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The Stone Implements of the Maori

XI. Concluding Remarks

page 322

XI. Concluding Remarks

It is unfortunate that the Museum possesses no good collection of stone adzes from the isles of Polynesia with which our local forms might be compared. A few Chatham Island forms are illustrated in the first volume of the "Journal of the Polynesian Society." One is a common New Zealand type, the other expands to an unusual degree towards the cutting-edge. Another is a chisel of cylindrical form, but the absence of any side view of these types much impairs the value of the illustrations. It is, we hold, quite impossible to give any clear idea of the shape and appearance of these stone implements unless three views—face, side, and sectional—are given.

The Hawaiian stone adzes do not appear, as a rule, to be so well finished as New Zealand specimens, nor are they closely allied in form, the angular tang of the former being quite a common occurrence, but rare in our local specimens. Also, in many Hawaiian specimens the sides appear to be parallel. The largest Hawaiian stone adze described by Mr. Brigham in his fine monograph is 16 in. in length, save one, which is 21 in., a huge specimen.

In "Man," vol. i, page 134, is depicted a stone celt from Tonga, showing a wide thin implement with a double-bevelled blade and much-curved cutting-edge. The widest part is situated at about a quarter of the length back from the cutting-edge, and the tool appears to be well ground. Its length is 9½ in., and greatest width 3⅜ in. "It is made of an olive-green stone full of grey longitudinal veins. One is struck at once by its departure from the usual shape of Tongan celts (which are wedge-shaped, angular, and roughly made), as well as by the stone itself, which is of a kind not found in Tonga. It was obvious that it has been brought from another island, but all that Fatafehi could tell me about it was that it had been handed down for many generations as an heirloom in his family. On my return to England I showed it to Sir William MacGregor, who declared that without a shadow of doubt it had come from Woodlark Island, at the north-east end of New Guinea, where he had himself discovered the quarry from which alone this peculiar veined stone is obtained. It has, moreover, the shape and finish of the New Guinea celt. We have, therefore, the problem of a New Guinea implement in the possession of the Tongans." The description is by Basil Thompson. The implement appears to be well ground over the whole of its surface, with the possible exception of the poll.

The New Zealand stone adzes are scarcely comparable to British forms, because the latter are axes, not adzes. The three most noticeable things in British specimens are: (1) The tapering butt end; page 323(2) the ovoid cross-section; (3) the equal bevels on both faces—that is, the axe-like form of the blade. The tapering butt end is explained by the style of hafting—viz., by insertion in a hole in the handle—and the oval section by the fact that they are axes, not adzes. The rectangular form is rare in Great Britain. New Zealand adzes usually show a rounded poll, the British ones are more pointed.

In like manner, we can hardly compare our stone adzes with the implements of the Australian natives, which were axes, and of a crude form and finish, to judge from illustrations in divers journals.

American forms seem also to have been axes, not adzes, and helved as such. They are wide in proportion to their length. Mr. Abbott says that the maximum size of these stone axes in the United States is 12 in. long and 6 in. to 8 in. wide, but that these big ones are rare. The smallest are about 2¾ in. long. These are axes, grooved for hafting as such with withy handles, as done by the Australians. There is, however, a haematite celt only 1 in. long in the collection of the United States Ethnological Bureau. Some fine forms of celts are seen in United States collections; others are rough. The grooved axes seem rather clumsy-looking. The celts of the eastern States are of different shapes, showing rectangular, rounded, and elliptical sections. Some are thin, and others thick. Mr. C. C. Abbott, in his "Primitive Industry," says that most of the stone celts found in that region are ground smooth at and near the cutting-edge only, although some are ground and polished all over. Hickory withes were twisted round the grooved axes as handles. In his "Stone Age in New Jersey" the same writer says that the stone axes are usually from 6 lb. to 10 lb. in weight, but that some are as heavy as 14 lb., while the average weight of an ordinary iron axe of to-day is 6 lb. This last statement is certainly incorrect; a steel axe weighing 6 lb. is rarely seen or used. The Atlantic slope must have produced some stalwart men in pre-Columbian times if they used 14 lb. axes. The ordinary New Zealand forms do not seem to be known in the above region, but the Indians made axes, not adzes. A stone adze weighing 7 lb. is a very heavy one, and such are seldom seen.

In a French work entitled "Les Polynesiens Orientaux au Contact de la Civilization," Paris, 1909, we note some illustrations of stone adzes of the Society and Marquesan Groups, though but one view (usually a side view) is given of each item. Three hafted stone adzes of Tubuai are shown. In these specimens we note that the end of a straight handle has been butted against the middle of the stone tool, and there secured by lashing; at least it appears so, to judge from the illustrations. Hence the poll of the adze projects out from the handle, and the helved implement is in the form of T, the adzebeing page 324almost at right angles to the shaft. There is no sign of any foot to the handles, save in one case, and that one is doubtful. The blades of these tools are of adze-form, though one is thick, and shows the greatest bevel on the face, a singular occurrence. Possibly it was lashed on by some tyro in the art of adze-helving.

Plates LXXVI to LXXXII in the above work show forty-seven different stone adzes, of divers forms, from the isles of the Society and Marquesas Groups. Most of the items show a considerable amount of chipping down toward the butt end in order to accommodate the lashing. In some cases the angular tang of Hawaiian forms appears. In so far as one can judge from the one-view illustrations the adzes shown are not so rectangular as New Zealand forms. A number appear to be triangular in cross-section. In thickness there is much variation. Figs. 16 and 18 are of a great thickness, and clumsy appearance, showing remarkably thick blades. Some appear to have been ground over all surfaces except the poll, others are half-ground. A few seem to have been ground on the blade only. Face views (only) are given of two adzes of "green jade" from Aitutaki, which are said to resemble those of New Zealand. The material may or may not resemble New Zealand nephrite; but in form the tools do not resemble our Maori implements, one being oval in outline, and the other does not agree with our adzes in outline. These tools have been ground, but fracture-surfaces are visible in several parts, betokening incomplete grinding.

Photograph of grinding tool