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Samoan Material Culture

Summary of Types and Technique

Summary of Types and Technique

Diagramatic cross sections of the types and subtypes described, illustrating the fundamental differences between them, is shown in figure 203.

Figure 203.—Adz cross sections of types.

Figure 203.—Adz cross sections of types.

The plain lines denote grinding and the curves chipping. The relationship between Types 1, 2, and 3 is obvious. Type 3 is merely Type 1 ground on all surfaces as intermediate types have shown but better grinding follows, on better shaping by chipping and the butt receives better attention. Type 4 is Type 3 reversed with the back longitudinal edges distinct (4, a) or ground off (4, b). Type V is a distinct type evidently for the purpose of getting a curved cutting edge. The variation V, b, can be derived from a thin quadrangular adz of Type III but as the front longitudinal edges are deliberately ground off to provide a curved cutting edge, it is classed with Type V. The triangular adzes of Type VI have affinity with the adzes of Type I as pointed out. Type VIII in cross section is Type VII reversed. Type VII is distinct from Type VI.

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Intermediate types. Adzes intermediate between Types I and II are quite common and are illustrated by cross sections in figure 204.

A number of small adzes from Mr. Anunsen's plantation, Savaii, are well ground front and back, but show much variation in the treatment of the sides, some of which is probably due to the way the stone broke off the larger piece.

The outstanding feature of Samoan technique is the rough chipping, the reduction of grinding in the common types to the minimum, and the absence of bruising and pecking. The chipping is especially coarse on the butt part of the adz. Even in well-ground adzes it is rarely that all depressions are ground out. The order of grinding, as proved by numbers of adzes in various stages of finish, was the anterior surface first, the trimming of the sides next, and the bevel surface to form the cutting edge last.

Figure 204.—Cross sections, intermediate types:

Figure 204.—Cross sections, intermediate types:

a (C. 322) shows the steep side on the right, typical of Type I but on the left are the two series of flaking typical of Type II, with the intervening ridge (1) ground off. The right side is also ground. b (C. 792) follows Type I on the right and Type II on the left. The lower part of the right side is ground but the edge (1) between the flaking on the left has not been retouched by grinding. c (C. 791) follows Type II on the left with the intermediate edge (1) ground off whilst the right side has been ground backwards and inwards as in Type IV, a. d, (C. 793) is a quadrilateral adz well ground on the four surfaces. On the left, it follows Type III but on the right, the grinding passes the perpendicular and slopes inwards as in Type IV, a. e (C. 341) from Tutuila shows the reversed quadrangular Type IV, a, with front and back ground and the sides chipped backwards and inwards but with the upper part ground. Attention has been drawn to adz C. 320 which is intermediate between IV, a, and IV, b. See fig. 191.

Samoan adzes come under the class of tangless adzes. Linton (19, p. 325) states that tanged adzes are rare in Samoa, but none of those in Bishop Museum is a true tanged adz. The technique of Types I, II, and III, is directed towards narrowing the butt towards the poll. The removal of large flakes gives the butt a rough appearance, which is utilized in hafting and purposely left rough. If some larger flake depressions cause a narrowing resembling a tang it is the result of over-chipping and not a deliberate technique to form a tang. Some adzes have the front of the butt towards the poll at a more posterior plane than the anterior ground surface, but this again is due to a slope in the piece of stone due to the general process of hammering. Any narrowing of the butt marked enough to raise the question of a tang is due to accident or coincidence and not to deliberate technique aimed at forming a distinct tang.

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Another feature is that by far the greatest number of adzes are quadrilateral and deliberately chipped to make the front narrower than the back. Skinner (31, p. 350) includes the common Samoan type in his general Poly nesian Type II, which are quadrilateral with the sides converging towards the back. He regards the Samoan adz as a marked variant, for, in speaking of his Type II he states, "In Tonga and Samoa it is strongly dominant, though in Samoa it appears as a marked variant, with the sides converging toward the front." It may be a variation as regards comparisons with quadrilateral adzes in other areas, but in Samoa it is the common form and should be regarded as a distinct type. Samoan stone technique is so crude as compared with that of other Polynesian areas that the common Samoan quadrilateral form with sides converging to the front might well be considered as the more primitive type. In evolving a simple technique to provide a broader cutting edge, the reversed quadrilateral with the broad surface in front marks a distinct advance on the Samoan type. In a similar way, the reversed triangular form in the Society Islands and neighboring islands marks a later advance on the triangular form with the base posterior, though the latter with a narrower edge persists for a specific purpose, which may be the cutting of grooves. Old Samoans have stated that the method of cutting out large pieces of timber was to cut parallel grooves and then chip out the intermediate part. For cutting out grooves, the deep, heavy, triangular adz with a narrow cutting edge, as in the widely spread Samoan Type VII, would be very useful. Some important need was served by the type. For other work the broad cutting edge was evidently preferred. The Society Islands and neighboring groups obtained the broad edge by using the reversed triangle and New Zealand by using the reversed quadrangle. For obtaining a broad cutting edge, both the Hawaiian and New Zealand quadrangles are improvements on the Samoan quadrangle. It is because of this important advance in technique that the common Samoan quadrangular form should be regarded as a distinct type marking a stage in adz technique.

That the Samoan was on the way to obtaining the broad cutting edge of other areas is shown by the occurrence of the reversed quadrangle in Type V, and the reversed triangle in Type VIII, though only one example of the latter has come to hand.