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The Coming of the Maori

Early Maori Weapons

Early Maori Weapons

The long spear termed huata was stated by Te Matorohanga (81, p. 73) to have been used by the early settlers. It was 20 feet or more in length page 272and in later times was used principally in the defence of hill forts. It was a convenient means of remaining out of reach while stabbing at an invader trying to scale the defences. In my original Cawthron lecture (94, p. 27), I suggested that the use of the long spear by the earlier settlers was evidence in favour of the pre-Toi origin of the Maori fort. However, the Hawaiians used their equally long pololu spears as pikes in open battle and they had no fortified villages. Thus the long spear does not necessarily the up with forts.

The short spear termed tarerarere by Smith (81, p. 76) was stated by him to have been used by the early settlers as a spear or dart. Williams's Dictionary gives tarerarera as a short throwing spear so the two spellings evidently refer to the same type of weapon. The tradition that the two types of spear were introduced by the early settlers is probably correct for they were widely spread and required no great skill to make them.

Fig. 75. Hoeroa throwing club. a, front; b, side view; c, carved end.

Fig. 75. Hoeroa throwing club.
a, front; b, side view; c, carved end.

Three other weapons attributed to the early settlers by Te Matorohanga (81, p. 73) were the hoeroa, hurutai, and pere. The hoeroa was made from the lower jaw of the sperm whale and was between 4 and 5 feet in length. One end was shaped to a transverse, convex edge and the other which carried a long cord, was neatly carved with double spirals and decorated with seized tufts of white dog's hair (Fig. 75). The weapon was used mainly in pursuit and thrown with underhand movement to connect the edge with the spine or loins of a fleeing enemy without slackening speed, the pursuer hauled on the cord which was attached to his left wrist and the weapon came to hand without delaying the hunt for another victim. There is no weapon elsewhere like the hoeroa in material, shape, or method of use. It is so highly specialized that the traditional story of its early origin may be doubted in favour of a much later development in New Zealand.

The kurutai is stated by Percy Smith (81, p. 73) to have been "a stone weapon attached to a string, which was thrown." It may be more than a coincidence that the Hawaiians used a short club-like weapon (pi'ikoi) made of stone or wood with a long cord attached to it through a perforation and threw it at an opponent to entangle his legs after the manner of page 273throwing the South American bola at an animal. We have no details as to how the kurutai was used but if tradition is correct in this instance, such a weapon may have been introduced by the early settlers and so have provided the idea which later led to the development of the hoeroa.

The pere was listed in the weapons of the early settlers by Turaukawa (81, p. 70) and Percy Smith's translation of the native text (81, p. 73) reads, "and the pere, by which manuka spears were thrown." In a note, Smith adds that it was also called kotaha and whiuwhiu. This brings up the subject of the throwing stick.