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The Coming of the Maori


The principal polynesian weapons were the spear and the club. The spears, both long and short, had this in common that the point whether simple or barbed, was in one piece with the shaft. Exceptions occurred in spears pointed with the dart of the sting ray and separate points were lashed to the shaft in Niue and Mangareva. The one-piece spears offer a marked distinction to the composite spears of Melanesia, where separate points neatly and elaborately barbed were attached to the shafts. The Polynesian clubs, however, differed so widely in the various islands that it is difficult if not impossible to visualize some common form that accompanied the early ancestors into Polynesia. It is evident that each island group went its own way and developed local forms peculiar to itself. A certain amount of diffusion did take place between Samoa and Tonga and between the Society and Austral Islands but on the whole, the clubs of any island are readily identified from their local form. In central Polynesia, many of the clubs were pointed at the lower end as an additional offensive measure. The projectile weapon of Polynesia, apart from throwing spears, was the sling. The sling stones were usually natural, waterworn stones of appropriate size but in Hawaii they were also trimmed to an elliptical shape with pointed ends. Stones were also thrown by hand and early European voyagers have reported this form of attack more than the use of the sling. The bow and arrow while present in some groups was used for sport but not as a weapon of war. In Samoa, it was used to shoot pigeons, in Hawaii to shoot rats, and in the Society Islands, it was a chiefly sport in which archers clad in special costume shot for distance from raised stone platforms.