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Samoan Material Culture

Worked Stone

page 330

Worked Stone

Inquiries about quarries elicited no results except in Tutuila, where we were taken to a stone quarry called Tatanga-matau on the spur of a range at the back of Leone. On the upward climb, a pigeon fowling terrace (tia) was passed. Before reaching the actual quarry, the hillside was found covered with chipped stones and large flakes. In spite of the large quantity of flakes very few discarded adzes were found. In many places there were heaps of finer chips showing where trimming had occurred. Further up the hill, on either side of the main ridge, large pits had been excavated. On the northerly side were a large, deep circular pit and a smaller four-sided one. On the southerly side, a deep, wide trench ran for a short distance in the line of the ridge and then turning at right angles ran out on the hill slope. In all the pits, the earth had worked down the sides and there was no clean-cut face of rock visible. The rock could, however, be made out on clearing away the earth and it was visible here and there in the side of the deep trench. The overgrowth and tumbled earth was too great to clear away in the time available.

On the middle of the ridge between the pits, there was a large accumulation of fine chips, much finer than those on the lower slope of the hill. The accumulation was in two distinct areas of several feet in extent and some depth.

Breaking the stone (foa). The stone or rock obtained from the quarry was broken (foa) by striking it with another rock. The pieces were then selected for chipping into shape. It would seem that the Samoan accepted the pieces that the rock broke into and over the shape of which he did not have much control. The adzes were shaped to suit the sizes of the pieces and the variations in thickness in the same general type of adz may have been largely influenced by the nature of the pieces into which the stone broke. Though a piece might be thinner than usual, it was a pity to waste a good piece of stone and a thin adz resulted.

Chipping (tanga). The verb ta means to strike, usually with something. The pieces of stone were struck with a hammer stone to remove chips and so shape the stone into a matau.

Grinding (olonga). The grinding of the chipped matau had to be undertaken where water was available. The term olo means to grind and olonga the grinding. It is only after the matau which was shaped by chipping, has had the cutting edge ground that it receives the name of to'i, the general terra for a completed adz. I say, "after the cutting edge," advisedly, because the large number of adzes in the Bishop Museum collection showing various stages of grinding show that the bevel surface which finished off the cutting edge is the last part to be ground. Places where adzes were ground are page 331situated by streams or the seashore. The place where the track from the Tatanga-matau quarry strikes the stream in the valley below is called Olongatoi (grinding of adzes) for it was here that many of the matau from the chipping workshop above were ground. Large stones with a wide surface, standing in the stream, were used as grindstones. The chipped adzes were dipped every now and again in the stream and rubbed (olo) back and forth on the surface of the basaltic grindstones. In course of time circular hollows were formed which served the purpose better as water could be poured into the concavity and the adz and grinding surface kept wet. Some stones contain more than one grinding facet. Evidently, a deep concavity was not so good for grinding for some of the flattish stones have been turned over and grinding facets produced on them. Too sharp a concavity evidently interferes with the length of the rubbing stroke. Hence when a facet wore too deep, another was started. It would seem from the fine nature of the chips that the adz makers had shaped many of their adzes on the ground before taking them elsewhere for grinding. Judging from the quantity of chips an immense number of adzes must have been made on the spot, no doubt extending over a considerable period of time. The quarry was well known to the older men who stated that people came from all parts of Tutuila to obtain stone adzes gat Tatanga-matau. The term used to denote an adz that has been shaped by chipping but not ground is matau, whilst ta is to chip. The name of the quarry is, therefore, the "chipping of stone adzes." Among, the fine chippings only one poor discarded adz was found. Diligent search discovered only two round stones that could have been used as hammer stones.

Working the stone. The attempt to obtain details as to how the stone was worked proved hopeless. Whether or not fire was used to split the stone was unknown. As stated, there was no distinct face of rock apparent in the quarry. In the larger circular pit, it seemed as if the stone had been in detached lumps that were dug out.

Samoan stone adzes show that two distinct processes were used in shaping the stone; chipping, and grinding. Before the stone was chipped, it had to be broken into suitably sized pieces. On a very large stone in the stream near Nua, Tutuila, there are 13 circular grinding depressions. It is not conceivable that 13 men were all engaged in grinding at the same time, but rather, that a fresh place was used as the others became unsuitable. On a large stone taken from the monumental tia of the Tuitele family at Leone, there are four grinding facets on one surface, and three on the other. At Ngataivai in Savaii, a very large stone with many grinding facets was seen protruding up out of the stream. At Olongo-toi, there were originally many of these grindstones but the lighter ones were carried down to the village of Leone to serve as kava mortars. Others are used near the modern water taps as stone washbasins. The name olonga refers to the grinding process page 332and the grindstone itself is called foanga. A historical grinding stone near Fitiuta (about 37 inches long and 17.5 inches at its widest part) is called Le Foanga-o-Lae. All these grindstones consist of waterworn boulders of basalt.

Another type of grindstone is provided by the flat lava formation seen in some parts on the seashore. At Leone, near Ripley's house, a large number of these circular depressions on the flat lava of the shore stretch along the water side for many yards and though small holes break the even surface, the smooth parts worn by the constant grinding have quite a polished appearance. Near Vailoa, similar depressions on the shore were noted. Here the sea supplies the necessary water. The large number near Ripley's house shows that many of the adzes were finished off at home, because a suitable grinding material was available. The shore must have been a regular workshop for finishing off the adzes. This again is borne out by the large quantity of stone adzes in various stages that were picked up on the gravelled terrace of Ripley's long house. The grinding of adzes as an indication that industry was recognized as a desirable qualification is shown by the historical remark of Tangaloa to Pava when he saw Le Foanga sharpening his adz, "E lē o Tangaloa po'o Pava 'ae 'o Le Foanga" (Not Tangaloa or Pava but Le Foanga).

The above were the processes observable in Samoan adzes. Grinding as we shall see was limited to parts of the adz and rarely were all surfaces ground. The constant parts ground were the anterior and the bevel surfaces, and the parts of the lateral surfaces to trim off any sharp edges left by the chipping. In spite of the number of grindstones, the impression left by a study of large numbers of Samoan adzes is that the craftsmen did as little grinding as they could.

Besides foanga grinding stones, the Samoans referred to ma'a fa'amata to'i (stones for putting an edge on adzes). Whether this was merely a functional name for the foanga or another type of sharpener could not be ascertained. It is improbable that hones were used. Ground stones from Savaii were reported on by Dr. Gregory as being of fine basalt which have weathered since they were shaped. They were probably rubbing stones for smoothing off surfaces.