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Games and Pastimes of the Maori

Stone Discs of Unknown Use

Stone Discs of Unknown Use

In Vol. 45 of the Transactions of the N.Z. Institute is some account of certain curious stone discs found in the Tauranga district. These discs, of which a number were found, are said to page 173much resemble the stone bowls of the Hawaiians, and the writer of the above paper seems to believe that a similar game was, at some former time, practised on the smooth sand beaches of Tauranga:—"The average weight of those I have is 4 lb. 9 oz.; the average diameter about 5¼ in.; and the average thickness nearly 3 in."

Fig. 50 Stone Disc or Bowl from Tauranga. From Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Vol. 45, p. 385.

The Hawaiian stone discs used as bowls are called ulu and olohu, the game of bowls being maika. In Vol. 10 of The Journal of the Polynesian Society, p. 206, is some account of a game called pua that is played at Atiu Island, Cook Group, with wooden bowls of similar form to the above. In Vol. 11 of the same journal is some account of a curious symbol, that of the pentalpha or pentagram, which, from olden times, the Atiu natives have been in the habit of engraving on their pua bowls, and from which, they believe, the bowls acquire some superiority which they do not appear able to explain. Evidently it is a survival of some ancient belief, and the existence of this symbol in Polynesia is a question of no small interest. In ancient days the pentagram was the symbol of Hygeia and Health.

If stone bowls were ever used in New Zealand, then the Maori seems to have forgotten the fact, and can give us no information. It is, however, quite possible that the game was introduced here by Polynesian immigrants, and that subsequently it fell into desuetude. The stone bowls above mentioned have been found only in the Tauranga district, apparently their use never extended to other parts of the island.