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Three ancient stone adze heads, Fiji, ex-Holmes collection, pre-1900 (MPG)

These archaic stone tools are of outstanding quality. Two are of black basalt (one wide and one slightly narrower point) and one of a grey stone. The working tips of all three are exceptional, particularly the curved tip of the grey stone example. The grey stone is naturally matte, but both black blades have a wonderful glossy patina.

These three adze heads were collected in the 19th century, but would have been ground many years before and could date back to the 18th century, when the sandalwood trade began and iron would have been used for trade, replacing stone tools. It is worth noting that the classic 1865 work on Fiji, Thomas Williams’ “Fiji and the Fijians”, mentions only metal bladed tools, so they had obviously disappeared from use many years before this.

I sent the Fiji Museum photographs and was informed that this type of prehistoric tool was represented in their collection and was mainly associated with Vanua Levu and the small central islands of Fiji.

Detailed descriptions: The larger black adze is just under 9 inches (22 cm) long, roughly round and tapering at both ends. The hafting end is slightly rougher in finish, probably to facilitate hafting. The working tip has been flattened at an angle and is about ¾ of an inch / 2 cm wide. The smaller of the two black blades is 7 inches/ 18 cm long and has a fine finish overall. The mark left by the hafting material is visible about half way up. The cutting side of the adze head has been flattened and tapered and the width of the working tip is just under one inch /2.4 cm. there is a large flake on the side and several more at the “blunt” end, but these could have occurred during the shaping of the blade, as they would have been hidden by the hafting. The grey blade is also roughly rounded and tapering at both ends. It is 8 ½ inches / 21 cm long. The working tip measures just under 1 inch / 2cm across.

Provenance: From the estate of a descendent of the Holmes family of Fiji. Mr Holmes was a prominent European coffee planter in Fiji at the turn of the century. He was obviously a well known figure in the local settler community, as he won prizes for his coffee. He was on very friendly terms with the Governor of Fiji from 1904 - 1910, the famous mountain climber Sir Everard im Thurn KGB, and they had a friendly correspondence, mainly on birds (they were both keen ornithologists). Like most plantation owners at the time, Holmes must have accumulated a collection of local artefacts and this was repatriated to Australia when the Holmes family or their children returned to live here. These items, which became part of the deceased estate of one of his descendents, were auctioned in Sydney by the executor. A photocopy of a letter from the Governor to Holmes was supplied by the auction house, Lawson Duetcher Menzies in Sydney, to prove the family’s 19th century links to Fiji. A copy of this letter will be supplied to the purchaser.

Price: 1500.00 AUD
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