Pearl shell|
|Point type||Incurved||Not incurved|
The shank is remarkably homogeneous over the whole Polynesian area. The shell is cut radially through the hinge as in the Melanesian types, but the treatment of the thick hinge part is different. The hinge part is ground inward from the sides to form a raised median edge on the front. Contrast figure 86 with figure 102, c. A transverse hole is bored through below the mesial edge, a treatment which resembles the Micronesian. Compare figure 87 with figure 102, d. Instead of the paired lateral projections of the Melanesian and Micronesian shanks to assist the shank-point lashings, the Polynesians adopted the opposite technique of cutting paired grooves. It seems plausible to suppose that the Polynesians used the more easily made grooves because the point received forward support from the attachment of snood to point. An exception to the general Polynesian usage with paired grooves is found in some Hawaiian hooks with paired projections. These exceptional hooks, however, may have been due to Micronesian contacts in post-missionary times.
The Polynesian point, however, underwent differentiation through the provision for a second shank-point lashing. The problem was met by increasing the width of the base of the point. It was evidently thought undesirable or too unwieldy to continue the inner and outer curvatures of the point limb to form a wide base and so retain the simple form of the Micronesian point. The extra width of the base was provided by a projection on either the distal side away from, or the proximal side toward, the head. From the side on which the projections are made, the points divide into two main types which from their distribution may be termed eastern and western types.
The simplest form of point, which is without either projection, is the Hawaiian. The Hawaiian point has the simple Micronesian form but is made of bone and is less massive. It is pierced by one hole which takes the single shank-point lashing and also a secondary hackle lashing. In addition, however, the single hole takes the snood, which gives it forward support, the snood between the point and the lashing with the head appearing more taut than in hooks from other areas which have two shank-point lash- page 190 ings. In two hooks in Bernice P. Bishop Museum the points have slight distal projections at the point bases which do not function but are either purely ornamental or vestigial. (See figure 103, a-b.) From figure 103 it would appear that the Hawaiian point is insecure, for there is but one real lashing to the shank. The point may be moved about by the fingers, but it cannot be pulled off, for the snood is taut. The slight distal projection shows the direction in which improvement could have proceeded to provide room for a second lashing.
Figure 103. Eastern Polynesian bonito hooks: a, Hawaiian simple point; b, Hawaiian point, slight distal projection; c, Tahitian point, typical distal projection. a, typical shank (1), head pierced by transverse hole (2); point (3) simple with one hole; one shank-point lashing (4) through point hole, and hackle (5) with lashing through hole; snood (6) attached directly to point through point hole, seized as far as head, attached to head by snood lashing (7) through head hole. b, shank (1) with rather long head with transverse hole (2); point (3) with small distal projection (8) which, however, is without function in lashing; one hole; one shank-point lashing (4) through point hole but with hackle (5) lashed around shank-point lashing; snood (6) attached directly to point hole, seized as far as head, attached by snood lashing (7) to head hole. c, shank (1) with typical head with transverse hole (2); point (3) with one hole and prolonged distal projection (8); two shank-point lashings, proximal (4) through point hole and distal (9) over groove in distal projection; hackle (5) fixed by some turns of distal shank-point lashing; snood (6) attached directly to point through hole; seized for part distance, attached to head through hole by snood lashing (7).
The eastern type of point is typically exemplified by the Tahitian hook in which the slight distal knob of the Hawaiian point is enlarged to form a functioning distal projection over which a second lashing is made to fix the point more securely and immovably to the shank. (See fig. 103, c.)
A further development of the Tahitian point is seen in Marquesan hooks figured by Beasley (1, p. 14, pl. 76) and Linton (18, pl. 71, B, 1, 3). Here the distal projection is pierced with a second hole and the second shan- page 191 kpoint lashing passes through the hole instead of over the projection. The gradation of the eastern point is shown in figure 104. A result of the more secure fixation of the point by two lashings is that the snood between the point and the head is not so taut as in the Hawaiian hook with a single lashing. The eastern type of point is found in Society Islands, the Tuamotus, and the Marquesas. The Hawaiian type has more affinity with the eastern than with the western type. The Tahitian type with one hole has spread into the Marquesas, where it is found in addition to the two-hole type. It has also spread into the Tuamotus, with the exception of Fagatau. The Tahitian type with the distal projection resembles the Melanesian type in figure 102, a, but differs in providing a hole for the proximal shank-point lashing. Note that the hole in the Melanesian point (fig. 102, b) is through the distal projection and is intended to carry the distal shank-point lashing.
Figure 104. Eastern types of bonito hook points: a, simple point of Hawaiian hook (fig. 103, a) with one hole (1) and no projections; b, Hawaiian point (fig. 103, b) with one hole (1) and slight distal projection (3) which does not function in lashing; c, Tahitian point with wider base formed by distal projection (3) with groove (2) for lashing; d, Marquesan point with hole (1) through point limb and distal prolongation (3) through which second hole (2) pierced for second lashing.
The western type of point is characterized by the prolongation for a second shank-point lashing on the proximal end of the point base. The form has been exemplified by the Manihiki-Rakahangan hooks. It is also illustrated by some points from Fanning Island, discovered in an old tomb made by inhabitants who disappeared before European discovery. The age of the relic is proved by the fact that the typical Polynesian shanks found with them showed that the holes through the heads were pierced from either side with an old-time drill point making two funnel-shaped holes which met in the middle. In the simplest form of Fanning Island point (fig. 105, a) the point is large and has a correspondingly wide base. In spite of the extra width, it was not feasible to pierce a second hole through the base without increasing its width a little. This slight increase was provided by prolonging the base proximally, a method opposite in principle to that of the eastern type of point. In the smaller points, the proximal prolongation was increased in order to provide sufficient base width without rendering the point limb disproportionately wide. The principle of retaining the original hole through the base of the point limb and piercing a second hole through the proximal prolongation therefore became established.page 192
Figure 105. Fanning Island bonito hook points, western type. a, perfect point: base with slight proximal prolongation (1) to enable two holes to be pierced through base; curvatures of hook ground on either side to sharp edge; grinding on lesser curvature comes down on line of proximal hole (2) which would be seriously weakened but for proximal prolongation (1); length of base, 24 mm.; distance from point to distal end of base, 63 mm. b, perfect point: marked proximal prolongation (1) increasing length of base to 22 mm.; proximal hole bored through prolongation; distance from point to distal end of base, 53 mm. c, broken point: marked proximal prolongation (1) making base 31 mm. long; diameter of large holes, 6 mm.; depth of prolongation, 14 mm.
Even without the history of the two hooks, the use of horsehair or pig's hair for the hackle instead of feathers and the employment of the needle and grooves in fixing the hackle instead of figure-of-eight turns show that hook b is more modern than hook a, and it follows that the use of the single hole through the point is also a more modern development on Fagatau. The needle and groove method of attaching the hackle has spread to Fagatau from Tahiti and probably also to Manihiki and Rakahanga from the same center.
A gradation of the western type of point is shown in figure 107, in which the order a, b, c is natural. A point like b was found on Fanning page 193 Island, but the simple form of a was large, with a naturally wide base. The forms b and c occur together and c is merely a specialization of b. The simplest point, however, is f, without holes and thus readily made without the use of a drill. Point e has recently developed from f as a result of Tahitian influence, and it necessitated the use of the drill. It has one hole probably because the Tahitian point has only one hole, the second lashing passing over the distal prolongation. The Fagatau people have copied the one hole and retained the proximal lashing over the proximal prolongation.
Figure 106. Fagatau bonito hooks: a, older form (B. P. Bishop Mus., Young Coll.); b, modern hook. a, point (1) has long proximal prolongation (2) and no hole; snood (3) incloses base of point, end passes through groove (4) on distal end of point; proximal end of loop seized by lashing (5) close to head of shank (6); proximal (7) and distal (8) shank-point lashings pass over proximal prolongation; feather hackle (9) fixed to under surface of shank by figure-of-eight turns of distal lashing in method similar to Manihiki fixation (fig. 91); filler sticks (10) of coconut leaf midrib below lashings on either side; point base projects distally beyond end of shank tail to bring point bend back into suitable position for distal shank-point lashing. b, point (1) has unperforated proximal prolongation (2) but part corresonding with point limb pierced by hole (11); long snood loop (3) passes around groove (4) on back of point; seizing lashing (5) which closes loop is further from head than in a; proximal shank-point lashing (7) passes over proximal prolongation (2); distal lashing (8) passes through hole (11) in point, thus point does not project so far back over tail end of shank (6); filler sticks (10); hackle (9) of horsehair lashed to distal lashing (8) by means of transverse turns passing through grooves made on back of shank with file; steel needle used as in modern hackle attachments of Manihiki (fig. 95) and Tahiti.
Figure 107. Western type of bonito hook point: a, Fanning Island, slight proximal projection (1) and two holes; b, Manihiki, marked proximal projection (1) to carry second hole; c, Manihiki, proximal projection (1) carrying second and third holes, separate hole thus provided for snood which passes through it instead of being looped around base of point, exceptional and follows Samoan and western alternative method; d, Tongareva, broken hole (2) through proximal projection (1) forming groove for second lashing; e, Fagatau, modern, one hole and proximal projection (1) trimmed for second lashing; f, Fagatau, old, no hole, both lashings pass over lengthened proximal projection (1).
It requires little imagination to realize that with the continued use of the drill a second hole might be pierced in the proximal prolongation and thus make the Fagatau one-hole point (e) conform to the pattern of the two-hole point (b). It seems reasonable to suppose that the points f and e represent the original stages in the development of the general type b.
The western type of point with two holes is found in Tonga, Samoa, Ellice Islands, Tokelau, Pukapuka, Manihiki, Rakahanga, and Tongareva. The distribution gives it a western origin. The primitive form with no holes is found in Fagatau in the Tuamotus and thus forms an outlier as far as this cultural element is concerned. The two-hole point with a proximal prolongation figured by Beasley (1, p. 13) and labeled “Danger Island, Paumotus” should be referred to Pukapuka in the northern Cook Islands. Pukapuka in the Tuamotus (Paumotus) has not been inhabited for some generations.
The main differences between the eastern and western types of point may be summarized as follows:
|Projection of base||Distal||Proximal|
|Treatment of projection||Upper groove common, hole confined to one area (Marquesas)||Pierced hole common, upper groove rare (Fagatau)|
|Number of holes||One, sometimes two||Two, sometimes three; one confined to Fagatau|
The western type may be divided into two divisions according to the method of attaching the snood to the point. From the western limits of Polynesia as far east as Pukapuka, the snood is attached to a hole in the base of the point. In the eastern part of the area in which the western point is found, the snood is formed into a loop which passes around the base of the point, as seen in Manihiki, Rakahanga, Tongareva, and Fagatau.