Originally adzes of this kind were a form of god image, possibly related to Tane-mata-ariki. The stone blades were not only tools, but also exchange valuables. Often the blades predate the handles, which were normally long and straight. The coir fibre binding that held the blade to the handle was meant to be intricate to reflect the item’s power. When missionary influence spread in the 1820s and Cook Islanders converted to Christianity, these adzes lost their ceremonial potency and were widely collected and local specialists began making them for sale as curios. This item is a late development and was likely produced post-1820.

Object Summary

Museum Number 33/1953/8a
Simple Name adze
Full Name ceremonial adze
Common Name adze
Production country Cook Islands
Material wood; basalt; coconut fibre
Collection class Religion and magic
Collection continent Pacific
Collection area/region POLYN
Production county Mangaia
Production continent Oceania
Production year high 1953
Function name tool