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Samoan Material Culture



Stone structures. In Samoa, the marked feature in stonework is the absence of stone religious structures corresponding to the marae of the east central area and the heiau of Hawaii. The lack of remains of such structures may indicate that the marae type of religious structure came east by a more northerly route that missed Samoa, west from America, or was locally developed in the east central area. The absence of cut stone in Samoa is listed by Linton but he makes an exception of the stone posts of the stone house known as Le Fale-o-le-Fee. Attention has already been drawn to the fact that the stone wall posts consist of natural basaltic prisms that the hand of man took no share in shaping. Connected with the negative condition in Samoa is the absence of stone figures of human form, which are a feature of eastern Polynesia.

Stone adzes. The lack of applied effort in working stone is reflected in the technique of the Samoan adzes. The commonest types are the least carefully worked in the Polynesian area. The chipping is coarse and there are no evident signs of bruising or pecking in the finished adzes. Grinding in the common types is reduced to a practical minimum. Though Hawaiian adzes also show the minimum of grinding as compared with other eastern localities, the chipping technique is perfect as shown by the control of the marked longitudinal curve so characteristic of that locality and the fine regular chipping is in marked contrast to the coarse and somewhat irregular work characteristic of the common Samoan types. Linton's statement (19, p. 451) that complete grinding is unknown in Samoa cannot, however, be upheld as many page 671of the smaller adzes and the larger adzes of Types III, IV, and V are completely ground on all surfaces except the upper surface of the poll.

In cross section, the commonest forms of Samoan adz are quadrangular and not triangular as Linton shows in his list. The usual Samoan technique is therefore comparable with the marginal localities of Hawaii, Marquesas, and New Zealand and not with the central Society Islands where the common type is triangular. Of the marginal localities mentioned, Linton states (19, p. 322) that in the Marquesan quadrangular simple tanged adzes "The width of the inner (posterior) surface is equal to or less than that of the outer (anterior) surface, never greater." In New Zealand quadrangular adzes, the posterior surface is usually less in width than the anterior surface. The Hawaiian adzes are more nearly rectangular as a rule yet a number examined for this feature showed that the posterior surface was less in width than the anterior. There is thus an agreement in the cross section of the quadrangular adzes of the three eastern marginal localities. In the Samoan quadrangular adzes, the marked feature is that the posterior surface is always wider than the anterior except in the rarer form described as Type IV, subtype A. Of the triangular forms, only one specimen was obtained of the reversed triangular form with the wide surface in front that constitutes the common Society Islands type. This adz though well finished by being ground on all surfaces had no trace of the tang which is a characteristic feature of the Society Islands triangular adz.

Another point of marked difference is afforded by the development of the tang. In eastern culture, both central and marginal as listed by Linton (19, p. 451), the specially shaped butt or tanged adz is the dominant form. In Samoa, the tanged adz does not exist. Though Linton lists the tanged adz as "rare" in Samoa, I regard any resemblance to a tang in Samoan adzes as being due to accidental and not purposive technique.