Volume 62 1953 > Volume 62, No. 4 > Further notes on southern patu, by W. J. Phillipps, 391-399
                                                                                             Previous | Next   

- 391

WE now describe a number of South Island patu in the Dominion Museum including two stone and four bone specimens, though two of these are known to us by the handles only. Forms described are in general dissimilar, though features of correspondence are discussed. Until further items are examined, we refrain from adopting any general enlargement of the system of classification which has been tentatively adopted for groups of patu; but sooner or later some such systematic approach will be necessary.

A remarkable stone patu of argylite (fig. 1) collected by the late Captain J. Bollons from Greville Harbour, D'Urville Island is in the Dominion Museum. This specimen is well ground but unpolished. Before being ground it had been finely finished by a pecking or bruising process, and some of this still appears on the surface, particularly towards the handle end. In general the flattened body surfaces are convex; but become much flattened towards the end, which is bluntly sharpened on the rounded edge. One side of the blade is more flattened than the other. Dimly seen reddish stains on the flattened surface indicate former use as a pounder, though this patu would probably be also used as a weapon. The handle is oval in section and more heavily constructed than usual; but the unusual feature of this patu is the raised and enlarged poll which on its end is partly carved in the form of a crude human face, broad above and narrowing to a pointed chin. In general we regard this specimen as an aberrant form in the South Island. It is a Taranaki class of patu probably received by capture or exchange, or perhaps manufactured by an expert from Taranaki who had transferred his home to D'Urville Island.

Measurements taken are: total length, 276 mm.; greatest width of blade, 105 mm.; thickness of blade near its end, 26 mm.; thickness of blade near handle, 32 mm.; width of handle near poll, 47 mm.; height of carved face, 63 mm.; width of carved face, 40 mm.; weight, 3 lbs.; registered number, Mao. 6129.

- 392
FIG. 1.
L. L. D. Buswell, del. Stone patu, Greville Harbour, Capt. J. Bollon's collection.
- 393

In J.P.S., Vol. 48, p. 71, 1939, Maori stone pounding implements are discussed and classified under the heads of Classes, Groups and sub-groups. Apart from patu onewa, the stone patu is primarily used for pounding flax fibre (muka) to make it soft, pliable and lustrous for use in garment making. However, it is also adapted for other pounding tasks such as crushing red ochre for painting and colouring matter. Sometimes fern root is pounded; but usually a wooden pounder is found to be most efficacious for this task. In the above article we have where possible, avoided the use of the word type, which is we consider best reserved for a single specimen as in biological sciences.

So, using this classification, the patu (fig. 1) could be classified into Group 10 as above defined. Group 10 is described as remarkable and distinctive, recognised by a distorted human head carved on the butt end. This head is relatively large and is generally set at an oblique angle to the elongate body.

Our specimen may be further classified as being a member of the Sub-group 1 of Group 10 in that though the body is more flattened than most members of this sub-group, there is no appearance of a shoulder defining the handgrip which merges evenly into the body, also the head bends forward in relation to the line of the body as in several members of the sub-group.

A small partly polished black stone patu, flattened and bluntly sharpened at the edges, has attracted special attention because of a hole which has been drilled in the blade just above the hand grip (fig. 2). This is almost certainly from the collection of Augustus Hamilton, late Director of the Dominion Museum, and probably comes from Otago. Here we have a patu with an ovate blade, elongate and rounded at the end, gradually decreasing in width into a well defined handle which tapers towards its end. Provision is made for a wrist strap by the construction of indentures on the sides. The handle end is broken seeming to indicate that whatever poll was once present is now broken off. Of interest is the fact that blackish and ochre stains are dimly seen on the blade indicating its former use as a pounder, in part at least.

Measurements taken are: total length, 255 mm.; greatest body thickness 23.5 mm.; greatest width of blade, 81 mm.; handle end (reke) to suspension hole, 95 mm.;

- 394
FIG. 2.
L. L. D. Buswell, del. Stone patu, probably Otago.
- 395
FIG. 3., FIG. 4.
L. L. D. Buswell, del. Bone patu, probably Marlborough., L. L. D. Buswell, del. Bone patu, Waikoura.
- 396

thickness at reke or poll, 17 mm.; diameter of suspension hole, 25 x 29 mm.; registered number, Mao. 6519.

The Otago patu figured by A. Hamilton in Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. 29, p. 178, pl. 8, figs. 3 and 4, 1897, resemble this specimen in having similar holes drilled in the blade. However, these differ from our specimen in having a well defined poll, grooved below to take a thong. In one the hole is drilled in approximately the same position as our specimen; but in the other the hole appears near the blade end, an unusual feature, but quite satisfactory if regarded as a suspension hole only. Fig. 3 (see above ref.) is said to come from a rock shelter near Napara, 17 miles west of Oamaru, and was originally in Oamaru Athenaeum Museum. The locality of Fig. 4 (above ref.) is known to be in Otago.

A short bone patu purchased from the Trustees of the Taylor Estate, Blenheim, in 1912, is unusually wide in proportion to its length and may be seen in fig. 3. This patu is much weathered all over and even the shape has deteriorated since its manufacture. In general the blade is flattened and rounded closely resembling the large North Island mere. The blade is widest near its end, tapering towards the handle. The handle is short, well defined and tapers towards the poll. There is a well defined groove separating the poll from the handle. The poll is unfortunately broken at the sides; but has been originally somewhat ovate. A hole has been commenced in the poll; but never finished; so it is possible that this patu was broken in the making and so discarded.

Dimensions are: total length, 233 mm.; greatest width of blade, 83 mm.; handle apart from poll, approximately, 50 mm.; width of handle at thong groove, 19 mm.; length of poll, 30 mm.; thickness of blade, 17 mm.; thickness of upper handle, 20 mm.; registered number, Mao. 2522.

A bone patu from Kaikoura (fig. 4) acquired by the Dominion Museum in 1893 is slightly made with a well defined hand grip and a grooved butt end. One side is somewhat weathered, and doubtless the weapon was at one time a little thicker and heavier than it is now, though for use in fighting it would appear never to have been formidable. Seen edge on the mere is curved inwards on its weathered side. The type of grooved butt end (poll) simulates a type in which a terminal groove becomes the tongue. - 397 Three ridges and an end or median ridge are present on the poll. This may be a stage in the treatment of the butt end which reaches its climax in the patu onewa, patu paraoa, and patu pounamu of the North Island. The hand grip is well defined with more or less straight sides slightly wider towards the poll. Towards its rounded end the blade becomes “thinner” and is more sharpened around the edges. On the handle not far from the poll a wide thong hole appears.

Dimensions are: total length, 310 mm.; greatest width of blade, 68 mm.; thickness of blade towards end, 6 mm. (towards handle 11 mm.); length of handle, 60 mm.; poll or reke, flattened, 39 x 29 mm. long; diameter of hole, outside 13 to 15 mm.; thickness at poll, 16 mm.; registered number, Mao. 119.

An interesting item in the Bollon's collection is the handle of a bone patu from Greville Harbour, D'Urville Island (fig. 5). This handle, though much decayed, is remarkable for its length, and is related to a long-handled group of patu, one of which is figured from the South Island by Hamilton in Maori Art, pl. 32, 1895, while two others have been described from Horowhenua by Adkin, firstly in Horowhenua, pp. 69-70, figs. 3 and 63, 1948, and secondly in J.P.S., Vol. 61, p. 314, 1952. However, our specimen links up with the bone patu already described from Kaikoura (fig. 4) for the butt end evidences a corresponding treatment of the ridges on the poll, here unfortunately much decayed. That this treatment is derived from the human face, and that the protruding tongue is symbolised is indicated by comparing Adkin's first specimen with fig. 4, for the protruding tongue is there much in evidence on the human face carved on the poll, while here the face is absent and the tongue remains. Also the work of Skinner, J.P.S., Vol. 40, p. 83, 1931, makes this self-evident.

The handle here described evidently belonged to some sort of bone weapon of the miti class in which both blade and handle are elongate rather than wide. Here the blade is often ridged longitudinally. Fortunately one side of the handle does not show signs of decay and is flattened and polished towards the upper end as if adapted as a polishing tool after it had become broken. The thong hole is situated at a point where the poll widens out above the handle. The

- 398
FIG. 5., FIG. 6.
Bone patu handle, Greville Harbour., L. L. D. Buswell, del. Bone patu handle, Purakanui.

outer part of the hole is outsplayed as is usual, but the actual upper edge is clearly defined.

The poll end is crescentic and grooved, indications of a second ridge being present. Measurements are: total length, 150 mm.; width of handle below thong hole, 27 mm.; width of poll, 32 mm.; depth of handle below thong hole, 22 mm.; outer diameter of suspension hole, 14 x 20 mm.; depth of handle at blade end, 23 mm.; registered number, Mao. 5259.

- 399

The poll and part of the handle of a bone patu found by the writer about the year 1912, is to be seen in fig. 6. The locality was the sand swept midden of Purakanui, north of Dunedin. Numerous moa bones and pieces of worked moa bone were from time to time collected from this midden, so it is possible this patu belonged to a “moa-hunter” pre-Fleet culture. One side has been more weathered than the other. Of main interest is the use of a poll of a general triangular appearance. The notch on the straight triangular side of the poll is evidently due to erosion or some sort of accident for it is more pronounced at the back. Both poll and handle have a flattened surface, the handle being rounded at the sides, and the poll partly flattened.

Dimensions are: length, 108 mm.; greatest width of handle, 32 mm.; width of handle at base of poll, 25 mm.; thickness of handle, 18 mm.; thickness of poll, 20 mm.; registered number, Mao. 5825.