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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

Uses of Greenstone

Uses of Greenstone.

As to the uses to which greenstone implements were put, there is evidence that they were used for all kinds of work excepting, perhaps, such rough work as cutting down trees and hoeing ground. I have an adze weighing 51b., suitable for finishing the great slabs lashed on to the canoes to serve for top-sides, These adzes are called kapu. The word for an axe is toki or toki uri. Large adzes of greenstone are rare. Very long slender axes of the finest stone, formerly fitted with beautiful handles, are also rare. The commonest tools are chisels or small adzes, from 4in. to 8in. long and 2in. wide. These are called panehe. Small chisels 3in. long and lin. wide are not uncommon. Some are as small as lin. long and Jin. wide. Mr. J. White has numerous very small chisels, while I have a few of these, and many exactly similar implements in other kinds of stone. His come from Murdering Beach; mine from Foveaux Strait, where greenstone is apparently rarer. The Rev, Mr. Stack tells me that when he came to New Zealand forty years ago greenstone implements were still sometimes used in carving wood. He has seen a long narrow purupuru or chisel so used in carving the woodwork of the canoe-head. Drills of greenstone are frequently found, and as they have to be of the hardest stone they are generally very beautiful objects. They are not infrequently broken, but I never find them bearing evidence of having been used to bore holes in stone. I think they must have been used generally for working wood and perhaps bone. The point of one kind of implement is often shaped exactly like that of a gouge. Though these are described as drills, they are probably gouges. Another small tool is like a narrow-pointed chisel. In two page 28 instances in Mr. White's collection small tools, apparently drills, present the exceptional feature of four facets meeting at a point, like some of the bits used by carpenters. We know from various sources that greenstone drills were used for drilling the holes by means of which the top-sides were lashed on to the great war-canoes.

Mr. White has some very special objects, such as a pendant, needle, or shawl-pin, as thin as a penholder and 7in. long; several fish-hook points, which of course would also serve for eardrops; and a peculiar chisel with a basin-like depression near the edge to accommodate the thumb and finger while the haft end rested on the palm of the hand. Shawl-pins, used for fixing the flax mat formerly the sole garment of the Maori, were more commonly made of bone, but there are several in local collections of this stone, A very curious object in Mr. White's collection is a small fish-shaped spinning-bait or minnow.

Cook, in his first voyage, gives an account of the tools used by the Maoris: "They have adzes, axes, and chisels, which serve them also as augers for the boring of holes. As they have no metal, their adzes and axes are made of a hard black stone, or of a green talc which is not only hard but tough, and their chisels of human bone or small fragments of jasper, which they chip off from a block in sharp angular pieces like gun-flints. Their axes they value above all that they possess, and never would part with one of them for anything that we could give. I once offered one of the best axes I had in the ship, besides a number of other things, for one of them, but the owner would not sell it; from which I conclude that good ones are scare e among them. Their small tools of jasper, which are used in finishing their nicest work, they use till they are blunt-, and then, as they have no means of sharpening them, throw them away. We have given the people at Tologa a piece of glass, and in a short time they found means to drill a hole through it, in order to hang it round the neck as an ornament by a thread; and we imagine the tool must have been a piece of this jasper. How they bring their large tools first to an edge, and sharpen the weapon which they call patoo-patoo, we could not certainly learn, but probably it is by bruising the same substance to powder and with this grinding two pieces against each other," What he here refers to as jasper is most probably obsidian, or volcanic glass, which is plentiful in the North Island, and splinters of which, such as he describes, are found in Maori camps throughout New Zealand.

Polack speaks of the implements in similar terms; hut they were out of date in his time—i.e., in 1832. He says, "Much patience was required to put an edge on the mere, which was often managed by pounding the talc to powder, page 29 and briskly rubbing the surfaces together," I am not sure whether this is an original observation, as I often find Polack borrowing from Cook. Even in 1806 Savage observed the diminishing value of the greenstone implements in consequence of the introduction of iron.

There are some objects the use of which I have not been able to ascertain, but which may be learned from old Maoris in the North. Sir W. Buller informs me that, in making the deep cuts in carving large figures, the artists burnt out a cavity, and then chiselled out the chare oal. This would require small chisels. He also points to a number of smoothly-polished blocks of greenstone, generally 1in. or 2in. long by about the same breadth, and½in. thick, in his collection and my own. These had long puzzled me. They are burnishers, used to rub down the surface of wood-carvings. I have similar objects of various shapes made of agate or chalcedony, which probably served similar purposes. Sound pieces of greenstone are used, and in Sir Walter Buller's collection they are of tangiwai, pipiwarauroa, and kawakawa. One of these has two scraping edges, and has evidently served a double purpose.