Ancient Stones Preserve History in Cook Islands

About a month ago the Cook Island News ran story about how the The Cook Islands National Museum received a unique set of ancient stone adze heads and pounders. The four large ancient stone adzes and two stone pounders were gifted by Vaine Veiao on behalf of the Teariki Veiao family.  The stone adzes are ancient cutting tools similar to an ax.


Cook Islands National Museum

Veiao said all the adzes were found on Ngati Teroitoa land in Atiu many years ago. The most recent adze was uncovered in 1992 while Veiao’s family were clearing overgrown sections. He was advised that one of the adze heads had been previously identified by Makiuti Tongia as a Nuku Iva (Marquesas) style adze.

In addition, the largest of the azde heads resembled a Samoan style adze head similar to those found in the Ngati Tiare cache in 1975 held in the Library Museum Collection. Veiao recounts that the pounders (reru) were found deep in the forest where the old marae and settlements used to be on Ngati Teroitoa, the lands from which his grandfather came from.

Veiao said his father had told him stories of his grandfather, born in 1890, who had once used the smaller broken pounder to crush the outer shells of candle nuts (tuitui) which was frequently used for lighting (mori) at night. He said the other pounder was used to mash cooked green bananas into poi opiko.

Veiao also presented a wooden pounding table (papaia), made from the Toa tree. Passed down through the generations, the pounding table was carved before Veiao’s grandfather was born. The family story indicates the age of the papaia is at least 130 years old.

In 2001 Veiao gifted smaller adzes to the National Museum which were also found on Ngati Teroitoa lands in Teenui, Atiu. The family’s decision to donate the treasures (taonga irei) to the National Museum is for the safety and preservation of these rare and valuable artifacts.

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