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The Coming of the Maori

Short Clubs

Short Clubs

The short clubs (patu poto) have some features which are peculiar to New Zealand. They have flat blades with convex distal ends which are somewhat spatulate in shape. The grip or handle has an enlarged butt end which is carved. Near the butt, the handle is perforated for a loop of page 278dogskin. They are made in three types: the mere, kotiate, and wahaika (see Fig. 78). The mere type is the simplest in form and it was probably made first in stone (a), then whalebone (b), and last but most valuable of all in greenstone (c). Though the term mere is applied loosely to clubs of the mere shape regardless of material, the term should really be restricted to the most valued clubs made of jade, the stone clubs having their own distinctive name of onewa and the whalebone clubs carrying the descriptive name of patu paraoa (patu, club; paraoa whalebone), the whalebone clubs of other types receiving specific names. In the mere type, the butt expansion is carved with parallel grooves usually straight, sometimes curved. The kotiate type has a wider blade which is somewhat fiddle-shaped owing to a notch on each side (e). The handle is rounder in section and the butt enlargement is carved with a human-head motif. The correct material was whalebone but some were made of wood and many wooden kotiate with elaborate carving on the blade were probably made in post-European times for gift and sale. The wahaika resembles a unilateral mere with one side cut to form a concave recess for a complete human figure (f). A variation (g) is based on the kotiate type with a lower quadrant of the blade cut away for a human figure. The butt enlargements are carved with a human head. The material is whalebone but wood was also used.

The spatulate ends in all three types were ground to a sharp edge which extended down the sides. A strip of dogskin was passed through the hole in the handle and tied in a loop for passing over the thumb and around the hand. The clubs were used for quick in-fighting in which the fraction of a second was too important to waste in raising the weapon to strike a blow. Thus, the orthodox technique was a thrust or a half-arm jab in which the front edge of the club was brought in contact with the temple, neck, or ribs and as the enemy was falling, the butt or heel (reke) delivered a downward blow on the skull. The turns of the dogskin loop around the hand prevented the hand from slipping along the handle when the front edge connected and prevented the force of the thrust from being weakened. The Maori short clubs were not only unique in form but they were also unique in being designed for a forward thrust instead of the downward blow characteristic of other forms of clubs.

Two types of stone clubs present in the Chatham Islands, indicate that prototypes of the Maori short clubs had been developed in New Zealand before the arrival of the Fleet. One type (Fig. 78d) was evidently the precursor of the mere form and the other (Fig. 78h) was the ancestor of the wahaika. Both these early forms had a shaped grip with uncarved butt knobs and both were imperforated. They were evidently made for striking. The development which took place in New Zealand, possibly after the Fleet period, was associated with the change in use from striking page 279to thrusting. This led to the sharpening of the front edges and the boring of holes for the thumb loop. Of the series, the mere form followed the early form in being reproduced in stone with the butt knob ornamented
Fig. 78. Short clubs.a onewa; b, patu paraoa; c, mere; d, Chatham Is. stone club; e, kotiate; f, wahaika; g, wahaika with side notch; h, Chatham Is. a-c, e, f, after Best (16); d, h, after Skinner (71); g, Oldman coll., no. 63.

Fig. 78. Short clubs.
a onewa; b, patu paraoa; c, mere; d, Chatham Is. stone club; e, kotiate; f, wahaika; g, wahaika with side notch; h, Chatham Is. a-c, e, f, after Best (16); d, h, after Skinner (71); g, Oldman coll., no. 63.

with parallel grooves. In the later reproductions in bone from the lower jaws of whales and in jade, the blade underwent an increase in width but the butt knob ornamentation followed that of the stone onewa. The elaboration of the wahaika type seems to belong to a later period when page 280Maori art had established the human figure aad human heads as popular carving motifs. The origin of the kotiate form with its two side notches remains a puzzle.

The spatulate form of thrusting club is unknown in Polynesia but Easter Island has a short wooden club with a flat blade something like that of a mere and with the butt end of the grip ornamented with a carved human head. The head, however, faces directly down towards the blade whereas the Maori heads are transverse and face away from the blade. The butt end is not perforated and the clubs were probably used for striking. In Easter Island, there was also a longer wooden club with a blade like the Maori taiaha and the butt end ornamented with a human head similar to that of the short club. However, the taiaha head with its projecting tongue functioned as a stabbing point whereas the Easter Island head with its downward-directed vertex was purely ornamental. Though there is some general similarity in appearance, the differences in detail of structure and function are sufficient to indicate an independent origin in the two countries.