A fine and rare pair of Hawaiian marlin bill daggers
Pahoa a'u, shaped and polished marlin bill, the hilt having a beveled edge, fine old patina overall, one example darker. length 6 3/4 and 7in
Hawaiians were singular among Polynesian people in their development and use of daggers. Cook himself recorded the predominate use of daggers in Hawaii (an ironic fact given their role in his demise). While pahoa is the general Hawaiian name for dagger, the early historian Malo includes ku'i'a in a list of weapons which Emerson describes as "a short, sharp-pointed stick, or dagger, which might be carried thrust in the girdle" (Buck, Peter, ARTS AND CRAFTS OF HAWAII, 1957, p. 425). Allen Wardwell notes, "Although they made and used long spears and clubs, the Hawaiians favored hand-to-hand combat between chiefs themselves or groups of warriors. Small weapons in the form of thrusting and gouging instruments with shark-tooth edges, clubs and daggers were therefore predominant" (ISLAND ANCESTORS, 1994, p. 242). Additional marine sources for pahoa include swordfish and sawfish bills; a unique example made with stingray spines is known (Sotheby's, ARTS OF AFRICA, OCEANIA AND THE AMERICAS ,May 2002, lot 354). These organic materials were rapidly replaced with the advent of European contact: "When Cook's vessels arrived, the Hawaiians were eager to obtain iron, particularly spikes which could be used as daggers" (Buck, 1957, p. 435).