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Sepik Greenstone hafted Adze & Handle

Polynesia, probably Rotuma or New Guinea
19th century or earlier

length of handle: 30cm, approximate length of stone blade: 15cm



Acquired on the UK art market and most probably has been in the UK since the colonial era.

This superb adze comprises a dark green nephrite-like stone blade, a wooden shaft, and ample hand-plaited, natural coconut fibre twine that fixes the blade to the shaft. The adze has excellent patina, most evident in the wooden shaft which has a lovely honeyed hue. An old collection label is attached to the shaft further suggesting the item’s age and provenance. The label reads in faint handwritten script ‘New Guinea’, although the form of the adze, the way in which the stone had been attached to the handle and the roughly hewn handle itself, is very similar to an example that has been attributed to Rotuma (see Kaeppler, 2010, p. 269).

Adzes differ from an axe in that the blade of an adze is set at right angles to the tool’s shaft (like a hoe or plane), unlike the blade of an axe which is set in line with the shaft. Adzes were thus used for digging and gouging, although this example would have had ceremonial purposes.

This hafted adze is from the nineteenth century or earlier. The blade itself however might be considerably older. Important ritual or ceremonial objects such as this were passed from generation to generation. New twine and shafts would have been added whenever the old ones had become worn or frayed. Although the twine and handle on this example clear have significant age.: Acquired on the UK art market and most probably has been in the UK since the colonial era.

Tribesmen of the Middle Sepik. NhKZJ1UKhD0


Kaeppler, A., Polynesia: The Mark and Carolyn Blackburn Collection of Polynesian Art, University of Hawaii Press, 2010.

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