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The Coming of the Maori



Spears which were much in favour in central Polynesia for securing sea fish were little used in New Zealand except to spear eels. Single pointed spears were termed taotahi and spears with multiple points of hard wood were termed matarau. In the specimens figured by Best (21, p. 106), the lower end of the handle was sharpened as the middle point and three prongs or tines on either side were kept in position by lashing to two crosspieces. Eels were speared by repeatedly thrusting into the soft mud of streams or swamps which harboured them. When the fisherman felt the spear pass through an eel, he kept the spear down and threaded a strip of flax through the gills before lifting the spear. In later times, a metal hook was used as a gaff after the eel was speared.

Spearing was also conducted at night with torches, the light attracting the fish. Torches were made of dry Cordyline leaves, manuka bark, dry lengths of supplejack, and best of all, the resinous heart wood (mapara) of the kahikatea or white pine.