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The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.

Offensive Weapons

Offensive Weapons.

Fig. 14.

Fig. 14.



As previously stated on p. 45, the Ellice Group has enjoyed peace so long that not only have the making and handling of weapons fallen into disuse, but all instruments of war have now disappeared. No exact account of these seems to have been preserved in literature. Shark tooth knives were described to me by old men and are recorded by early travellers. Figures of such in the Ethnological Album* are referred with doubt by Edge-Partington to the Ellice Group.

In the absence of extinct originals, models locally made are of some interest. An aged, white-haired, and tatooed native of Funafuti made for me such of two weapons as previously used by his tribe:—

A missile, "apa," (fig. 14) is a smooth, spindle-shaped piece of hard, heavy wood, probably Pemphis, sharply pointed at each end. It weighs one pound five ounces, and measures two feet in length and one and three quarter inches in greatest diameter. In battle it was thrown at an enemy, and was probably capable of inflicting an ugly wound upon a naked foe. The Tahitians had "the tiora, a polished dart about three feet long, cast from the hand generally in the naval engagements, but occasionally on land." From the Gilbert Group, Edge-Partington figures a missile club, "goramaton," similar to this. An Australian weapon, "konnung,"§ closely resembles this pattern in use and appearance. Indeed so simple an article might be expected to independently recur in different quarters of the world.

The model of the sword-club, "lakautaua," (fig. 15) is roughly made, but probably presents the general appearance of the ancient weapon. A narrow lanceolate blade, truncate at the extremity, tapers to a rounded handle. From a central longitudinal keel, where the thickness is an inch and a quarter, the sides thin down to a square edge a quarter of an inch thick. At half the weapon's length, a notch half an inch deep is cut on each side. From a point an inch

* Loc. cit., i, pl. xxxvii., figs. 6-11; pl. xxxviii., figs. 1-5; Additional Notes; ii., pl. lxxxix., fig. 8.

Ellis—op. cit., i., p. 298.

Id, loc. cit., ii., pl. xcv., fig. 12.

§ Brough Smyth—loc. cit., p. 302, fig. 64; and R. Etheridge, Junr.—Macleay Memorial Volume, 1893, p. 240.

Of. Wilkes—loc. cit., v., p. 16.

page 249distant from these notches to the distal end the blade is ornamented on both sides and faces by twenty shallow grooves, separated by interstices of equal breadth, so alternating with those of the opposite surface as to serrate the edge of the weapon. These grooves perhaps represent a degeneration from the toothed edge of certain Samoan clubs.* The use of these teeth and notches probably was to catch and snap the spears of an enemy.

The lakautaua is of hard wood, probably Pemphis; it weighs one pound three ounces, and measures one foot seven inches in length, and two and a half inches in breadth.

Among the Penrhyn Islanders, Lamont remarked that:—"The long, light, paddle-shaped club used by the women is called 'coerarai,' and is used in battle principally for breaking the spears of the men of the opposite party."

The rough sketch and brief notice do not admit of satisfactory identification, but a species of lakautaua is suggested to me by a drawing in the Ethnological Album, described as a "flat wooden fan, stained black in places: Tokelau Island, Union Group." Should "fan" be a grimly ironical misnomer for a messenger of death, the black stains may be those of human blood. The probable inaccuracy of the ethnological statement is countenanced by the geographical confusion of this quotation.

A club figured by Edge-Partington§ as from Fiji, has several features in common with the Funafuti model, such as the proportion of handle to blade, and the raised central keel and distal truncation of the latter. Perhaps one of a group of articles figured by Wilkes from the Kingsmills stands for another.

* Such as Edge-Partington—loc. cit., i., pl. lxxiv., fig. 2.

"Lamont—Wild Life among the Pacific Islanders, 1867, p. 133.

Edge-Partington—loc. cit., ii., pl. xcvi., fig. 3.

§ Loc. cit., ii., pl. liv., fig. 1.

Wilkes—loc. cit., v., p. 79, the object lying furthest left.