BACK TO ADZES
August of 1989,
found two unusually shaped stones in the sandy bottom of a coral reef.
The stones were discovered at a depth of approximately 5 feet in the
surf zone of Pila'a Beach on the northern shore of Kaua'i (Figure 1). The diver said that the
stones were found together in a small sandy area that was surrounded by
coral. That is why these stones stood in contrast with the surrounding
The two stones, heavily encrusted with coral growth, were inspected by a marine biologist at Kaua'i Community College. The coral, algae and shellfish growth were very active when taken from the water. All organisms were common Hawaiian reef life forms. This indicated that the stones, which proved to be adzes, did not come from areas outside of Hawaiian waters.
The adzes were treated in the chemistry laboratory at Kaua'i Community College by the chemistry instructor using sulfuric acid baths over a period of two to three weeks. The encrustations could be peeled off in places, while in other places they needed to be carefully chiseled away. Prior to the acid treatment, portions of the adzes showed a very deep black color, but after treatment they became a dull gray color, evidently chemically altered by the acid.
treatment, both adzes
cleaned and prepared for coring. Fortunately, during the chemical
treatment, a small chip of one adze had become detached and this was
used for petrographic analysis. The other adze had to be cored using a
1/4 inch diamond tip core drill. Coring was done by the carpentry
instructor at the college, using a heavy duty drill press. A small core
was extracted from the butt end of the adze. Unfortunately, the drill
press distorted the core tool and the sample could not be extracted
except for some small pieces from the core tube. Both the core tube
samples and the small detached flake were sent to Dr. Yoshihiko Sinoto
of the Bishop Museum for further petrographic study. Dr. Sinoto worked
with Dr. Sinton of the Hawaii' Geophysical Institute of the University
of Hawai'i in the analysis of both samples.
The first adze was large, measuring 36 cm. in length, 7.6 cm. in width, and 6.5 cm. in height at its midsection. The adze weighed 3.56 kg. (7.83 lb.) with coral encrustations and 3.4 kg. (7.48 lb.) without them. The adze had a trapezoidal cross section with the top surface being convex, giving the bit an oval cutting edge. The striking feature was the slight downward tang with pecked surfaces. The rest of the adze's surface were ground.
The second adze measured 25.5 cm. long, 6.5 cm. wide and 5.3 cm. high at its midsection. It weighed 2.1 kg. (4.62 lb.) with coral encrustation and 2.0 kg. ( 4.4 lb.) without them. The adze had a quadrangular cross section but showed a flared body ending in a wide axe-like bit. This adze showed no sign of a distinct tang nor a pecked surface. In this adze, all surfaces were ground(Figure 2).
The adzes were atypical for the following reasons. Both were quite large and heavy, and they lacked a distinct angular tang. One adze showed the indications of pecking technique to provide a rough surface at the butt end for lashing to a handle. The other adze showed a distinct flaring axe-like plan view, while the first showed a curved, convex top surface.
These factors suggest that the adzes either were very early adze types in the Hawaiian culture or that they were brought to these islands from somewhere else in the Pacific. The answer to these questions may come from the petrographic analysis.