Archdeacon Samuel Williams called it an ahao. A Maori spelt it for me ahau. The word does not occur either in Williams's, or Colenso's, or Tregear's, or the Hawaiian, or Niue, or Mangarewa, or other dictionaries, which shows the instrument had nearly gone out of use. Hao in Maori = to do and round, to enclose, to shut in, to encircle as a fisherman draws in a net. This ahao draws together the gills of fishes, the top of a basket, and shuts in the contents. Hao is a word used for hard substances of bone; hahao = to put up in a basket; sao = to collect food; and totao = a sharp point. In Mangarewa ahao is to put into a basket, and taotaomu is a wooden implement used to collect fish out of a pond. Among the negroes of Assam, a closely allied race, dao is a sharp-pointed substance of wood or bone. In Niue a fish-spear was taohokaika; haohao is a fish with a beak, and pulu is cocoanut-husk. The Taranaki Maori expert, Kauri, called it a purupuru—-an instrument used for caulking purposes. Puru in Maori is a plug or cork—-to plug. In Mangaia puru is the fibre of cocoanut, used in caulking canoes to make them watertight. In Samoa bula (New Zealand Maori puru) is a kind of gum used as pitch in caulking canoes. It will be noticed that Maoris used their marlinspike exactly as did the English sailors—for caulking purposes. The European used tow and the Maori cocoanut-fibre or raupo; the European sailor used pitch, the Maori sailor used gum; and centuries
ago both sailors used a similar implement to fasten planks together with cords. European and Maori sailors alike used it with its holes for reeving purposes.
As the various tribes of Maoris used the same instrument, it is clear that the names and the implement itself were known in the ancient Hawaiki. It will also be seen that its names ahao and purupuru refer to the two main purposes to which the tool was put.
Mr. Percy Smith recognised the implement, having known similar ones years ago. He thought it was called a kaneka or taneka, words which have not been preserved in Maori dictionaries, the idea being suggestive of the word “piercer,” which would suggest one of its uses. Aneane or aneha means “sharp-pointed.” A tao or kao is a sharp-pointed spear. Thus in the various Maori dialects this instrument was called by many names.
This paper, short as it is, embodies a considerable amount of research, I having ransacked much literature and consulted many experts in Maori lore, to many of whom the implement was quite unknown. I think this embodies all that will ever be discovered about the ahao.