Arts and Crafts of the Cook Islands
Of the various implements and utensils used in connection with food, the following are widespread and belong to the period of primary settlement:
climbing bandages earth ovens husking sticks fire tongs breadfruit pickers (Y-shaped) coconut-shell cups and containers coconut-leaf baskets gourd water containers carrying poles tripod coconut graters fire ploughs fiber strainers pounders (pestle form)
These utensils were so simple and necessary that there was little room for elaboration or change. Breadfruit pickers, carrying poles, and coconut and gourd containers, however, varied in details.
The simple forked breadfruit picker was retained, but a special picker with an obliquely crossed stick on a pole was used in Samoa (73, fig. 16), and a netted bag was attached to a large fork in the Marquesas and Samoa (73, fig. 70) to prevent ripe breadfruit from smashing on the ground. Carrying poles were notched at the ends to prevent burdens from slipping off; but in Hawaii, the poles had upright knobs, some of them carved to represent human heads. Coconut and gourd water bottles are carried in nets, and in some islands, such as the Marquesas and Hawaii, the nets were elaborate. No old specimens have been recorded from the Cook Islands.
Some articles are shared with the neighboring island groups but are absent in the marginal areas. It is evident, therefore, that they are due to later elaboration, probably in the Society Islands, and were spread by diffusion to the Cook Islands during the period following primary settlement. The articles are:
stool coconut graters pounding tables types of bowls stone food pounders
The rich creamy fluid wrung from grated coconut was used wherever coconuts grew. The simplest technique is to use a marine shell to scrape the flesh out in thin slices. This method was used in Hawaii and was an alternate page 415method in Tongareva. A pearl-shell implement shaped like a shoehorn was used in Mangareva, Manihiki-Rakahanga, and Tongareva. The cracked nut was held on the lap with the left hand while the right hand manipulated the shell grater. A more advanced type of grater was the tripod grater formed from the trunk and two branches of a tree or a large bough with an attached grating element: a piece of coral, a marine shell, or shaped pieces of hard coconut shell. The split half coconut was held over the grating element with both hands and worked so that the pieces of coconut meat fell into a wooden bowl below. The tripod grater was used in the west in Samoa (73, pl. 5, A). It was probably introduced into the Cook Islands in the primary period and displaced later by the four-legged stool grater (fig. 3, a), except in conservative Mangaia which retained the tripod grater (fig. 3, b). The stool grater is present in the Society and Austral Islands which also have the four-legged stool. It is significant that Mangaia, where the tripod form survived, did not have the four-legged stool. Linton (47, p. 352) states that the stool grater was used in the Marquesas, but he does not describe or figure the form of stool. As the four-legged stool was absent in the Marquesas, it is probable that the stool grater diffused from the Society Islands in post-missionary times. Its limited distribution and complex form indicate that the stool grater is of later origin than the simpler tripod form. It probably originated in the Society Islands and spread to the Cook and Austral Islands during the second period. Table 4 sums up the distribution of coconut graters.
|no graters||New Zealand and Easter Island (no coconuts)|
|marine-shell hand grater||Hawaii, Tongareva (alternate)|
|serrated pearl-shell hand graters||Manihiki, Rakahanga, Tongareva, Mangareva|
|tripod grater||Samoa, Tonga, Mangaia, Tuamotu|
|stool grater||Cook, Society, Austral|
There is a possibility that the stool grater spread in the third period; but, as each of the three groups had distinctive forms of the four-legged seats, an earlier diffusion is more likely.
Wooden food bowls used throughout Polynesia vary in shape and in special features such as legs, handles, lids, and carving. Certain affinities exist among bowls from the Cook, Society, and Austral Islands that are not shared by other areas. Hence it would appear that these special features were developed and diffused during the second period. Some confusion exists, however, because bowls from the Cook and Austral Islands were taken to Tahiti in the post-missionary period and were subsequently attributed to the locality in which they were last collected.
The oval or beaker type of bowl occurs in the three localities. Those of the Society Islands are with or without legs, but the legs differ from those of the page 416 Cook Islands bowls in having a vertical edge on the outer side, a feature shared by the four-legged seats of that area. The Austral Islands bowls are longer in proportion to width, have a marked concave curve at the rim between the two ends, and are without legs. Some beaker bowls are grooved at the smaller end for pouring liquids.
Another diagnostic feature is an upward projection on the wider end of the rim. Differences in the treatment of the projection in the three areas are shown in figure 257.
Figure 257.—Rim projection of bowls: a, Cook Islands; projection rectangular in vertical section and full thickness of rim (see exception in figure 4, a), b, Tahiti; projection triangular in vertical section, full thickness of rim at base, and carved with median and lateral lines in manner reminiscent of markings on head of stone pounders (fig. 10, c, d). c, Austral Islands; projection not full thickness of rim, curved at ends, and stepped, d, Austral Islands (Raivavae); projection carved in circles at ends and stepped. 1, from above; 2, vertical section; 3, side view.
The single upward rim projection shows a marked contrast to the two horizontal rim projections in bowls from Manihiki-Rakahanga (75, fig. 19) and Samoa (73, fig. 67). These horizontal projections may be used as handles, and in the Manihiki-Rakahanga bowls, one is grooved for pouring. A round bowl with two horizontal projections was seen in Aitutaki (70, fig. 49) but was probably from Manihiki, as such projections are foreign to Cook Islands technique. A round bowl with an upward projection that was attributed by Edge-Partington to Manihiki (75, fig. 19, c) has since been definitely identified as Mangaian (fig. 5).
Round bowls, common in the Cook Islands, are apparently absent in the Society Islands. Any such bowls in museums attributed to that area must be regarded with suspicion. The only round bowls I have seen from the Australs are two with single, carved handles, one in the British Museum and one in the Fuller collection.page 417
The only carved bowls recorded from the Cook Islands are round ones with four legs and are from Mangaia (fig. 5). Carving was evidently not used as bowl decoration in the Society Islands, but carved bowls from Raivavae in the Australs are numerous. They are easily recognized by their oval form, and many have a long carved handle, concave curved rims, no legs, and carved upward rim projection. Many have been erroneously attributed to Mangaia or, vaguely, to the Hervey Islands.
Food could be carried to and from the earth oven in baskets and the cooked food served on mats, thus diminishing the need for bowls. This was evidently true in Easter Island, from whence no bowls are recorded. On the other hand, when food in a liquid or semi-liquid state was extensively used, the need for bowls increased, as it did in Hawaii where poi was served with every meal.
The pounding tables of the Society and Austral Islands are found nowhere else in Polynesia. Pounding or mashing food was probably done originally in ordinary wooden bowls, a procedure still carried out in some islands such as Samoa and Mangareva. In Hawaii, taro for poi was pounded on a large, shallow, wooden platter without legs or, on the island of Kauai, on a flat stone slab. The massive low table with three or four strong legs, cut out of a single block of wood, is a late development in central Polynesia.
Stone food pounders were used extensively in Polynesia, but a few areas did not use them. Food was never pounded in Easter Island, and no stone pounders are reported from that area (53, p. 162). Taro and sweet potato were not pounded in New Zealand, and though some form of stone pestle termed a tuki is said to have been used for crushing berries, it did not assume distinctive form. The New Zealand stone implements that resemble pounders were used for beating flax fiber (patu muka) to soften it before weaving. The New Zealand implements (paoi) used for beating cooked fern root were made of wood. The lack of stone pounders in Samoa, was puzzling until it was found that the pounding of cooked breadfruit was done with an uncooked breadfruit in which sticks had been inserted for a handle (73, pl. 6, B). In atoll islands, the absence of the taro, sweet potato, yam, and breadfruit made pounding unnecessary.
In the remaining volcanic islands, stone food pounders are a, part of the kitchen equipment. The shape and form of the head differs in each island group. The Cook Islands pounders, with the exception of those from Mangaia, are characterized by their comparatively small pounding surface and accompanying lack of flare in the body and by their resemblance to pestles. The commonest form of head has a mesial ridge with two lateral ridges (fig. 7, d-k). Varieties of this form have been described for Tahiti by Bouge (10, page 418pls. 1, C, 2, A) and Silverthorne (59, p. 11). It is probable that this type of head was introduced from Tahiti by the first settlers and that this original pestle form was retained. The pestle form with four head ridges (fig. 7, n) has not been reported from Tahiti, and this slight addition was probably elaborated locally.
The medium thick type of Mangaian pounder (fig. 9, a) is distinct from the pestle type in the other islands of the group. An almost identical form in basalt from Raivavae (fig. 9, e) in the Australs is intriguing, as it does not seem likely that the type was evolved independently in the two islands. Unfortunately we lack basaltic pounders from the nearer islands of the Austral group. Flared pounders with greatly prolonged lateral projections were made at Maupiti in the Society Islands, but such an elaborate form must have been derived from a simpler early type with less flare and consequently less lateral projection of the head. The Raivavae pounder was probably derived from some such Society Islands form carried to the Australs in early times. From the Australs it may have diffused west to its nearest neighbor, Mangaia, where basalt was abandoned for calcite which was plentiful and easy to work. In Mangaia, the rounded upper curve of the head was trimmed into a flat surface and the lugs became triangular or U-shaped instead of round as in the Raivavae form.
Coral pounders of a type similar to that figured (fig. 10) have been described by Stokes (1, pp. 159-162) for Tubuai, and they occur in the other islands of the Austral group. A variant form has been described for Mangareva (77, p. 221). These pounders are easy to make and are probably of late origin, perhaps even of post-missionary times when lethargy assailed the craftsmen. They possibly originated in the Austral Islands and spread to Tahiti and by the modern trade route to Rarotonga, the port of the Cook Islands and the island most likely to be affected by later outside influences. The distribution of the types of stone pounders shown in figure 258 is given in the following list, which eliminates the small bulbous and the coral pounders.
The large flared pounder, from the standpoint of technique must be a later form than the pestle type. It may have originated in the Marquesas and spread north to Hawaii and south to the Society Islands without reaching the Cook Islands. On the other hand, the Cook Islands—which accepted the four-legged stool, the stool grater, and the pounding table—may have rejected the page 419flared pounder. Flared pounders found in the Cook Islands are discussed under the third period.
Figure 258.—Polynesian stone pounders: pestle form (a-c); medium form (d-e), flared form (f-i). a, Cook Islands, lateral projecting head with three low ridges (Bishop Mus., 6531). b, Mangareva, rounded circular head (Bishop Mus., C7632). c, Society Islands, laterally expanded head with three high ridges (Bouge coll.). d, Mangaia, head with lateral projections, flat upper surface, concave longitudinally; calcite (Bishop Mus., B3489). e, Austral Islands, head similar to d but with upper surface rounded; basalt (Bishop Mus., B4677). f, Society Islands, head projected laterally with two side ridges very high (Bouge coll.). g, Society Islands (Maupiti), head with long, horizontal side projections, upper surface concave longitudinally and convex transversely; lower surface flat (Bouge coll.). h, Marquesas, head forms rounded knob carved with two human heads back to back (Bouge coll.). i, Hawaii, rounded head more pronounced than h; bottom surface markedly convex (Bishop Mus., C1929).
The netted food carrier of Atiu (fig. 2) has not been recorded for the Society and Austral Islands. It appears to be a local invention and even if it were found elsewhere, the reef knot technique is probably unique.
Figure 259.—Tahitian pounders found in Cook Islands: a, Atiu (Otago University Mus., D.34, 399). b, Rarotonga, owned by Makea Ariki. c; Mauke (Otago University Mus., D.34, 559). d, head of type c. Measurements in millimeters.
|Height||Head Width||Neck||Base||Weight (oz.)|
The coral pounders already described were also probably introduced in the third period.
The iron serrated coconut grater was introduced in this period with other metal implements, but they were attached to the native form of stool grater.