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Samoan Material Culture



Foreign influence. Careful analysis of club forms would show that Fijian technique influenced Samoa very little. The Samoan club makers went page 612their own way and developed characteristic weapons with flared proximal ends and suspensory lugs as against the Fijian flange and close wrapping of the grip with sennit braid. The large number of bent forms such as the lipped, pandanus, and axe-bit types of Fijian clubs were not adopted in Samoa. The paddle-shaped club with the very wide crossbar seems to have diffused to Samoa in post-European times and not to have been adopted by the Samoan clubmakers. If further study proves that zoomorphs and anthropomorphs were really used in Samoan carving, the influence probably came from Tonga. The development of the paddle clubs needs further investigation. The narrow-bladed club with a curved distal end which is evidently a favorite in Tonga, was regarded by Churchill (5, Pl. III, l) as a paddle club without a crossbar but on examining a very old Tongan club of this type belonging to Professor Wood-Jones, the narrow width and thickness of the blade showed that its affinity was with the four-sided billet club with the curved blunt end. While the four-sided billet is present in Samoa, the characteristic Tongan development from the billet is absent.

Samoan characteristics. Samoan clubs are characterized by their short length. The two-handed clubs, except the shorter ear-shaped clubs, range between 3 and 4 feet in length and rarely exceed 53 inches. The majority of them are heavy and were used for crushing blows. The method of fighting from footholds used in club fighting with coconut leaf midribs, probably indicates a very early form of fighting in which heavy weapons were considered the most effective weapon. New Zealand tradition in the story of the avenging of the death of the son of Apakura, relates that the avenger Whakataupotiki fought with his opponent from holes dug in the ground opposite each other. The Maori story belongs to the period before settlement in New Zealand. The Samoans have a similar tradition in which Apaula and Vaatausili play the same leading parts. The Maori story is important in showing that at one time they were acquainted with fighting from footholds as in Samoan club fighting.

The lighter paddle clubs in which a thrusting point is added to bilateral cutting edges marks a distinct advance in club technique. The lighter the weapon, the quicker the strokes and the more skill required in parrying and in footwork. The transference of the point to the lower end of the club was never adopted in Samoa. The flared proximal end with the suspensory lug, distinguishes Samoan clubs from those of parts of Polynesia in which a stabbing point was formed below the hand grip at the proximal end. The double functioning ends form the highest development in wooden clubs. Such clubs increased the variety of strokes and guards and quick footwork was necessary to success. The light double-ended club reached its highest development in New Zealand and marks a great advance from the period of fighting from stationary footholds with which they were traditionally acquainted.

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The definite use of the bow and arrow in fowling and fishing emphasizes its not being used as a projectile weapon in war. The sling was the definite projectile weapon in Samoa as in other parts of Polynesia. It evidently gave satisfaction as proved by its continued use and consequently there was no place for the bow in warfare.