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The Material Culture of the Cook Islands (Aitutaki)

Comparisons with New Zealand

Comparisons with New Zealand.

Weapons. The weapons of Aitutaki are disappointing. Whilst the principle of using both ends was in vogue, the Island weapons were evidently held horizontally. They stabbed to the front and struck to the rear. The Maori double-handed clubs had proceeded to a further stage of evolution. They were held vertically or diagonally, with the striking blade above and the stabbing point below. They are shorter and lighter, and mark an advance in quick footwork and dexterity. The Maori short clubs of wood, bone, and stone also mark an advance in in-fighting, where page 372the object was to avoid the stroke of the longer weapons, fall into a clinch, and upper-cut the opponent with a jab stroke of the front end of the short club. With the great attention paid to the hand-to-hand fighting, the Polynesian sling seems to have been abandoned.

Musical instruments. Our information about Aitutaki flutes and nose flutes is too poor to make comparisons. The Triton shell trumpet was also used by the Maori, but owing to the great development of carving, a carved wooden mouthpiece was attached to the shell. The trumpets were also known as pu. The Island form of wooden gong with a narrow slit, inside which was a much wider hollow, was known. Evidently they were used as alarm gongs, and not for dancing. The Island name for drum, pahu, was used for the gongs, whilst the true Aitutaki pahu drum was unknown.

Personal adornment. As regards ornaments, the Maori, owing to the presence of greenstone, had a much richer variety of ear and neck ornaments. Whalebone was also used to a great extent, especially in the manufacture of ornamental combs. Wreaths became a sign of mourning. Children were severely admonished if they used them in play, as it was regarded as inviting trouble. Necklaces did not figure so prominently as in the Islands.

Tattooing. Maori tattooing motives were much more developed than the simple forms that prevailed in Aitutaki. The face was completely covered with spirals and curves. The thighs and buttocks were also covered with particular designs. Maori women tattooed on the chin and lips, but nothing was known of face tattooing amongst Aitutaki women. Attention has been drawn to the curved lines of the face tattooing of Aitutaki men. Aitutaki tattooing is exceedingly sparse when compared with that of the Marquesas.8

Decorative art. Again material from Aitutaki is too scanty to permit of comparisons.