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Samoan Material Culture


Native names. The name to'i holds for all types of adzes but qualifying names were given to the different types. The general terms to'i laitiiti and to'i tele were used for small and large adzes. A large adz used for commencing the work is a ta'i lau. Here lau probably refers to a wide surface and hence a wide cutting edge. The term to'i fau tonu is used in the second stage of cutting finer chips or shaping and to'i sila is the adz used for finishing off. It has presumably a sharper edge. An adz halfted sideways like an page 333American steel axe and used for felling a tree was said to be a mele'i. It was also said to be used hafted end on like a chisel and used as a battering ram in felling a tree. An adz said to be bevelled on both sides was termed ololua (two grindings). Pratt (23, p. 323) gives a to'i ololua as an adz ground on both sides but as some few adzes have the posterior surface ground as well as the anterior, the name ololua may possibly refer to an adz ground on both surf aces and not necessarily bevelled on both surfaces. Adzes bevelled on both sides are not present in the fairly large Bishop Museum collection. Again, though the description above of the mele'i adz may be correct as regards use, the name mele'i sounds suspiciously like meleki the modern term coined to represent the word American.

The sele ta was described as a war adz with a cutting edge about 8 inches wide, hafted like a chisel and used in fighting with a forward thrust. It was also used to cut off human heads. Another name for a war adz is leu tasi. The term to'i vete was given to Mr. Judd as a splitting tool. The term to'u is another name for adz.

An adz worn down so much by repeated sharpening on the grindstone that it is too short for use is a to'i fatu. A man who did not want to lend his adz to a neighbor importuning a loan would put him off by saying that his adz was no good as it had become a to'i fatu. These to'i fatu have naturally found their way into collections and should always be considered when classifying adzes into types and sub-types.

In Samoan ceremonial language, the terms used for adzes naturally differ from the universally used to'i. The terms ulaone, fa'alafanua, anga'ese, and 'ausulu are the names used by or to chiefs. It is probable that they indicated different types. Other terms were applied to adzes to indicate the type of lashing.