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Samoan Material Culture



The terms used follow as far as possible a compromise arrived at by Mr. K. P. Emory, Mr. H. D. Skinner, Mr. J. F. G. Stokes, and Dr. P. H. Buck, on the advice of the Director of Bernice P. Bishop Museum.

An adz is a cutting implement of stone, shell, or other resistant material with the cutting edge running transversely to the long axis of the haft. It is described as if in the following position: the long axis vertical, the cutting edge inferior, and the bevel which forms the cutting edge, posterior.

The adz is regionally divided into two parts; the butt and the blade. The butt is the upper portion which is engaged by the lashings when hafted. The blade is the lower remaining portion. In Samoan adzes the exact line of division between butt and blade is indistinguishable unless the adz is hafted. Individual craftsmen vary as to the length of the adz included in the lashing. (See fig. 171.)

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Figure 171.—Terminology of quadrangular adzes:

Figure 171.—Terminology of quadrangular adzes:

1, butt; 2, blade; 3, front; 4, back; 5, sides; 6, front edges; 7, back edges; 8, poll; 9, bevel; 10, edge; 11, chin (bevel shoulder): a, front view; showing front, sides and poll; b, back view, showing back and bevel; c, right side view, showing side and parts of front and back. The most common type of Samoan adz has four main surfaces; an anterior (3), a posterior (4) and two lateral (5). The terms front, back and sides are used to indicate them. The surfaces are separated by longitudinal edges formed by the meeting of the planes of the surfaces. There are two front edges (6) and two back edges (7). The edges though distinct are irregular where the depressions due to chipping have not been removed by grinding. The poll (8) is the upper end of the butt and may form a surface, an edge or a point. The bevel is the inclined surface ground posteriorly to meet the front at an acute angle to form the cutting edge, referred to as the edge. Other edges are specified. The term chin is used to denote the edge formed by the bevel with the back and replaces the term bevel shoulder to enable the term shoulder to be used exclusively with tanged adzes. The chin is irregular where the back is not ground and it varies according to whether the back is level, convex or has a median ridge.

In triangular adzes with three main surfaces, the two sides meet to form a median ridge which may be in front or at the back. (See fig. 172.) Median ridge is adopted in preference to longitudinal edge, previously used (39, p. 221).

The width of an adz or a surface is the transverse measurement. The thickness is the antero-posterior measurement. "Chipping" is the process of removal by blows of flakes, large or small. (The practice of American ethnologists is to reserve the term "flaking" for removal of pieces of stone by pressure, a process believed not to have been used in Polynesia.)

The adzes available for study in Bishop Museum number as follows: Tutuila and Manua, 119; Savaii, 33; Upolu, 10. These have been grouped into 8 types. The Museum number is given with each adz figured, and measurements are given in millimetres.