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.
Men and women are equally proficient at this work, which is regarded as a pleasant light employment suitable to gossip over when detained indoors by inclement weather.
A hank of two-ply coconut cord from Funafuti, which weighs three and a half ounces, measures fourteen fathoms, the diameter of the cord is an eighth of an inch. This type is laid up tighter than others, and is the commonest pattern for general use, serving for twine and fishing-lines.
The two-ply cord, the most simple and wide-spread form of cordage, is probably the most primitive. The degraded natives of Tierra del Fuego made a two-ply cord of gut strands; a specimen of which in a shell necklace has been shown to me by the Hon. P. G. King, of this city, who procured it during the historical voyage of the "Beagle." The Australian Aborigines seem only to have known a two-ply cord, though they elaborated a complex form of it by rolling up a two-ply with another two-ply.
An ornamental form of two-ply cord is of a strand of human hair laid up with a strand of bark. Of this pattern is the string of the Funafuti dance armlet, The same pattern may be observed in the decoration of the elaborate dance masks of New Britain and of New Ireland, these masks also carry a variation of the same where a strand of red coloured bark is laid up with a strand of natural yellow bark.
A cord, not to be distinguished from the ordinary two-ply coir cord except by unravelling, was made in Hawaii, of three strands.
The treble stranded cord, "kafa," of Funafuti, is a flat braid, loosely twisted direct from the yarn and made large or small as page 290required (fig. 48). The especial use of this is for lashing woodwork, as in sewing together the planks of canoes or fastening the frames of houses. An identical cord is made in New Guinea. A hank from Funafuti of three-ply cord, weighing five and a half ounces, measures twenty-eight fathoms, in diameter it is three-sixteenths of an inch. Another example from a kafunga is half an inch broad.
Four strands are plaited, direct from the yarn, to make a round rope, "oukafakanapoua," (fig. 49) of especial strength, used for canoe rigging, deep-sea fishing, etc. This rope is very pliant and does not kink even when new. A hank of this from Funafuti, weighing one pound one ounce, contains thirty-two fathoms of cord a quarter of an inch in diameter. From the Gilbert Islands there are in the Australian Museum samples of human hair-cord woven in this pattern.
The most complex cord I have seen from the Pacific is a seven-stranded one from Hawaii. From the Marshall Islands Finsch described† a large rope laid by a curious mechanism upon a central core.
In the Ellice a rough rope, like our straw rope, was occasionally improvised from the natural matting which sheathes the budding palm fronds.
* Cook—loc. cit., i., p. 216.
† Finsch—Ann. K. K. Naturhist. Hofmus., vii., 1893, p. 158.
The simplest form (fig. 50) is a sort of tray for carrying fish. The specimen preserved measures about a foot in diameter, in shape is irregularly rhom-boidal, and consists of a portion of palm frond rachis with fifteen pinnules attached, which are interlaced and then knotted in two bows.
The pinnule tips, instead of being knotted at both ends of the basket as in New Guinea, are plaited along the floor and knotted in one bunch inside. A second specimen has the knot outside the basket.
A third type of basket was collected at Funafuti, the specimen of which came from Niutao. This (fig. 51) is a more finished form and was required for permanent, not temporary use. It is two feet long, one foot broad, and six inches deep. Two lengths of split frond are woven together, the two strips from the rachis making a double rim to the basket, No interstices are visible between the strands, of which an inner and an outer layer cross each other obliquely. Each pinnule is doubled, giving a thickness of four leaves to the basket wall. The basket ends are rounded, the floor flat with a median ridge, at each end the pinnule tips are plaited into flat straps, the lower three inches of which are within the basket, but the knotted extremities thereof are carried through the basket wall, making external handles. This form of handle appears to be indicated in a sketch of a Samoan basket by Edge-Partington.* The name of this basket was given me as "kete."
‡ Proc. Linn. Soc. N. S.W., (2), 1895 (1896), p. 615, pl. lviii., fig. 2.
* Edge-Partington—loc. cit., ii., pl. xlvi., fig. 3.
A reference in Maori literature appears to relate to a similar article:—"The Kawerau tribe derived their name from the shoulder-straps with which the chief Maki used to carry off his spoil, made of nikau leaves (rau); hence the name, kawe to carry, rau leaves."†
† Percy Smith—The Peopling of the North, Journ. Polyn. Soc, vi., 1897, Supplement, p. 35. See also Edge-Partington—loc. cit,, ii., pl. ccxxxiii., fig. 11.
In thatching and in fastening the rough palm mats to the hut walls, awls and hooks are employed. Edge-Partington has published sketches of needles thus used in Torres Straits, Tahiti, and New Caledonia, but I observed none such in the Ellice Group. The collection of awls from that Archipelago exhibits great diversity of material, though agreeing substantially inform. From Nukulailai and Funafuti are specimens shaped from turtle bone, "tui fonu"; one from Funafuti is part of a swordfish bill, "tui sokera"; a third type is the spine of a sting ray, "futta," the serrations of which are ground down to make the tool, a half-made instance of which shows the transition.
At Nukulailai I procured the original of fig. 55, whose use is to hook and draw through the string or twig used in fastening up mats, etc. It is carved of hard dark wood, probably Rhizophora, weighs one ounce, and is ten and a half inches long. Hooks resembling these are referred by Edge-Partington to Tahiti and Samoa.
While stripping the thorns from the edges of pandanus leaves I saw one woman employ a rough leaf thimble to protect the finger-tip. Of this I unfortunately omitted to procure a specimen.
A sort of claw is cut from the hard black shell of the coconut, which is called "tosi," and is used for ripping into fine strips the fibres of the titi dresses. The accompanying figure (fig. 56) represents a specimen, two and a half inches long, from Funafuti.
The pillow appears in the Pacific in two widely different forms, one that of the wooden head-rest, the other that of the mat cushion. By far the most common is the former, which is found from the furthest western station of the Papuans to the remotest eastern settlement of the Polynesians. In shape it ranges from a solid wooden block to a bar of bamboo mounted on. wooden feet. Each race has treated it according to its idiosyncracies; the artistic Melanesian has tastefully carved and painted his, especially in New Guinea, where it is embellished by conventionalised animals whose limbs form appropriate supports; the simple Samoan is content with plain neat articles, while the more progressive Tongan elaborates designs on his; the crudest and roughest articles with which I am acquainted being the head-rest from the Ellice we are about to consider.
In use these articles are not so uncomfortable as an untravelled observer might imagine. For in a hot moist climate the constant perspiration renders a soft, absorbent pillow less acceptable than a cool, smooth, though hard, surface. Besides, sleeping on his back, the Polynesian does not rest his cheek, like the European, but the back of his head, on his pillow.
On Vaitupu, Bridge* noticed couches carved out of single pieces of wood, with four legs, and a solid block like a pillow at one end.
Under the regime of the Native Teacher every effort is made to Europeanise the Polynesian. If, after cricket and football, the pupils be introduced to the English schoolboy's "pillow fight," serious consequences would ensue.
Though upon Funafuti the mat cushion did not seem to be em ployed, it was well known there, and a model of it was made for a member of our party. On Nukulailai, however, I found them in common use. A well-worn speci men procured there is shown by fig. 61. It is formed of woven pandanus leaf, weighs one pound ten ounces, is nine inches long, six high, and four thick.
* Bridge—Proc. Roy. Geogr. Soc, viii., 1886, p. 554,
The cushion pillow seems less widely distributed than the wooden head-rest. From Tahiti, Edge-Partington notes a "pillow of plaited leaf."* Of Hawaii:—"It is said that wooden pillows were used in olden times, but if so there are none in this collection [the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum]. The Hawaiian pillow is a parallelopipedon of plaited pandanus leaves, stuffed with the same material, capital accompaniment to the Hawaiian mat bed."†
* Edge-Partington—loc. cit., i., p1. xxxiii., fig. 8.
† Brigham—loc. cit., p. 33.
Flasks are shown on p. 25 receiving toddy. Gill published a sketch of a girl drawing water with one at Vaitupu, as described on p. 60.‖
§ Gourds, as shown by the frontispiece of Erskine's "Cruise in the Western Pacific," 1853, are likewise sometimes mounted with network.
‖ Gill—Life in the Southern Isles, 1876, p. 141.
The natives of Funafuti use carved wooden box-tubs to hold food, fish-hooks, tobacco, or other small articles when on a canoe journey or a fishing excursion. In travelling these are stowed forward or aft under the decking, but when at anchor fishing, are frequently hitched by the cord over a thwart within reach of the fisherman. The lids with which these are fitted close so tightly as to keep the contents dry even if the canoe be swamped with water. The lid is so strung that it can be raised and slipped over the box, but not entirely detached. In shape and size these box-tubs have a general resemblance to the familiar "billy," of the Australian bushman.
Captain Hudson observed on Fakaafu:—"Boxes or buckets of various sizes, from the capacity of a gill to that of a gallon; they are cut out of the solid wood, and the top or lid is fitted in a neat manner. These are used to keep their fish-hooks and other small articles in to preserve them from the wet."*
One of these box-tubs is figured with details by Edge-Partington as from Samoa; he writes of it:—"Box and cover of pale wood, stout plaited cord. Labelled, ' a provision-tub, to be carried under the canoe in the water,'"† which label is obviously absurd. There are numerous references in literature to the wooden boxes of the Polynesians, but I have not noted any other than the foregoing sufficiently full to distinguish the type under discussion from other forms of boxes, for example, the lavishly decorated caskets of the Maoris, occuring in the Pacific.
Three expressions of the box-tub were secured on Funafuti, where the article is known as "tourouma." The largest specimen in the collection weighs three pounds eight ounces, and has a capacity of a hundred and forty-one cubic inches, stands seven inches high, and is nine inches in basal diameter; like the rest of the series, it appears to be made of Calophyllum timber. In general it so closely corresponds with the illustrations above-cited from the Ethnographical Album that it is not necessary to draw it; from the Samoan specimen it differs in a less number of feet, possessing but ten equally spaced triangular supports, of less breadth than their interstices.
Two similar specimens vary from the foregoing in having no supports beneath, and no cleat on the summit of the lid. Instead the lugs on the box are continued into a pair on the lid, which latter is perfectly flat above. Both pairs are pierced by holes which continue from the lid through the box and through which a cord of Broussonetia is rove, these lugs serve therefore as running cleats. The taller box-tub is drawn on fig. 63 as open and closed, with the under aspect of the lid apart; the closed one is seen to be fastened in the native fashion by twisting the cord round the side. It is seven inches high, six and a half in basal diameter, weighs two pounds, and has a capacity of ninety-seven cubic inches, the sides are straight but the bottom is somewhat rounded. The other specimen differs in proportions and in having a flat base. It is five and three-quarter inches both in height and in basal diameter, and five and a half inches in least diameter across the lid, weighs one pound fifteen ounces, and contains fifty-nine cubic inches.
* Wilkes—loc. cit., v., p. 18.
† Edge-Partington—loc. cit., ii., pl. xl. fig. 8.
These necessary and valued utensils are possessed by every household and are made in diverse sizes and shapes. The absence page 298of ornament, so marked a feature in all the appurtenances of the Ellice Islanders, is again obvious in surveying the bowls. The fanciful carving which other Pacific people delight to lavish upon these receptacles, is here totally wanting.
A wooden dish of an uncommon pattern is the "babanak," shown by fig. 65, the name of which suggests to me a Micronesian derivation. This article is rudely circular, with outwardly sloping wall, ending in a lip. It weighs one pound thirteen ounces, stands four and a half inches high, is twelve and a half inches in diameter above and seven inches across the base. The rim is half an inch thick, three-quarters wide, and projects half an inch from the wall.
The common food bowl of which fig. 66 is an instance, is here known as "kumiti," a name which seems to be associated with this article from Samoa to the Solomons. The specimen of this before me is an elliptical trough, tapering to lugs at either end, standing on a flat base of half the total length; it weighs two pounds nine ounces, stands three and a quarter inches high, is nineteen and a half inches long, and nine and a quarter wide. Another form of kumiti, larger and without lugs, is shown on p. 28, employed as a tank.
A wooden mortar, in which taro or coconut is pounded for cooking, is called "kumiti tuki." Except that it is elliptical rather than circular, the shape is that of the European equivalent. This form is here exemplified by a specimen (fig. 67) apparently of Calophyllum timber, weighing six pounds, eight inches high, excavated to a depth of six inches, at the aperture twelve inches by ten, and at the base eight by seven.
Another pounder (fig. 69) is eighteen inches long, straight, tapering from two and a half inches at the butt to half an inch at the opposite end. A pagoda-shaped handle is formed by incised carving of the final four inches. It is one pound ten ounces in weight, and made, I think, of Pemphis timber.
Two radically distinct types of drum, each with numerous variations, co-exist in the Pacific. The one which seems to attain its greatest development in Papua is akin to the European drum, consisting like it of a skin tympanum stretched on a wooden cylinder. The other and ruder form is more characteristic of Polynesia, it consists merely of a boat-shaped, hollow log, beaten on the exterior.
To call the people together to a trial or other public ceremony, a shell trumpet of Cassis cornuta was blown.
* As in the Tokelau Islands, Lister—loc. cit.
For bleeding, and for lancing boils, etc., the native surgeons make use of shark's teeth set in wooden handles. I procured on Nukulailai two old, worn and stained specimens, measuring seven and a half and six inches, and weighing 3·55 and 3·54 grammes page 300respectively. A piece of wood, somewhat the size and shape of an ordinary penholder, is split at its extremity for an. inch, into which a small shark's tooth is inserted and bound in the cleft, by cotton in one case and by native fibre in another.
On Funafuti I failed to purchase original specimens, though such were in existence at the time of our visit. Models were, however, made for me, larger and rougher than the Nukulailai specimens. The serrate-toothed lancet, from the jaw of Galeocerdo rayneri (fig. 72) for bleeding, is called "nifikifa"; the straight-edge tooth lancet from Carcharias lamia (fig. 73), for puncturing, is known as "bunga."
In Tahiti, "they were clever at lancing an abscess with the thorn from a kind of bramble or a shark's tooth."†
Fig. 74 shows a roll of prepared bark of the vala-vala (Premna taitensis) used in cautery, as mentioned on p. 37.
In Hawaii the skin was scorched with fire-brands in times of mourning ‡
In Japan, " moxa, or the burning of a small cone of cottony fibres of the Artemisia, on the back and feet, was practised as early as the eleventh century, reference being made to it in a poem written at that time."§
* The Tasmanian Mail, 6th March, 1897, p. 34.
† Ellis—loc. cit., iii., p. 44.
‡ Ellis—loc. cit., iv., p. 181.
§ Griffis—The Mikado's Empire, 1887, p. 207.
Almost without exception fire has been obtained by all primitive people by the rubbing together of pieces of wood. In detail, however, the process differs greatly among different races.
Among Australian Aborigines the usual method was to press and twirl between the palms a perpendicular rod in a hole in a fixed horizontal stick.* The ancient Egyptians, likewise, rotated a perpendicular upon a horizontal stick, but employed a bow to revolve the upright.
Another method, approaching more closely to the form we are about to consider, is the fire-saw used in Borneo and Australia under several forms,† the general principle of which consists of sawing an edged rod in a notched one.
Throughout the Pacific Islands one method, and, as far as I am aware, only one is employed, that of ploughing a wooden blade in a groove. It is thus described by Woodford in the Solomons:—"A stake of dry, soft wood is selected, a convenient size being about as thick as the wrist. For convenience a few chips are sliced off in one place to make a flat surface to rub upon. The stake is then placed upon the ground in front of the operator, who sits on one end of it and holds it steady between his toes, then with a pencil-shaped piece of harder wood, held firmly in both hands, he begins rubbing up and down upon the flat surface. A groove is formed and a dark coloured dust soon produced, which is pushed to the farther end of the groove. The dust before long begins to smoke. The pace is increased, and it begins to smoulder. A piece of dry touchwood is then applied to it and quickly blown into a glow. With perfectly dry wood a native will almost certainly produce fire in less than a minute. "**
* For details and figures see Brough Smyth—Aborigines of Victoria, i., 1876, p. 392, figs. 231, 232.
** ‡Woodford—A Naturalist among the Head-hunters, 1890, p. 161. See also Lamont—op. cit., p, 156.
§ Since writing this, an excellent figure and description of the process by Lieut. B. T. Somerville, R.N., (Journ. Anthrop. Inst., xxvi., 1897, p. 376, pi. xxxv.), has reached me.
In Hawaii, "a smaller stick, the 'aulima, is held in the hand and rubbed in a groove in a larger stick, the aunaki."*
The reverence, amounting almost to fire-worship, paid to fire by different settlements of the Tokelau people, is related ante p. 55.
* Brigham—loc. cit., pt. ii., p. 31.
A game formerly played on Funafuti, but which is not now practised, was that of throwing a toy dart. I have gathered a few references to this game as played elsewhere in the Pacific but further literary search would probably widen the known range.
Captain Erskine has thus described the game as he saw it played in Fiji†:—" On our return to the Mission house we met a number of men in full dress, that is, painted either black or red their hair frizzed out and decorated with blue beads, some wearin-garters or bands tied in bows under the knee, and a few with a kilt or petticoat, resembling that of the women. Each carried a short cane, with an oblong, pear-shaped head, forming a kind of blunt dart, with which a game called "tika," or "titika" is played We followed them to the spot, which presented a very gay scene, a hundred or so of persons being assembled at the sides of a level, well swept mall, about one hundred and fifty yards long, and five or six wide, skirted with trees and shrubs. Each player advanced in turn, and threw his dart at a mark placed at the end of the mall, but none of them exhibited much skill, nor did the game seem to us one of any interest, and all were quiet and decorous."‡ On the authority of Dr. Turner, Edge-Partington publishes from Niue a "head of a dart used in a game," which closely resembles the one before me.§
† Erskine-Journal of a Cruise among the Islands of the Western Pacific 1853, p. 169.
‡ Another description of the game in Fiji is given by the Rev. J. G. Wood-Natural History of Man, ii., 1870, p. 283. In the Journal of the Godeffroy Museum, iv 1876, pl xvi, fig. 1, a player is drawn in the act of casting his dart, "ulutoa." The attitude is the same shown me on Funafuti.
§ Edge-Partington—loc. cit., i., pl. xxxix., fig. 1.
In the Banks Island and the New Hebrides "the game is played by two parties, who count pigs for the furthest casts, the number of pigs counted as gained depending on the number of knots in the winning tika. There is a proper season for the game, that in which the yams are dug, the reeds on which the yam vines had been trained having apparently served originally for the tika. When two villages engage in a match they sometimes come to blows."*
Dr. Gill notes in his Diary that it was formerly the custom on the island of Nanomana, Ellice Group, that "when a young man wins a reed throwing match, his own sister testifies her joy by coming into the assembly stark naked and clapping her hands."
Fig. 76. Fig. 77.
Another toy consisted of a cube of plaited pandanus leaf, served as a light ball, with which, on the beach, groups of girls amused themselves by tossing to each other and catching. A specimen of the "anou," as this is called on Funafuti, is shown by fig. 78, it weighs three-quarters of an ounce, and measures two inches cube.
From Ruk, in the Carolines, the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum possess a "cube of plaited pandanus leaf used as a ball."
Ellis has described a game, "haru raa puu," played by the Tahitians with a large ball of the tough stalks of the plantain leaves twisted closely and firmly together.§
* Codrington—The Melanesians, 1891, p. 340.
† Ellis—Polynesian Researches, i., 1836, p. 227; iv., p. 197.
‡ Gill—Myths and Songs, 1876, p. 179.
§ Ellis—loc. cit i., p. 214.
At Simbo, in the Solomons, Mr. N. Hardy tells me he saw a globular leaf ball tossed from hand to hand.
Spinning tops I found to be a popular amusement on Nukulailai. Their tops were simply cone shells (Conus hebraeus and C. puli-carius) spun on their apices. A game was to spin two shells into a wooden dish out of which by rotating and colliding the winner would knock the loser. The shells were spun either like a teetotum between the finger and thumb, or, to give greater force, the anterior end was steadied by the finger and thumb of the left hand, while the impetus was given by drawing the right fore-finger briskly across it, as shown in fig. 79. A shell of C. hebraeus I purchased, the broken lip of which betokened much service, was called "vaitalo."
On Funafuti, a sort of toy windmill was contrived by plaiting four arms of palm pinnule, mounting this on a stand of palm riblet, and thrusting the latter into the sand, The wind would then rotate the arms. This toy, called "bekka," is shown at fig. 80.
Mr. J. S. Gardiner tells me that he saw this toy windmill in Rotumah, and it has been lately recorded from the Solomons by Lieut. B. T. Somerville, R.N.*
* Journ. Anthrop. Inst., xxvi., 1897, p. 409.
Sandals.—Since revising the preceding pages (243-4) dealing with the Pacific sandal, I have seen a figure and description of an interesting sandal of Cordyline fibre from New Zealand by Mr. 0. T. Mason.† Another article is thus added to the long list of those common to every main division of the Polynesian Race. It is interesting also to note that this Ethnologist detects in the border loops for the lacing a similarity between the Polynesian and a Korean pattern.
Explanation Of Plate Xiii.
Method of putting on a "tukai" dress.
Explanation of Plate XIV.
Method of scraping coconut with the " twaikarea.'
Explanation of Plate XV
Fig. 1. A canoe from Funafuti.
Fig. 2. Stem of another specimen.
Fig. 3. Stern of another specimen.
Fig. 4. Fishing rod in position.
Fig. 5. Divisible outrigger for detaching float.
Fig. 6. Float perforated for fastening to outrigger.
Fig. 7. Float pegged for fastening to the outrigger.
Fig. 8. Bailer.
Fig. 9. Paddle.page break
† Mason—Primitive Travel and Transportation, Report U.S. National Museum, 1894 (1896), p. 315.