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The Coming of the Maori

Types of Bone Points

Types of Bone Points

The term "barb" has been applied to different forms of point. Beasley (10) used it as a general term for point whether it was barbed or not. Some have applied the term to serrations on the outer side of the point and have regarded multiple serrations as multiple barbs. However, Webster's dictionary defines "barb" as "a projection extending backwards from the point of an arrow, fishhook, etc., to prevent easy extraction."

The barbed point therefore is a point supported by a backward, oblique projection which is defined below by an acute-angled notch. The Maori termed the barb variously as kaniwha, keka, niwha, and tito and the notch, kou. The term kawiti was applied to the bone point of the kahawai trolling hook and included the barb. The absence of the barb in the Chatham Island hooks raised the question of its being a later local development in New Zealand. The barb also seems to have been absent in the moa-hunter material. However, Lockerbie (52, p. 431) has pointed out that the distribution of barbed hooks proves that the barb was an old technique in Polynesia. It is possible that it was not used by the earliest settlers of New Zealand and was introduced by the Hawaikian migration. The barb, in its relation to the point, divides into inner and outer barbs.

The inner barb is the more common in New Zealand and examples are shown in Figures 53c, 56c, d, 58, 59, 62b. It was definitely used in Hawaii (Fig. 63c, d), Tonga, and Pukapuka. The barbed hook figured by Skinner (76, Fig. 79) as from Rarotonga was obtained from a Rarotonga resident but the hook came from Pukapuka.

The outer barb was not uncommon in New Zealand as shown by some composite hooks (Fig. 53b, d), the Oruarangi point (Fig. 56e, f) and the two oft-figured hooks in Figure 62. The outer barb was much used in Hawaii particularly in the simple hooks of circular form and in other bone hooks (Fig. 63). The varying distance of so-called barbs from the actual point of the hook raises the question of when a projection page 228functions as a barb in preventing extraction and when it is so far away that it may have been made for some other purpose. Thus in the Maori composite hooks in Figure 53b, d, the outer projections are so close to the point that they must pass through the lip of a hooked fish and so function
Fig. 62. Maori hooks with outer "barbs", after Hamilton (46a, fig. 6).a, with outer barb; b, with inner and outer barbs.

Fig. 62. Maori hooks with outer "barbs", after Hamilton (46a, fig. 6).
a, with outer barb; b, with inner and outer barbs.

as barbs. In the two Maori hooks in Figure 62, the outer projections are below the level of the bend and it is more than doubtful if they would enter the lip of a hooked fish. Furthermore, one of them (Fig. 62b) has a functioning inner barb and hence it is possible that the outer projection was included for some other purpose. In the Hawaiian hooks, the outer projection in Figure 63a would function as a barb but in the hook b it is
Fig. 63. Hawaiian hooks.a, Bishop Mus., no. 3659; b, Bishop Mus., no. 5031; c, Oldman coll., no. 320b; d, e, private collection.

Fig. 63. Hawaiian hooks.
a, Bishop Mus., no. 3659; b, Bishop Mus., no. 5031; c, Oldman coll., no. 320b; d, e, private collection.

doubtful. The hook d is very like the Maori hook (Fig. 62b) in having a functioning inner barb and a distant outer projection which is below the upper level of the bend. The hook e has an outer functioning barb, an inner projection which is clearly vestigial, and a distal outer projection which could not function as a point barb. I venture the suggestion that outer projections which are too far from the point to function as barbs, preventing easy extraction, were made to act as bait cleats.
page 229

The incurved point was more widely used in Polynesia than the barb and it was probably the older form (Fig. 51b-d, Fig. 63a, b). Like the barb, its function was to prevent easy extraction. Native fisherman maintain that when a fish is hooked, me incurved point holds it more securely than the barbed point of metal hooks. However, the line must not be jerked at the first bite but the fish must be allowed to hook itself before the line is hauled in. The incurved point is better for fishing off coral reefs or over rocky bottoms for it is not so likely to catch on rocks or coral as the straight limb of the European hook. After early European contact, the Maori and other Polynesians bent nails and wire into incurved hooks in preference to the barbed metal hooks offered in trade. Some professional Japanese fishermen in Hawaii have had metal hooks made with incurved points without barbs on the Polynesian pattern for shore fishing on a rocky coast and for set lines.

The straight point without incurve or barb was not an indication of poor craftsmanship but it was made for a specific purpose. The reason for the straight point in the Polynesian bonito hook is that it can be more quickly detached than if it had a barb. This complies with Webster's definition that the barb prevents easy extraction. In bonito fishing, when the canoe comes up with a shoal of bonito, quickness in extracting the hook and throwing it back into the water materially increases the catch for the shoal may sound and disappear at any moment. Another factor that aids quickness is that the hook and short line are attached to a rod and as soon as the fish strikes, the rod lifts it immediately out of the water into the canoe. The fish, therefore, has no time to wriggle off the straight point as it would in a longer pull through the water on a hand line. The straight points associated with the Maori stone shanks resembling bonito hook shanks (Fig. 57a, d, g) lead to the assumption that they were also used in the Polynesian method of trolling with a rod. That the straight point is used with a rod is further supported by the barracuda hooks which have neither incurve nor barb and are used with a rod. On the evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that other types of hook, such as the U-shaped with a straight point, were also used with a rod. That the rod (matira) is old is supported by the lines of an old lament, which in naming various objects owned by the god Rehua, says,

Tana matira ko Matira-amoamo.
His fishing rod was Matira-amoamo.

The pa kahawai, at first thought, appears to be an anomaly for it is a trolling hook which departed from the Polynesian pattern by having a barbed point. However, the Maori hook was trolled from a hand line and hence the hooked fish had to be hauled through the water instead of being lifted out of it with a rod. Best (21, p. 42) gives an illustration of page 230line outriggers used by kahawai fishers but these were short rods fastened to the canoe to keep the lines out clear of the paddles. The lines had to be hauled in by hand, hence the barb was a distinct advantage.

It is evident that the great number of hooks of various shapes and sizes were made for different kinds of fish which were caught by different methods. Local problems occurred in different localities and their solution added to the variety of hooks. No one type of point could serve all purposes and hence the straight, incurved, and barbed points were in use during the same period and each had its particular use.