Volume 11 1902 > Volume 11, No. 4 > Memoirs of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum of Polynesian Ethnology and Natural History, Vol. I. No. 4. Ancient Hawaiian stone implements...[book review] p 257-259
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- 257

A VERY important memoir under the above title has just been issued from the Museum Press at Honolulu, the author of which has had a long experience of thirty-six years in intimate contact with the Hawaiians, and has a thorough knowledge of their ethnology. It is on this personal knowledge that he bases his descriptions and suggestions, and he has for examples to illustrate his remarks excellent plates of the large and valuable collections of stone implements gathered by him and others in the well-known museum with the much hyphenated name. He recounts in a most interesting preface how he has talked with those who witnessed the great social change in 1820, when asked says, “one era was at an end, another was on the threshold,” and how he has rescued from oblivion many an almost forgotten custom and fact. The information is the more valuable as it has been derived in nearly all cases from original sources, and has not been compiled from the books and reports of the early voyagers. A series of similar publications is promised on wood-work, mats, and baskets, house building and a large number of interesting ethnological subjects, and we can only hope that they will be as full and complete as the chapter under notice.1 The writer commences by pointing out that until little more than a century ago stone, bone, or shell served as the material for all tools, and that our information on the character of the stone-work of the Polynesian area is quite insufficient at the present term to profitably discuss the probable evolution of the weapons, tools, and ornaments which are found wrought in the material.

He points out that the mere existence of such an article as a canoe argues the possession of effective cutting tools, and that local - 258 conditions and circumstances must largely influence the character and shape of even the simplest tool.

In the very earliest pages the subject matter is illustrated by very excellent process blocks, and nearly every page bears a representation of an object of interest—not always Hawaiian, but useful for a comparison with Hawaiian forms. On page 8 are figured huge stone hammers used as “Canoe-breakers.” Surely this destructive pastime must have been of rare occurrence, and if hewn out of a solid tree, like the hull of a Maori canoe, must have been the task for a giant. Doubtless, however, much damage might have been done by such means to the fittings and gear. The author here makes an apt remark, “let us remember that the simpler the tool the more varied it uses. The grooved pebble can be an active hammer or a passive sinker to a net,” and “while it is certainly convenient to call or label a specimen by a definite name, another person may prefer another designation for which he considers the more important rôle the article may play.”

In treating of the material used, the obsidian weapons and tools from Rapanui are mentioned and figured, and the use of obsidian in New Zealand alluded to. Apparently however none of the flakes so common in the middens of old settlement on the shores of the North and South Islands of New Zealand are in the Hawaiian museum collection. Sling-stones,2 anchors, and grinding stones are then discussed with many another implement and tool, not forgetting a very ancient toilet appliance consisting of a flattened disc of hard cellular lava with which the Hawaiian of old cultivated bodily cleanliness in default of soap or suitable sand.

We shall look forward with interest to the figure promised in a future part of the Hawaiian ornament in shell, which suggests to the author a comparison with New Zealand Hei-tiki. Two interesting stone pounders apparently of Taranaki trachyte are figured on page 27, and two others of more usual type at figure 22, and as an example of the lavish way in which illustrations are given, we have on the opposite page a full-page plate of stone-headed clubs from New Guinea and the Bismark Archipelago. The portion devoted to poi pounders is very interesting as the local variations in form seemed to have been well worked out. There is a slight slip on page 49 where it is stated that the Maoris beat fern-root in a bowl. The beating or pounding of the hinau berries might have been done in that way, but not the - 259 separation of the outer portion of the fern-root from the mucilaginous portion within.

Passing from the poi pounders we come to the consideration of a series of hollowed stones used either as dishes or plates, cups or bowls, or as lamps, finishing with a splendid specimen of a stone sorcery lamp from Tahiti, of which unfortunately the size is not given.

In nearly all the other figures a scale is introduced and careful and elaborate measurement given in the text. In New Zealand only a few stone bowls have been found, and those seemed to have been used for lamps. Wood seems to have been preferred for Kumete and bowls by the Maoris. The Hawaiian polished stone mirrors are quite a unique conception, and it would be interesting to know if their manufacture and use can be traced to ancient times.

The photograph of a pile of Maika stones, and the description of the game in which they are used, reveals a kind of prehistoric bowling club, and incidentally we have a good description of the method adopted by the inhabitants of the Western Pacific in drilling and cutting disks of stone and shell by means of twisting a loaded hollow bamboo, aided by water and sand.3 The last twenty-five pages treat of the axes and adzes, and the author does not think with Moseley (The Voyage of the “Challenge”) that the Hawaiian adze is closely allied to the New Zealand form. The figure of a Maori-carved adze handle is given at figure 90, but the adze is without the proper lashing to attach it to the handle. At the end of the volume are 35 plates, many of which are capital reproductions of magnificent photographs. It is rarely that we find such a combination of excellence on the part of the photographer, the blockmaker, and the printer. Add to this a careful and painstaking author and a good collection to work on, we may well be content and may hope that the Trustees of the Bernice Pauahi Museum will continue to issue succeeding parts and maintain the present high level of excellence.

Cannot however the wire stapling of the pages be dispensed with and some other process adopted to keep the sheets together, as the book does not open well and if kept in a damp place the wire is soon rusted and the paper thereby soiled.

If one may hazard an opinion from the mere inspection of a photograph, I should suggest that both of the handled hammer-stones on page 7 are Australian. I do not personally know of any instance of Maoris using this device, nor do I know any authority that they did do so.

A. H.

1  A most interesting and beautifully illustrated memoir on the feather-work of the Hawaiians has already appeared as part of this series.—Ed.
2  The Sling-stones illustrated in Plate XXXI, and called Ma'a, are identical with those of Niuē Island, but in the latter case they are thrown by the hand without the aid of a sling. They are called maka, and are usually made of stalactite.—Ed.
3  The maika stones illustrated in figure 68, page 69, are identical in shape with the Pua, referred to in notes 154, 155, in last issue of the Journal.Ed.