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The Stone Implements of the Maori


We give below a brief description of the more common forms of stone adzes met with in New Zealand. Not that what we term "normal" or common forms are of the same shape or size, for they differ considerably in size, weight, contour, form of blade, shape of page 236poll, faces, and sides; still, such items are numerous, and represent the forms that are found in the greatest number.

We commence with one of the big, heavy adzes, such as were used for dubbing down heavy timbers, roughing out canoes, &c. (see Fig. 15, Plate III). This specimen is 12½ in. long, 3¼ in. wide on the cutting-edge, from which point it narrows back to 1¾ in. at the poll. Its thickest part, at the shoulder, is 1⅞ in., and it is 1⅝ in. at 4½ in. from the poll, from which place the face and sides have been chipped down in order to give a good grip to the lashing. The blade is 4⅛ in. long, and has a prominent shoulder. Though the angle of the blade-bevel is somewhat low, averaging 30°, except near the cutting-edge, where it is nearer 50°, yet the great thickness of the tool at the shoulder gives it strength. The width across the shoulder is 2¾ in., and across the face opposite the shoulder it is nearly 3½ in., showing that there is a marked slope inwards of the sides. This specimen weighs 4 lb. 14 oz., and has been entirely ground, except at the butt end. The stone is a fine black aphanite.

A large broad-bladed adze of grey stone in the Otago University Museum is 17¼ in. long, 4¾ in. wide across the cutting-edge, from which part it narrows back to 2½ in. at the butt end, the poll being somewhat irregularly rounded (see Fig. 15a, Plate XXX, which is from a cast in the Dominion Museum). At its thickest part this tool is about 2¼ in. It has been ground, but not so as to efface all fracture-marks. Near the butt the back shows a hollow, as though the implement had been made from a float piece of stone, water-worn on its faces. The sides are rounded, but the transverse convexity of face and back is not pronounced. The form of blade is truly adze-like, and no marked shoulder exists, the falling-away of the back to form the blade being unusually short. This implement would be used for heavy dubbing-work.

In Fig. 15b, Plates XXII and XXIII, we have a fine example of the Maori stone adze of the large type. This item is in the Buller Collection, and is 13½ in. long, 3½ in. wide across the cutting-edge, then narrowing back to 1½ in. across the poll. Thickness, 1⅝ in. at the shoulder, and practically the same to within 3 in. of the poll. Weight, 5¼ lb. The back of this tool is about ½ in. narrower than the face, a peculiarity noted in a goodly number of the well-finished class of* stone adzes, and which adds much to the symmetrical appearance of the implement. The face is slightly convex transversely, and markedly so longitudinally. The back is somewhat concave lengthwise, and the sides straight. The blade 3¼ in. long from cutting-edge to the well-rounded shoulder, and carries an angle of 50° near the cutting-edge, easing to 40° or somewhat less on the upper part of page 237the blade. The back of the blade is slightly convex transversely, and, as is usual, the sides are convex in a like direction. Cutting-edge keen and almost flawless. This implement is well finished, ground and worked to a smooth polished surface on all parts exposed when hafted. The light-grey colour of the stone and its polished surface render this item a very attractive one. Material, a greenish-white aphanite, with white inclusions.

Fig. 15c, Plate XXIII, presents one of the best type of Maori stone adzes, being of symmetrical form and superb finish, all surfaces, except the butt end which would be covered by the lashing, being ground smooth and carrying a fine polish. The slightly convex surfaces of back, face, and sides, the sweep of the "timber spring," sloping sides, the longitudinal convexity and transverse concavity of the blade-bevel, the incurved shoulder-line, slightly curved cutting-edge, and finely polished surfaces, all tend to place this type at the top level of the Maori art of stone-working. This implement is 11¼ in. long, 3⅜ in. wide across the cutting-edge, and 2 in. across the poll. Thickness, 1¾ in. back of shoulder, but less at the butt end, where the face has been dressed down to accommodate the lashing, leaving two small knobs at the corners of the poll. The blade-bevel is slightly over 50° near the cutting-edge, but, as usual, declines higher up the blade, where increased thickness imparts additional strength. Weight, 5 lb. Material, black aphanite. Franklyn Flat.

A large type is represented by a huge adze of black aphanite, 15½ in. long, and weighing 7¼ lb. (see Fig. 16, Plate IV). It is 3¾ in. wide across the cutting-edge, whence it decreases gradually in width to 2 in. at the butt end. The heavy rounded shoulder is 2¼ in. thick, from which the thickness decreases to 1⅜ in. at the butt end. The face, instead of being regularly convex longitudinally, as is common, has a curious hollow in the middle, albeit a slight one. The face, however, falls away rapidly at the butt end, and has the usual bevel toward the cutting-edge, though a somewhat light one for so large a tool. The back is concave longitudinally, and both it and the back of the blade are still unground. It is assuredly an unfinished form. The sides are straight longitudinally and flat transversely. The angle of inclination of the blade is about 35°, but doubtless in grinding this would be increased near the cutting-edge.

In the Buller Collection is an abnormally huge adze that was found among the sandhills at Horowhenua, near Ohau. This item is even larger than the famed Awhio-rangi, and it is difficult to imagine what it was used for. This tool is 22/12; in. long, 4/316; in. wide across the cutting-edge, 4⅛ in. across the shoulder, and 2½ in. across the poll. Thickness at shoulder 1¾ in., at poll ⅝ in., and 1½ in. at a page 238point half-way between the poll and shoulder. Weight, 11¾ lb. (see Plate XLIV). This colossal tool is essentially an adze, fashioned and finished in the orthodox manner, but it must have been a very clumsy tool to use on account of its great weight. For the same reason the handle must have been a large one with a long foot, or the operator would have no control over the tool. In comparison with its great length, this implement is thin in blade and body, the former carrying a very low angle of inclination. The face of the tool is slightly bevelled for about 1½ in. at the blade end, to form the cutting-edge, and is then straight and level longitudinally for 1 ft., after which it falls away rapidly to the poll. Transversely it shows the usual convexity, but not to any marked extent. The back, from shoulder to poll, is concave longitudinally to an unusual extent, and somewhat convex transversely. All longitudinally edges are sharply defined. The sides are straight and flat longitudinally, and slightly convex transversely. In width the adze narrows evenly backward from cutting-edge to poll. The butt end has been reduced on the face for the lashing, and for that length has not been ground, but the chipped surfaces have been levelled by bruising. On the face of the butt end the bruising has been extremely well executed. The blade is 6¼ in. long from cutting-edge to shoulder, showing the usual longitudinal convexity, but a remarkable concavity transversely. This latter feature extends right up to the prominent shoulder, and imparts to it the curve noted in some other specimens. The longitudinal edges of the blade are square and sharply defined. The blade is abnormally thin, showing an angle of about 30° near the cutting-edge and 15° on the upper part. The cutting-edge is thus unusually thin, and carries a very keen edge. It is practically flawless, and we believe that if suitably hafted a powerful man could hew a clean face on a bulk of timber with this implement. The back of this implement is about ¼ in. narrower than the face, and the whole tool is remarkably symmetrical and well finished. All surfaces save those covered by lashing are ground smooth, and have apparently been burnished in order to remove striæ caused by grinding. This specimen shows signs of having been chipped into form, then hammered or bruised, and then ground. The longitudinal concavity of the back appears to have been intentional, as it probably was in other specimens of a similar form. The material is black aphanite. Franklyn Flat.

In his monograph on Hawaiian stone implements, Mr. Brigham depicts a huge stone adze, 21½ in. in length, that was found wrapped up in a walled-up cave. It appears to be rough-chipped, save the blade, which appears to have been ground. It weighs 9¼ lb.

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A very fine specimen of a Maori stone adze was discovered recently by Mr. R. Bredow, lying on the face of a slip on his property at Douglas (Stratford district). The adze, which, except for a small gap in the cutting-edge, is in a perfect state of preservation, measures 16 in. in length, and is 4 in. wide. Mr. Bredow presented this fine specimen to the Dominion Museum. Prior to coming across this interesting curio, Mr. Bredow had never seen a stone of any description on his Douglas property.

Our next example is one of the finest and best-finished adzes in the Museum (see Fig. 17, Plate IV). It is 14½ in. long, and weighs 5¾ lb.; hence it is considerably over the average size and weight. It is 3½ in. wide across the cutting-edge, and thence narrows back to 2½ in. at the butt end. Thickness, 1⅝ in. at the shoulder, 1 9/16 in. at 2 in. back from the shoulder, and holding the same thickness to within 5½ in. of the poll, from which point the face falls away to a thin poll of ⅝ in. The longitudinal convexity is very slight. The back is flat for 8½ in. from the poll, when it begins to rise to a prominent raised shoulder. The sides slope inwards, which cause the back to be considerably narrower than the face, the difference in width being ¾ in. for a considerable part of the length of the tool, though, as usual in specimens of this type, the difference decreases toward the poll. The sides are straight longitudinally, and slightly curved transversely. The blade is large, 3⅛ in. long, and of the usual form, being convex both ways. The angle of inclination of the blade is 32° in its upper part and nearly 50° near the cutting-edge. This tool is most symmetrical in form, and is well ground and polished. The stone is siliceous mudstone. Source not known.

Probably the most beautiful specimen of the stone adze-maker's art in the Museum is one of remarkably fine black aphanite (see Fig. 18, Plate V), which is 7½ in. long, 2¼ in. wide across the cutting-edge, and narrowing back to 1⅜ in. at the poll. The face is almost flat transversely, and is also flat longitudinally to within 1½ in. of the cutting-edge, whence it is bevelled slightly. The back is flat longitudinally for 3 in. from the poll, and then rises gradually to a prominent transverse ridge on the shoulder. Thus, from the top of the shoulder-ridge the back shows a fine concave sweep back to the poll, and it is very slightly convex laterally. The sides are straight longitudinally, and but very slightly convex transversely. They slope inwards from the face, so as to make the back ¼ in. narrower than the face. The blade is 2½ in. long and 1 13/16 in. wide across the top—that is, at the shoulder. It has the peculiarity of being concave transversely to within ¼ in. of the cutting-edge. Its angle of page 240inclination is 30° in its upper part and about 45° near the cutting-edge. The prominent shoulder-ridge is curved, with the crown thereof toward the poll. Weight, 1¼ lb. This specimen resembles closely in form and finish the last one described, though much smaller. It is beautifully formed, ground, and polished, and looks like a piece of polished black metal. The face and edges have been chipped down for 2½ in. from the poll, to accommodate the lashing. The only blemish on this tool is a gap in the cutting-edge.

The longitudinal edges of the last two items are sharply defined.

The peculiarity of a prominent transverse ridge on the shoulder is almost confined to thick and medium forms, being very seldom seen on a thin adze. We note one specimen 10 in. long, and but 1 in. thick, that has a semicircular transverse ridge on the shoulder-line. The sweep of the blade is continued unbroken to the top of the ridge, which might perhaps be better described as a shoulder than as a supplementary ridge.