Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Coming of the Maori

Long Clubs

Long Clubs

The clubs, like the spears, may be divided into long and short types, and both classes show ample evidence of local development. The long clubs, averaging about five feet in length, consist of three types: the pouwhenua, tewhatewha, and taiaha or hani, all made of tough wood in one piece. The three clubs have the common features of a blade for striking and a proximal point for stabbing. The simplest in form and the most effective as a weapon was the pouwhenua. The blade was long, fairly wide, with the distal end truncated or slightly convex, and the sides somewhat bluntly edged. It narrowed gradually through the shaft to about 2 feet from the end where the shaft was carved with a human head (Fig. 76a). The tewhatewha resembled the pouwhenua in the sharp spear point and the position of the carved head but it had a flat, backward expansion at the distal end which somewhat resembled the blade of an axe (Fig. 76b). The taiaha resembled the pouwhenua closely as regards the blade, though it page 275was a little narrower; but the carved head was much larger and lower down on the shaft and the point formed a shorter, flattened tongue (Fig. 76c, d).

The combination of the functions of a spear and a club in one weapon seems an easy step in the evolution of weapons but with few exceptions, their development occurred mainly in central Polynesia, in the Society, Austral, and Cook Islands. The further addition of a proximal point to form a striking club with both ends pointed was the peak in development.

Fig. 76. Long clubs.a, pouwkenua; b, tewhatewha; c, d, taiaha; e, toki kakauroa. a, c, d, after Hamilton (46), b, e, Fuller coll.

Fig. 76. Long clubs.
a, pouwkenua; b, tewhatewha; c, d, taiaha; e, toki kakauroa. a, c, d, after Hamilton (46), b, e, Fuller coll.

A few of the Society and Austral Islands clubs were furnished with a blunt proximal point but in the Cook Islands, all the clubs, with one Rarotongan exception, were furnished with proximal points. In Atiu, the blades were narrow but edged at the sides and their evolution was undoubtedly a slight expansion of the upper end of a spear shaft for striking and so constituted a spear-club as distinct from the spears which were also in use. The Rarotongan weapons on the other hand were page 276distinct clubs with wide serrated blades but with the distal spear point retained. Some have unserrated edges and thus mark a stage of increased blade expansion from the Atiu spear-clubs. The Mangaian clubs, with one exception, dropped the distal spear point but retained the serrated edge and the proximal point. The sporadic appearance of clubs with the proximal point occurs in Niue and some have the distal point as well.

It is evident that the proximal point, which is such a marked feature of the Maori long clubs, was present in the area from which the Maori ancestors came but even if it were present there when they left, it remained a secondary adjunct to their spear-pointed clubs. In the development which took place in New Zealand, the Maori exploited the possibilities of the proximal point and dispensed entirely with the distal point if they ever used it. The clubs were made shorter and lighter for scientific; sparring; and lightning strokes and thrusts were aided by quick footwork. The expert instructors had an old saying, "He waewae taimaha, he kiri maku" ("Heavy feet, a wet skin"). The fighter with heavy feet ran the chance of getting his skin wet with his own blood. In combat, either end of the club was used as opportunity presented itself and it was held that the point was more dangerous than the blade. It is interesting to note that for many generations the European nations have used the rifle and the bayonet as a one-ended weapon for thrusting. It was not until World War I that the possibilities of the other end were realized and butt stroked were used scientifically.

The local evolution of the three types of long clubs is readily apparent The pouwhenua was the simplest form of the combination of the striking blade with the proximal point. With the increased use of the human motif in carving, a human head was carved on the shaft to break the monotony of the long line and form a boundary as it were between the shaft and the long spear point The carvers with characteristic aptness so arranged the human-head motif that the long point was made to issue from its mouth like a tongue (Fig. 77a-d). The tewhatewha merely added a back extension for probably ornamental reasons because the blow was struck with the straight front edge of the blade. A bunch of split pigeon or hawk feathers was hung from a perforation near the lower edge of the extension for further ornament but it is said that in combat the quivering of the blade and the feathers had a useful purpose in confusing the enemy. The club was also used on occasion by the chief of operations in signalling to his men. The taiaha was the latest development and probably instituted by the increasing importance attached to carving. The head motif was accentuated by increasing it in size and detail and the point was shortened and widened to make it more realistic as a tongue. It was also flattened into two surfaces to provide sufficient space for carving the double spiral motif which had become popular (Fig. 77e). However, the carvers in page 277improving their field for carving made a blunter point which is not so efficient for stabbing purposes as the spear-point of the pouwhenua and it is generally admitted that the taiaha is an inferior weapon to the pouwhenua. The taiaha was further embellished with a fringe of tufts of white dog hair and a cuff of red parrot feathers so that it rose in social
a, tewhatewha (Bishop Mus., no. 1422), side view; b, front view of a; c, expanded design of b; d, toki kakauroa (Bishop Mus., no. 1445), side view; e, taiaha (Buck collection).

a, tewhatewha (Bishop Mus., no. 1422), side view; b, front view of a; c, expanded design of b; d, toki kakauroa (Bishop Mus., no. 1445), side view; e, taiaha (Buck collection).

status to become both weapon and staff to chiefs (Fig. 76d). However, it was still to be reckoned with as a weapon for a Maori saying warns of the danger of the tongue of a woman in peace and the tongue of the taiaha in war.