Drilling Down the…Drills?

Taking a different spin on tattoos, I delved into scholarly articles that were, well, scholarly. In the following blog post, I analyze three different articles that begin by discussing tattoo kits used in Maori culture and ultimately end up with cutting instruments of Maori culture. They each cite one another, and I will comment on their similarities and differences.

The first article, “Tattoo in Transition: A Post-European Maori Tattooing Kit” by J.B. Palmer is found in The Journal of the Polynesian Society and was published in 1958. Outdated? It would appear so. Until I turned the cover page and read the material. The article focuses on the “period of change in post-European Maori culture” (387) and discusses how the European invasion influenced the culture of the Maori in relation to their “technologies,” or tools, at that time. The article gives an in-depth look to the tattooing kit of the Maori (and presents a diagram of this) and how the tattoo kit changed due to European influence, noting that the invasion “resulted in the disappearance of men’s tattoos” (389). While the article provided definitions for each tool, it also delved into the significance of each tool.

To spin off of this article, Palmer then cites the second article I read, “Terminology for the Ground Stone Cutting-Implements in Polynesia” by Peter H. Buck, Kenneth P. Emory, H.D. Skinner, and John F.G. Stokes. It was published, too, by The Journal of the Polynesian Society and appeared in 1930. Again, seemingly outdated, but since the time period they are studying is in the past, the information they disseminate is relevant today. The first article cites this article by indicating what the definition of a chisel is, as defined by Buck et al. When reading the second article, I noted that it provides definitions of certain cutting implements in the Polynesian culture, such as “edge,” “bevel,” “gouge,” etc. These two articles are in conversation with one another because the first article uses the second as a means to define the significance of the chisel as it proves their topic of post-European Maori culture, and the chisel is a direct example of how the European influence changed their cutting methods. Both of these articles provide a diagram of the different cutting utensils. While seemingly insignificant, using the second article’s definition was critical to the first article’s analysis of the European influence as the definition validated the point they were making.

The third article, “Stone Implements of Pitcairn Island” by Kenneth P. Emory, published by The Journal of the Polynesian Society in 1928,while written first, uses two strategies the aforementioned articles use: terminology and analysis. Emory’s article defines key cutting implements (while, also, including diagrams of each utensil), but then takes that terminology and builds on it to indicate what the tools hint at about the Polynesian culture. For example, after describing and defining “adze,” a cutting tool, Emory elaborates the definition by including an analysis of what the tool indicates: “the apparent prototype of the adze with a tang at an angle to the blade, gives grounds for the assumption that the development of the angled adze took place outside of Hawaii” (126). Here, Emory defines the tool but gives grounds for the greater meaning behind the tool.

All three articles seem to be in conversation with one another because they pool the definitions of the stone cutting tools, yet they deviate in their assumptions of the tools and the greater meaning. Where Buck et al. provide only definitions of stone cutting tools, Palmer and Emory dive deeper and discuss what the tools can show us about history. Palmer takes advantage of the post-European invasion and discusses what the cutting tools suggest about the shift in Maori culture, and Emory analyzes the specific dimensions of each cutting tool and looks towards what it indicates about history. Thus, they all rely on one another for the definitions, but each takes its own unique spin.

I noticed that all three articles refer to sources found in The Journal of the Polynesian Society and did not seem to deviate from different publications. I noted, too, that some of the same authors were reference throughout all three articles, and Kenneth P. Emory contributed to two of the articles mentioned. Despite the fact that Emory serves on two articles, each article is noticeably different in their purpose and implications, and I did not feel that he was saying the same thing in both articles.



One comment

  1. “Edge,” “bevel,” “gouge,” and “adze” are tool names I recognize from my research into woodcarving and stonecarving (which I studied in detail when working on the background for one of my novel’s main characters, who is a builder/carver/mechanic). It’s pretty interesting to think that an article talking about tattoo tools would end up being linked to stonecarving tools. I’m curious, though, whether these are the same tools used in their tattooing processes. Usually when we think of tattooing, we just think of a needle. But it would be interesting to learn that Polynesian tattooing involves more of a “carving” into the skin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s