Ethnology of Tongareva
As suitable stone was not available adzes (toki) were made of Tridacna shell. The handle of a hafted adz in Bernice P. Bishop Museum (figs. 44–47) consists of two separate pieces, the foot and the shaft.
Figure 44. Adz of Tridacna shell: width of the shell, and thickness in millimeters. a, front formed of inner nacreous surface of shell, concave longitudinally and transversely, dotted parts of butt and cutting edge ground down to flatten concavity of shell, cutting edge curved, and grinding forms straight surface in front; b, back, showing rough external surface of shell with some grinding to remove black external layer—dotted part near lower edge marks forward grinding to form short cutting edge; c, right side, showing longitudinal curve with concavity in front, thickness of 11 mm. due to the transverse curve, with actual thickness of shell in thicker parts ranging from 7 to 8 mm. Length, 90 mm.
The foot of the handle has an upper end, the heel, and a lower end, the toe. The foot is rounded in section except at the back of the upper half, where it is cut flat to fit against the shaft. The toe is grooved in front to form a bed for the butt of the adz. The separate foot of the Tongarevan adz should not be confused with the intermediate movable socket used in adzes in some other regions. The groove in the foot is shaped to fit the butt end of the adz to be hafted. After the adz is fitted in position a wide strip of lauhala is wrapped with transverse turns around the toe so as to cover the adz butt as it lies in the groove. Three-ply braid sennit is used for the lashing, which consists of transverse turns. Scales of the maratea fish were used to cover the front of the adz butt, the lowest scale projecting down over about half of the front of the projecting blade. The fish scale took the place of such material as the stipule of the coconut leaf page 187 (kaka), which is used in some areas to protect the lower turns of the lashing from fraying against the wood that was being worked. The lauhala wrapping shown in figure 46 consists of the anterior surface of the leaf, which has been dyed red. It is evidently the same material as that used in overlaid plaiting to introduce color design into mats and satchels. The use of this material shows that the hafting cannot be very old. The use of the fish scales is unique, but I do not know whether or not the technique dates back to pre-European times.
Figure 45. Separate foot of Tongarevan adz handle. a, front: 1, upper surface of heel, sloped forward and downward, 24 mm. wide by 23 mm. from front to back, rounded transversely and increasing in width; 2, transverse ridge, 37 mm. wide—ridge and part below form toe, which is round and increases slightly in width to 40 mm. at lower end; 3, hollowed groove 35 mm. wide at lower end of foot, where it forms bed for adz; 4, curved upper end of groove, 30 mm. wide; length of groove, 57 mm. b, right side: 2, median ridge, foot 43 mm. thick; 4, top of groove, foot 23 mm. thick; 5, narrowest part, 21 mm.; lower end, 15 mm.; 5–6, foot cut forward on posterior surface to form flat surface; 7, flat surface against which shaft fits. Below angle at 6 the foot is circular in section except for the part hollowed out for the adz.
Figure 46. Lashing adz to detached foot: a-d, front view; e, back view. a, adz (1) is fitted to groove in toe (2); a strip of anterior layer of lauhala (3) is placed with one end resting on front of adz; end is covered by transverse turn of material; by series of ascending turns adz butt is covered; free end of material split, and one part, after being crossed under other, is reversed in direction; the two ends are brought together at back and tied with reef knot; lashing braid (4) is placed with one end (5) against left side of foot, about 10 mm. above level of upper end of toe groove; end (5) is directed obliquely downwards; transverse horizontal turn is made toward right; braid (4) is brought around back to left, b, braid makes second transverse turn around toe close below first turn and crosses over end (a, 5), thus fixing commencement end of braid; transverse turns are continued in downward direction until six turns have been made; a maratea fish scale (6), 62 mm. wide and 45 mm. deep, is placed in position with its upper edge against last lashing turn. c, transverse lashing is continued for four turns to fix scale and bend its sides around. d, second scale is added in similar manner to first and fixed by next four turns of lashing; a third scale (7) is placed in position and its two sides (8, 8) doubled in toward front—this scale is larger than the other two, being 72 mm. wide and 50 mm. deep; lashing turns are continued to lower end of toe; the lower part of scale (7) thus covers front of the adz blade for about half its length. e, when about 3 turns will reach lower edge of toe, left thumb is placed vertically on back of toe and the last three lashing turns (11, 12, 13) are made over it; thumb is removed but at same time, left forefinger is placed over last firm turn (10) to keep lashing taut; free end of braid completes turn (14) to back, and is then pushed up from below beneath the three last turns rendered loose and patent by removal of thumb; loose turns are drawn taut, commencing with upper one (11) and finishing with lowest (13); slack, now all in turn (14), is removed by pulling end (15), which tautens up turn (14) and fixes braid; braid is cut off.
Figure 47. Adz handle: 1, shaft, 17.5 inches long; 2, distal end of shaft, 3.3 inches in oblique height, 1.2 inches across widest middle part, fits against foot; 3, proximal end of shaft, diminishes to 0.8 by 0.7 inches in cross section; 4, foot; 5, upper end of foot, and corresponding part of shaft forms heel; 6, toe; 7, toe angle formed by shaft and foot junction; 8, adz attached to toe.
The shell adzes were used in felling timber, building houses and canoes, shaping bowls, and making weapons. Tupou Isaia informed me that pieces of coral also were used in cutting down trees. It is probable that the shell adz was used also in squaring the flanges and notches in the shaping of the marae pillars.