French Polynesia, Marquesas Islands, Enata peoples, ca. late 18th to early 19th century CE. An intriguing and elegant poi pounder, hand-carved from dark-grey basalt stone, used for repeatedly pounding taro root into poi. The tool is defined by a rounded pounding face, wide shoulders, a smooth tapered profile, a thick tubular handle, and a bifurcated knob adorned with a pair of carved abstract Janiform faces. Each abstract face is composed of almond-shaped eyes, rectangular noses, and ovoid mouths with full lips, with furrowed eye brows and a mutual set of horizontal scarification lines stretching across the cheeks. Both the handle and pounding face are relatively smooth to the touch as a result of repeated use. Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 4.4" W x 6.3" H (11.2 cm x 16 cm); 7.5" H (19 cm) on included custom stand.
Poi pounders, alongside adzes, were the most important stone tools in Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands (Europeans introduced steel weapons). The pounder, known locally as a "Ke'a Tuki Popoi," are used for pounding cooked taro root into poi, a staple of the islander diet. Taro root was steamed in an earthen oven, peeled using shells, and placed onto a slab of wood to be pounded. The pounded results were blended with water into a highly nutritious paste. Traditional calabash bowls were used as containers to hold poi mixtures, and traveling royalty were accompanied by their own poi maker, with his or her own poi-making implements like this one.
For a similar Janiform example, please see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 1995.65.1: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/317734
Provenance: private Newport Beach, California, USA collection
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