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The Coming of the Maori

New Zealand Adzes

New Zealand Adzes

New Zealand provided a rich variety of stone for the adze-makers. In the South Island, andesite, argyllite, greywacke, and a few other substances were utilized in addition to basalt. The prize material was nephrite or greenstone (pounamu) but, the supply being limited, basalt remained the most common material.

Skinner (75), from an intensive study of a large number of adzes from the southern half of the South Island as well as comparative material from Polynesia, classified them into ten types which include a number of varieties. All, with the exception of an axe-like form, he found to occur in various parts of Polynesia. Duff (32), after an additional study of adzes from the northern half of the South Island, verified the existence of all Skinner's types and varieties but for greater simplicity in study, he regrouped Skinner's nine types of adzes into four and kept the axe form as a fifth type. Duff's four types of adzes were based on the cross section of the blade above the cutting edge bevel and they are as follows: tanged-rectangular; rectangular without tang; triangular (with base in front); and inverted-triangular (with base at back). Three of the types have four varieties each and one has three.

Duff's classification by cross section is simple and can be applied equally well to the adzes of the whole Polynesian area. An objection occurs, however, to the use of the term "rectangular" for his first two types because rectangular means that the four angles made by the four sides are right angles. With rare exceptions, the Maori adzes so classified have the front surface wider than the back and consequently the angles cannot be right angles. The better term is quadrangular which means four sides with four angles, the kind of angles not being specified (Fig. 36a, b). Duff's classification is also inconsistent in that quadrangular adzes are divided into two types, tanged and untanged, whereas the two classes of triangular adzes are not so divided, though tanged and untanged forms may occur in each. Furthermore, the term triangular would be applied more aptly to triangular adzes with the base to the back (Fig. 36c, d) for if the adze head is laid on its back, the triangular section will be in its natural position with the base below and the apex above. Hence the inverted-triangular form is the opposite with the base in front and the apex at the back (Fig. 36e, f). In my study of Cook Islands adzes (99, p. 136), the general form of adzes with the base in front was described as "inverted triangular adzes."

page 184

The three forms of cross-section are too general to be restricted by the term types. It would be better to regard them as groups and refer to them as quadrangular, triangular (base at back), and inverted-triangular (base in front). Each group may be divided into two subgroups, according to whether the butts are untanged or tanged. The six groups so classified are illustrated by Figure 36 as quadrangular-untanged (a), quadrangulartanged (b), triangular-untanged (c), triangular-tanged (d), inverted triangular-untanged (e), and inverted triangular-tanged (f). Each of the subgroups is illustrated by three views which reading from the left are front, right side, and back and the cross-sections have the back, below. The triangular-untanged speciment (c) is Samoan and though the front median edge has been ground off, it is triangular enough to illustrate the subgroup. The triangular-tanged adze (d) is the "hog-backed" or "hoof-shaped" type so widely spread. The inverted triangular-tanged specimen (f) is from a moa-hunter's deposit which shows that the form was ancestral. The untanged specimen (e) is from the Cook Islands and is ground on all surfaces.

By using the group and subgroup arrangement, the confusion caused by the varying type numbers used by different authorities would be lessened. The group would correspond to genera in natural history and the subgroup to subgenera. As it would be difficult to apply further descriptive names, the system of numbering types and lettering varieties followed by Skinner and Duff seems the most practicable.