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.
Adzes and Axes
Adzes and Axes.
In 1773 Captain Cook found iron already in the hands of the South Sea Islanders. The process, then commencing, of replacing stone, shell, and bone with metal is now completed. For there is not an island, however remote, in Polynesia where non-metallic adzes are any longer used, only the remembrance of them existing in the minds of the oldest natives.
The collection of Ellice adzes and axes falls into two divisions, the ancient, non-metallic and extinct types represented by models, and those now in use in which a metal blade has been adapted to the ancient tool. Stone blades being obviously unattainable, the models of ancient adzes were set with shell ones. In every case the shell was Tridacna, though it is probable that in Funafuti, as elsewhere in the Pacific, other mollusca such as Mitra episcopalis, or Terebra maculata, would sometimes furnish adze-heads.page 250
The Tridacna shell, particularly the thick part near the hinge, was in former times highly and widely esteemed for this purpose, as is recorded by Keate from the Pelews,* by Finsch from the Carolines, Marshalls, and Gilberts,† by Guppy from the Solomons,‡ by Dixon from Malden Island, § by Wilkes from the Paumotus, ‖ by Moseley from the Admiralties;¶ and from Nanomea in the Ellice itself Finsch obtained a specimen of a Tridacna axe.
It would hardly have been anticipated that natives, like the Solomon and Pelew Islanders, in the possession of hard volcanic rock would have thus used this material, but Finsch repeatedly remarks that the greater toughness of the shell gives it an advantage over the more brittle stone.**
In the Carolines the same author found the Tridacna blades to assume various shapes, of which he figures a broad deltoid and a narrow chisel form.† Some of these attain an immense size, reaching twenty inches in length and ten pounds in weight; such, he says, were common property.
Describing relics of the race who formerly inhabited Malden Island, Mr. W. A. Dixon writes:—"In the grave was a hatchet head with polished edge made from the shell of a tridacna… In many places there were numerous axe heads chipped roughly out of tridacna shells. These are tolerably easily made, the shell being first broken transversely, when a blow on the fractured surface breaks out from the interior of the shell an adze-shaped piece which seems to me to be the pattern on which many of the South Sea stone adzes are formed."‡‡
These tools are thus described by Keate, from the Pelews:—"Their hatchets were not unlike those of the South Sea Islands, the blade part being made of the strongest part of the large Kima Cockle, ground to a sharp edge…. Uncouth as their hatchets might appear to our people, it was a matter of surprise to observe in how little a time the natives were able to fell a tree with them, though not without breaking several." §§
* Keate—An Account of the Pelew Islands, 1788, p. 312.
† Finsch—Ann. K. K. Naturhist. Hofmus., viii., 1893, p. 65.
§ Dixon—Journ. Roy. Soc. N.S.W., ix., 1877 (1878) p. 175.
‖ Wilkes—op. cit.
¶ Challenger Reports—Narative, i., pt. ii., 1885, p. 716.
** "In Lepers Island, the stone adzes were called talai maeto, black clam shell, a name now given to iron the native adze was evidently at first of shell, talai, and when stone was used the old name was retained. "Codrington—The Melanesians, 1891, p. 314.
† Finsch—op. cit., p. 214, figs. 36-38.
‡‡ Dixon—op. cit.
§§ Keate—op. cit., p. 312.
The model on which is based fig. 16, has a handle sixteen inches long, the shape of that of the ordinary plane iron adze. A short limb, six inches in length, departs from the handle at an angle of about thirty-five degrees, on the outer distal side of which the adze head is let in. Flat sinnet, interlaced as shown in the figure, binds this on firmly. The head itself is a rough deltoid chip, three inches long, two broad, and half an inch thick, from the valve of Tridacna squamosa, the inner face of the valvebeing applied to the wood, while upon the outer the ridges, furrows, and scales can still be distinguished; a blunt chisel edge is produced by grinding the outer surface. This tool was known in Funafuti as the "toki fasua" (lit. Tridacna Adze).
* In Papua the ceremonial tools seem all axes, not adzes. Finsch figures a hoop-iron axe from the Dentrecasteaux;—Ethnol. Atlas, pl, i., fig. 8.
The model represented in fig. 17, has for handle a round, fairly straight stick, sixteen inches long and an inch thick. At the distal end a groove three and a half inches long and a quarter of an inch deep is cut to receive the head. This is a trapezoid piece of turtle (Chelone midas) cara-pace, six and a half inches long and, across the blade, four broad, which is ground on its inner surface to a chisel edge; the proximal end is pierced with two circular holes, through which pass the strands of sinnet that firmly bind the head to the handle.
* Edge-Partington—loc. cit., i., pls. xiv., cxxxii.; ii., pl. xciv.
† Again (Journ. Anthrop. Inst., xxv.) a turtle-shell axe from Matty Island is described as used in battle. The intrinsic evidence of the description is not convincing, since an edge which would not slice cheese is said to slice flesh. This Matty Island axe seems to me designed for lopping pandanus fruit from the tree. In this paper the race inhabiting Matty Island is not classified. A comparison of the articles described there with those of Funafuti forcibly suggests to me a Polynesian source.
‡ Ellis—Polynesian Researches, i, 1832, p. 177, fig.
§ Edge-Partington—Journ. Anthrop. Inst., xxv., 1896, pl. xxiv., figs. 11, 12.
The Rotatory Adze is constructed with such mechanical ingenuity that it is difficult to believe it to be an indigenous possession of a people so low in the state of civilisation as the subject of our study.§ From negative evidence I judge that the Rotatory Adze formed no part of the Polynesian heritage, but that its presence in Funafuti is due to that inter-course with the Gilberts which conferred so many benefits upon the southern archipelago. ‖
For a contrivance of so much interest the Rotatory Adze appears to have attracted scanty notice in ethnological literature. The mechanical principle of this tool has in the Pacific developed three expressions.
* Keate—op. cit., plate facing p. 55.
† Moseley—Journ. Anthrop. Inst., vi., 1877, pl. xxiii., fig. 2.
‡ Moseley—Challenger Reports—Narrative, i., pt. ii.,1885, p.716, fig. 247.
‖ But the following sentence in a description of Hawaiian tools indicates apparently that the Rotatory Adze existed there. "In a form much used for the interior work of a canoe, the stone is so mounted as to turn to one side or the other, thus becoming, as needed, a right or left-hand adze."—Cat. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum" pt. i., 1892, p. 43.
|(I.)||The Western Papuans make a club-shaped adze-handle, through a perforation in the thick end of which is thrust the mounted stone adze-head, the latter rotating as required in the perforation.* The Australian Museum possess a series of this pattern, collected by the Expedition of the Geographical Society of Australasia to the Fly River, and also an instance from Hermit Island to the west of the Admiralty Islands.†|
|(II.)||The second type, possessed by the Eastern Papuans, has been described by Finsch,‡ who states that it is called "lachela" on the South Coast of British New Guinea, and "ki," or "kis" in Finschhafen, German New Guinea. Here the stone blade is firmly attached to a wooden cone, the wood and stone together constituting the moveable adze-head, the upper surface of the short limb of the adze-handle is sloped and hollowed to receive the cone of the adze-head, and both cone and limb are embraced in a wide band or sleeve of woven rattan. When it is desired to rotate the blade, the butt of the adze head, which usually projects beyond the adze-handle, is tapped and slides forward, the adze-head is then turned to the required angle and thrust back into the rattan sleeve. Every subsequent blow, by driving the cone along and up the wedge of the short arm of the handle, tends to jamb the adze-head tighter into the rattan sleeve.§|
|(III)||To the third expression, employed by the Micronesians, belongs the Funafuti tool, which invited attention to the foregoing; the only reference to this, known to me in literature, is more than a century old. Keate,‖ writing of the Pelew Islands, remarks that, "they had also another kind of hatchet, which was formed in a manner to move round in a groove, that the edge might act longitudinally, or transversely, by which it would serve as a hatchet, or an adze, as occasion required." He also gives an elaborate engraving of this tool with the legend, "A moveable Hatchet." On comparing Keate's picture and account with Finsch's sketch of a Tridacna adze from Kusaie (Carolines)¶ I am
* This type is figured by Jukes—Voyage of the "Fly," i. 1847, plate facing p. 274; by D'Albertis—New Guinea, ii., 1880, figs. 6 and 11 of plate facing p. 378; by Finsch—Ethnological Atlas, pl. i., fig. 5; and by Edge-Partington—loc. cit., i., pl. ccxcviii., fig. 1.
† Moseley figures and describes—loc. cit., ii., p. 717, fig. 249,—an axe from the Admiralty Islands, of which the blade was "merely jammed in a slot cut in a club-like billet of hard wood near its end." Other relations between the Fly River and Northern Papuans are referred to by Haddon—Cunningham Memoirs, x., 1894, p. 84.
‡ Finsch—op. cit., iii., 1888, p. 328, fig. 36; vi., 1891, p. 71; also Ethnol. Atlas, pl. i., figs. 4, 7.
§ In an unfigured and undescribed type from New Britain, the shorter limb of the adze-handle tapers to a point and is received by a socket of wood and cane attached to the blade.
‖ Keate—An Account of the Pelew Islands, 1788, p. 312, pl. ii., fig. 3.
¶ Finsch—op. cit., viii., 1893, p. 215, fig. 39.
* Finsch—Ethnol. Atlas, pl. 1, fig. 7.
† Edge-Partington—loc. cit., ii., pl. xv., fig. 5.
‡ Loc. cit., ii., pl. xciii., fig. 3;i., pl. ccc, fig. 3; pl. ccclxxx., fig. 3; pl. clxii. fig. 4.