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The Coming of the Maori

The Hafting of Adzes

The Hafting of Adzes

The term adze should indicate the complete tool composed of adze head, haft, and lashing. Complete tools are rare, however, and the studies have
Fig. 37. Hafted adzes.a, toe haft (Best, 12); b, transverse lashing (U.S. National Mus., no. 21229, adapted); c, served lashing (Best, 12).

Fig. 37. Hafted adzes.
a, toe haft (Best, 12); b, transverse lashing (U.S. National Mus., no. 21229, adapted); c, served lashing (Best, 12).

been made mainly on adze heads. It is convenient, therefore, to refer to the stone adze heads as adzes and to the complete tools as hafted adzes.

The wooden haft, formed of a shaft and a foot, was used throughout Polynesia and the Pacific area. Variations of the foot were made by discarding the heel or the toe. New Zealand followed the usage of marginal Polynesia in making the toe long enough to support the full length of the adze butt. The shaft was termed kakau and the toe, kauae. The toe usually had a transverse groove (tokari) to allow the lashing turns to be countersunk (Fig. 37a). The flat back of quadrangular adze butts was page 186laid against the flat anterior surface of the toe and the braid lashing (taka) was made in transverse turns around the adze butt and the tokari groove of the toe (Fig. 37b). Thin wooden wedges (matia) were sometimes driven between the face of the adze butt and the lashing to tighten the lashing.

A variation in the form of a single composite lashing is described by Best (12, p. 109). A running loop of braid was slipped over the shaft, run down close to the foot, and drawn taut. A number of turns were passed around the butt and the toe groove, and around the shaft. The braid was then twined around the turns in front of the butt to serve them and passed vertically between the butt and foot to tighten the transverse turns by passing around them. The braid was carried to the back of the toe where it was tied to the turns passing between the toe and the shaft (Fig. 37c).

In Polynesia, the lashing element was usually a three-ply braid of coconut-husk fibre termed sennit; and in Micronesia, a two-ply twisted cord of coconut fibre was used. In New Zealand, the substitute for sennit was a three-ply braid of scutched flax fibre and the persistence in the use of braid as against cord is illustrated by the following story told to me by Bishop Herbert L. Williams.

A dealer showed the Bishop a hafted Maori adze which he considered a perfect old specimen. Bishop Williams felt that there was some flaw in its alleged perfection but it kept eluding him.

"Well," argued the dealer, "you must admit that the stone is old."

"Yes," said the Bishop, "the stone part is old."

"The handle is old," persisted the dealer, "because it formed part of an old collection and the original lashing rotted away."

"Yes," agreed the Bishop, "the wooden part appears old."

"Well," triumphantly concluded the dealer, "the lashing material is old because it is part of an old Maori fishing line made of flax fibre."

"Ah," murmured the Bishop with a smile of relief, "now I remember what is wrong. Yes, the fishing line is old as a fishing line but a twisted cord was not used to lash adzes. The lashing material should have been a three-ply braid."

However, I saw two hafted adzes in the British Museum which were lashed with cord. They were catalogued as old but they may have been lashed after European contact. A ceremonial jade adze in the Otago Museum (Fig. 38d) is also lashed with a fine cord. Though braid is the correct material, rare exceptions evidently occur.