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The Stone Implements of the Maori

Roughly Blocked-Out Forms, and Unfinished Specimens

Roughly Blocked-Out Forms, and Unfinished Specimens

In viewing a collection of Maori stone forms we often note items illustrating the manufacture of stone adzes, ranging from rough blocks of stone to the tool chipped into form for the grinder, the half-ground celt, and the finished article. Many of these rough pieces rudely blocked-out, or flaked and chipped partially into form, have been found at old aboriginal workshops, many of them being rejects spoiled in the cleaving of the stone. Such items are very numerous at some such working-places of the old-time Maori. Other such items found are in the form of water-worn stones, selected on account of their suitability as to both material and shape. Some implements formed from such stones seemed to have required but little chipping or pecking into form, to judge from some partly worked specimens.

The commonest shape of rough unworked blocks of stone, as they were obtained by breaking a boulder, with perhaps some rough blocking off, seems to have been triangular. Many such pieces have been found that have faces showing clean fractures, not formed by flaking or chipping. The next stage seems to be the flaking or page 229chipping of one end in order to form the blade. Then the sharp sides have to be chipped down to a flattened shape, and the central ridge struck off or worked down to form the back of the tool. Other rough blocks are four-sided, many such showing that the first stage of reducing to the desired form has been reached in the striking-off of heavy flakes or large chips, according to the cleaving qualities of the stone.

Such a rough piece of stone, that has evidently been obtained by shattering a boulder, or possibly from a mass or deposit of such stone in situ, for the purpose of fashioning therefrom an adze, is a rough piece of aphanite of triangular form 7½ in. long, the faces averaging 2¼ in. in width. Two sides thereof show clean fairly straight fractures; the third is somewhat irregular (see Fig. 1, Plate I). From one of the sharp edges some chips have apparently been struck off, which is the sign of a beginning of the formidable task of manufacture. Weight, 2 lb.

Another rough form has been carried a stage further in its manufacture (see Fig. 2, Plate I). It is 11 in. long, and roughly triangular in section, having one face much wider than the other two. This specimen has apparently been considerably reduced in size by both flaking and chipping. Several flakes have been struck off the wide face, one of them over 7 in. in length. The other two sides and the edges have had large chips some 2 in. across struck off them. The end on which the cutting-edge was intended to be formed has been reduced by means to a thick edge. The other end is roughly pointed, and presumably about 2 in. would need to be taken off it in order to obtain the thick blunt poll usually seen on Maori stone adzes. One side edge, being sharply angular, needs much chipping in order to form a flat side for grinding, while the other side requires much less chipping to prepare it for that process. A rude bevel to form the blade has been formed principally by flaking. The central or third ridge has yet to be chipped down to form the face of the tool. Weight, 4¼ lb. The stone is aphanite.

Another specimen, also of aphanite, 8½ in. long, is of a similar triangular form, but is somewhat more shapely, the three faces being cleaner and more even than in the preceding example (see Fig. 3, Plate I). The back and bevel require but little more chipping to prepare them for grinding, and the reduction of the central ridge to form the face has been commenced by the striking-off of a flake 3 in. long from its apex at the blade end of the tool. Remains the task of reducing this ridge, and also the two sharp side edges, to comparatively flat surfaces. Weight, 2½ lb.

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The next specimen that claims attention in the chain of progress is one that has acquired the rough form of an adze by having its sides chipped down, and the face, back, and blade roughly fashioned (see Fig. 4, Plate II). This item is 10 in. long, and needs only the bruising process to be carried out for the purpose of reducing the asperities of the surfaces and preparing the tool for the grinder. In order, however, to make it a perfectly symmetrical form, it would have to be considerably reduced in width, inasmuch as the heavy chipping on both sides has been carried in too far, possibly by unskilful striking or, as seems probable, by natural lines of cleavage trending inwards. Hence, in order to ensure straight flat surfaces on the sides the tool must be resolved into a long narrow form, unless the length also was much reduced. This illustrates one of the troubles that afflicted the maker of stone implements—viz., the spoiling of a tool after much time had been spent in partially reducing it to form. It is quite possible that the specimen under discussion had been rejected by the maker on account of the flaws in its sides. Weight, 3 lb. The stone is aphanite.

Another step in advance is illustrated by a small adze (see Fig. 5, Plate II), 8¼ in. long, 2½ in. wide at the cutting-edge, and 1 in. at the poll, while its thickness is 1 in. at the shoulder and ¾ in. at the poll. This implement is chipped into excellent form for grinding, and that process had just been commenced on one of its sides when the work was abandoned. The slight bevel on the face of the blade is a good specimen of the stone-chipping art, but an unlucky blow has chipped the back of the blade so deeply that the hollow formed thereby is too deep to grind out, or, if it was so ground, then the blade would be too thin for any other material than metal. The bevel needs rechipping ere it be ground. Weight, 1½ lb. Material, aphanite.

Three or four other specimens before us have met with no mishap whatever, and are quite ready for bruising and grinding, of which however, they show no sign. One of these is 13 in. long, and is somewhat peculiar in form, being concave longitudinally on the back, and also on the face from the cutting-edge for about two-thirds of its length (see Fig. 6, Plate II). The blade expands at the cutting-edge in a most unusual manner, being 3¾ in. wide at that point, and but 2⅝ in. across the shoulder, and 2 in. at the butt end. It is probable, however, that all these eccentricities of form would be much reduced in the process of grinding. The thickness of this tool is 1¾ in. at the shoulder and 1¼ in. at the butt end. The weight is 5 lb. The stone is aphanite.

The other rough-chipped forms are of the ordinary shape, and quite ready for the bruising and grinding processes, being remarkably page 231well and evenly chipped. One has such straight, even sharply rectangular, edges that it can only have been produced by a past master in the art of stone-chipping; while the blade is most symmetrical, the cutting-edge is straight and true. Its weight is 3½ lb. The stone is aphanite (see Fig. 7, Plate III). This latter and another specimen seem to be partially bruised, the process having just been commenced. Length, 11 in.; width, 3¼ in. to 2 in.; thickness in middle,1⅝ in.

There is much evidence extant to support the belief that many stone implements were made from water-carried and water-worn stones, and that the old-time Maori was ever on the look-out for float pieces of desirable form and material. In like manner he often came across, and carried home, water-worn stones suitable for oven-stones, and as fenders, or lining for the small fire-places used in native huts, and other purposes.

A very large specimen of this unfinished type is one that was found at Sand on, Manawatu (see Fig. 8, Plate IV). It has been well chipped into form, but no part of it has been ground. The chipping to form the cutting-edge is worthy of note as an illustration of how well neolithic man performed this work, and how much time and labour he saved the grinder by his skill. This specimen is 15¾ in. long, 4 in. across the cutting-edge, and decreases gradually in width back to the poll, where it is 1¾ in. wide. The weight of this tool is 7½ lb., one of the heaviest in the Museum. At its ridged shoulder it is 2 in. thick, but only 1¾ in. close behind that ridge, whence it decreases in thickness back to the butt end, where it is 1¼ in. The face is flat and straight, both transversely and longitudinally, save for a slight falling-away near the cutting-edge and poll, to the extent of about i in. at the former end. This flat aspect would doubtless be altered by grinding. The back is somewhat concave longitudinally. The sides are straight longitudinally, and slope inwards from the face so as to narrow the back of the tool, which for some distance is ½ in. narrower than the face. The huge blade, as big as that of many steel axes, is 4¾ in. long, and the shoulder thereof is supplemented by a transverse ridge, as described in some other specimens. The angle of inclination of the blade is about 30°, but it is pretty certain that this would be increased near the cutting-edge by grinding, otherwise the edge would not stand. The stone is aphanite. Franklyn Flat.

Before proceeding with a description of partially ground forms of stone adzes we will note a few of the water-worn stones that, closely resembling adzes in shape, have been selected and, in some cases, partly ground for use as such. One such stone is a natural form of aphanite 13 in. long, apparently water-worn and closely resembling page 232a stone adze in shape (see fig. 9, Plate III). It seems to have been chipped in places in order to prepare it for grinding, but the edge is not formed, and no grinding has been done. Weight, 7½ lb.

Another specimen is more advanced as a cutting-tool on account of having been ground to a cutting-edge at one end. It is apparently a piece of float serpentine of an asbestos-like appearance. Nothing seems to have been done to it save to grind one end to a cutting-edge, which, however, has been ruined by having two large pieces broken off it. Such crude unworked forms, but with a ground cutting-edge, are extremely rare in New Zealand, though apparently common in Australia.

Two other specimens are simply water-worn stones that have been ground at one end in order to form a cutting-edge, but are otherwise as nature formed them. Another seems to be a water-worn stone, one end of which has been chipped to an edge, but not ground (see Fig. 10, Plate XXVII). This item is 4¾ in. long, and weighs 6 oz. Width across cutting-edge, 1¾ in.; across middle, 2 in.; across rounded poll, 1¼ in. Thickness in middle, ⅞ in. Sides much rounded. A cross-section would be almost oval, though the face is somewhat flattened. It has every appearance of being a water-worn form, save where the unground cutting-edge has been fashioned by chipping. The material is sandstone, almost pure quartz.

The next stage in our progress toward the finished stone adze is the half-ground form. In some of these unfinished forms the blade only is ground smooth, or, in a few cases, but one facet of the blade. A small adze before us is an illustration of this partially ground state (see Fig. 11, Plate XXVII). It is 4⅝ in. long, 2½ in. wide at the cutting-edge, and 1⅛ in. at the poll, thus showing a rapid expansion toward the cutting-edge for a Maori form, albeit this width at the edge would certainly be reduced by the grinding of the sides, which has not been begun. A cross-section of this tool would show as an elongated oval. The blade and face have been partly ground, but hollows caused by chipping not ground out. The cutting-edge is at right angles to the axis of the tool, but is curved otherwise as a shallow gouge. The actual cutting-edge is ground throughout, is keen and flawless. Weight, 6 oz. The material is aphanite, with crystals of hornblende.

Another unfinished form is in a similar condition. The blade has been ground to a smooth finish, as also has half the face, and the sides have been ground at the blade end only (see Fig. 12, Plate VI). The tool is 7½ in. long, 2⅝ in. wide at the cutting-edge, and of the same width to within 2½ in. of the poll, where it narrows to page 2332 in. The face is convex longitudinally, and to a very marked extent transversely. The axial line of the back is straight from poll to bevel shoulder. Weight, 1¼ lb. The stone is aphanite.

In both the above specimens the blocks have been chipped, not into rudely rectangular forms, but into four-sided figures, a cross-section of which would appear as of a somewhat elongated diamond-shape. This form was evidently a premeditated one, to judge from the manner in which chips have been struck off the edges, and it is probable that this form was used for light work. The thickness of the middle gave the tool sufficient strength, while the working-down of the thick sides to thin edges much lessened the weight of the tool. There are other specimens of this shape in the Museum collection. Both the above specimens have curved cutting-edges, as though intended for shallow, wide gouges, and both are made of slate. The result of this peculiar form is a very light tool of "turtle-back" form, with a triangular facet on the lower end of the back to form the cutting-edge.

Another unfinished specimen is of a thick-bladed form. It is 8 in. long, 3 in. wide across the cutting-edge, and 2 in. at the poll. Its thickness is 1½ in. at the shoulder, and the blade is short and thick, the angle of inclination of the bevel with the face being about 60° near the cutting-edge and 50° higher up the blade. Weight, 2½ lb. This tool has been ground, but is not finished, many of the hollows cause by chipping not being ground out. The back is longitudinally concave and the face convex. The butt end has a tang-like appearance, caused by the chipping-away of the butt end of the face, presumably to accommodate the lashing. The thickness of the tool and its blade make it suitable for heavy work, though the cutting qualities of the straight edge may well be doubted.

Another specimen in a similar state of finish is 9¼ in. long, and 2¼ in. across the cutting-edge, markedly convex on the face, and with a much longer blade, the cutting-edge of which is gouge-like in curvature. The angle of the blade averages 35°. The chipping-away of the face of the butt end gives a peculiar tang-like appearance to that part, and, in conjunction with the concavity of the back, gives the adze a strong resemblance to a form common in the Hawaiian Islands. Weight, 2 lb.

In Fig. 13, Plate XXIX, we note another item resembling a common Hawaiian form. Compare it with Nos. 3122, 3136, &c., in Brigham's Monograph. This tool, though unfinished and yet unfit for use, is practically ready for the grinder. No better illustration exists of the fine symmetrical form attained under the processes of flaking (or chipping) and bruising, without any grinding what-page 234ever. The tool could be utilized as an adze if only the lower part of the blade were ground. The face, back, and sides have acquired perfect form without resort being made to grinding. Apparently the stone has been reduced to form by flaking and chipping in the first place, after which the surface has been bruised or battered rather than pecked, until it presents a remarkably even aspect. Even the ordinary slight transverse convexity is in evidence, which shows that such a form was not, in some cases at least, produced by the grinder. This remarkable symmetry of form and even surface, produced without recourse to grinding, make this item one of the most interesting ones in the Museum. The blade-bevel and a portion of the butt end have not yet been bruised to an even surface, and show the rough surface left by the flaking and chipping process. The length of Fig. 13 is 12½ in.; width across cutting-edge, 4¼ in. (to be reduced by grinding), whence it narrows back to 2¾ in. across the poll. Thickness at shoulder 1¼ in., in middle 1⅜ in., at poll 1 in. Weight, 5¼ lb. Material, very fine-grained black aphanite. The angular tang and remarkable longitudinal concavity of the back of the implement remind the observer of a well-known Hawaiian form. This item is in the Buller donation to the Museum.

Some of these rough and partly finished specimens were possibly rejected by the makers thereof. In other cases the manufacture of such may have been discontinued owing to the introduction of steel tools.

In some cases the rough blocks of stone have been reduced to form by flaking when the material lent itself to that process, but the method mostly employed has been chipping—at least, in the latter stage of manufacture. Small sharp-edged chips have been struck off with a stone pick.

Some of the adzes showing an oval cross-section have probably derived their shape from the water-worn stones from which they were made. This seems to be shown in the case of several such stones with oval section that had a blade partly formed by grinding when the tools were discarded or lost. Again, some of the rough pieces having a triangular transverse section are too small to be reduced to a rectangular form, and if worked up would assuredly have been fashioned into adzes to be used for light work.

It is also apparent that the Maori stone-workers of yore diligently searched the river-beds and sea-beaches for blocks of stone of a desirable hardness and texture wherefrom to fashion adzes and other forms. In some cases such stones have been found of a shape so near that of a finished adze that, after the tool was given the page 235desired form, original water-worn surfaces are detected on the face and back thereof, and sometimes also on the sides.

There are a number of unfinished nephrite tools in the Museum collection. Some of these are half-ground or otherwise incomplete adzes, and some are rough pieces of stone whereon a cutting-edge has been ground at one end. It is quite possible that some of these were never intended to be finished. A few are such rough faulty stones that no amount of grinding would render them sightly tools, but that fact did not interfere with their usefulness in many cases. One such tool is a very rough piece of fissured nephrite, like milky quartz in appearance. It is thick on one side and thin on the other. The fissures and hollows could not be ground out without making the stone too thin to be of any use; hence the maker has contented himself with grinding the blade and the prominent part of the face, the sides, back, and poll being left rough, fissured, and jagged. It is an ugly tool, but probably just as useful as a shapely and highly finished one. It is 6 in. long, and weighs 6 oz. Average width, about 1¾ in. Cutting-edge rounded, and carrying an angle of about 30°.

Another of these crude forms is simply a piece of light-coloured nephrite, of a triangular form, on one end of which a cutting-edge has been ground (see Fig. 14, Plate VI). This cutting-edge is the oblique base of the acute-angled triangle which the stone represents, and its two sides run out to a point at the poll of the tool. The obliquity of the cutting-edge, which is considerable, is apparently the result of the shape of the piece when broken from the boulder. The back of this crude tool has been ground smooth, but the face is only partially ground. Its roughly fractured sides impart to this implement a very unfinished and rugged appearance, which is not improved by the extreme obliquity of the cutting-edge. Its longest side measures 5¼ in., the shorter one 4¼ in. The somewhat curved cutting-edge is 2¼ in. across. Weight, 5 oz. Angle of inclination of blade, about 40°.

There are other specimens of rough unfinished nephrite adzes of divers sizes in the Museum collection, but the above will serve as illustrations. Some are small adze-like tools, 1½ in. to 4 in. in length, some of which are half-ground, while others are little more than chips or rough pieces with a cutting-edge ground on one end.