Pacific Argonauts tool par excellence. Pure beauty of form & function.
The stone & shell adze was the most important Polynesian tool. The Pacific adze felled trees, hewed timbers for canoes and canoe parts, household furnishings & goods, bowls, clubs and migrated across the vast ocean. Long lasting it continues to provide information & argument on Polynesian migration and settlement.
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"With regard to Sharp's theory of drift within Polynesia with its implication of a chaotic pattern of culture traits, I draw attention first to the clear cut distinction in adze types as between Western and Eastern Polynesia, where not one tanged adze has been established for the former, while not one group of Eastern Polynesia is without the tanged adze. Finally I note the tendency for the distribution pattern of distinctive types in Eastern Polynesia to correspond with concentric zones, implying radial diffusion from a centrally placed group, here seen to be the Society Islands.
I should have thought myself that the divergence between Western and Eastern Polynesian adze forms was the reverse of evidence of deliberate contact. Duff's logic in citing the fact that tangless adzes were confined to Western Polynesia and tanged adzes to Eastern Polynesia, as if it were more of an argument for deliberate than accidental settlement, is beyond me. Does Duff think that by some sort of deliberate zoning arrangement the tanged adzes were carefully restricted to Eastern Polynesia and the tangless ones to Western Polynesia?
These facts are hard to explain in terms of deliberate long voyaging. On the other hand there is a simple hypothesis whereby they could be explained in terms of accidental settlement, namely that after Eastern Polynesia was accidentally settled from Western Polynesia, the art of tanged adzes was developed in Eastern Polynesia and conveyed by accidental settlers to the peripheral islands which were then uninhabited, whereas any accidental voyagers from Eastern Polynesia who might have come to Western Polynesia, being a mere handful of migrants among a widespread existing population with an established technique of making tangless adzes, would be absorbed without making any noticeable impact.
This hypothesis fits in with Elbert's linguistic conclusions that the parent Eastern Polynesian language came from Western Polynesia, and that the speeches of Hawaii, Rarotonga, New Zealand and the Tuamotus were among the youngest of Eastern Polynesian tongues.
Duff's assumption that accidental settlement implies a “chaotic pattern of culture traits” is inconsistent with the fact that the winds and currents of the Pacific themselves follow well-defined patterns. In my book I spent some effort in demonstrating the correlation that exists between the generally accepted Polynesian linguistic and cultural patterns and the meteorology and oceanography of the area."
• DUFF, Roger, 1959. “Neolithic Adzes of Eastern Polynesia.” In Freeman, J. D., and Geddes, W. R., eds., Anthropology in the South Seas, pp. 121-147. Thomas Avery & Sons Ltd., New Plymouth.
• ELBERT, S. H., 1953. “Internal Relationships of Polynesian Languages and Dialects.” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 9:147-173.
• GRACE, G. W., 1959. The Position of the Polynesian Languages within the Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) Language Family. International Journal of American Linguistics, Memoir 16.
• SHARP, Andrew, 1956. Ancient Voyagers in the Pacific. Wellington, Polynesian Society, Memoir Vol. 32.
"On the first occasion on which I saw a stone adze used, my previous ideas on this subject were promptly dissipated. Passing a canoe-builder at work in Kerepunu, British New Guinea, I observed him hewing with a steel tomahawk while beside him lay a rotary stone adze. Being requested to show how the latter was employed, the native obligingly laid aside his European tool and resumed the Papuan one. Three years daily toil in the Queensland bush with an American axe had made me familiar with its use, and it was with the critical eye of a fellow-craftsman that I watched the Papuan axeman. I expected to see him chop with short, light strokes, but with astonishment I saw him plant his feet firmly, swing his adze over his left shoulder at full arm's length, sliding the left hand down the handle in doing so, and then, rising slightly on his toes, bring it down with all the force of every muscle in his arms, back, and legs. After freeing the chip, the adze went up and round and down, and down again, in the most workmanlike style. Under these blows a rain of chips, long, broad chips, sprang from the adze blade over the heads of the bystanders. The aim proved equal to the force, as a strip of timber disappeared inch by inch under well directed even strokes."