Exceptional Popoi Pounder, Marquesas Island
ke'a tuki popoi
height 7 3/4in (16.7cm)
Private Collection, California
Cf. Klejjgren and Ivory (2005: fig. 72)
According to Klejjgren and Ivory (ibid.), "Popoi pounders form part of the basic equipment of every Marquesan household. With their spare lines and robustly modeled grips that broaden into wide, flaring bases, they are at once ingeniously designed functional objects and striking works of art. In former times popoi pounders, fashioned from close-grained volcanic rock [seen here], were made by specialist carvers known as tuhuka ke'a tuki popoi. The process of carving and smoothing the pounders was originally performed almost entirely with stone adzes, although some examples appear to have been finished by abrasion or pecking. Pounders also commonly received a final polish in which a mildly abrasive paste made from charcoal and coconut oil was used to impart a dark lustrous sheen to the surface...
...The dating of popoi pounders and other stone objects remains problematic. While ke'a tuki popoi were certainly used in the precontact period, few, if any, appear to have been collected before the late nineteenth century. Some scholars suggest that the tiki-head type [seen here] represents a postcontact development, perhaps part of the general trend toward greater surface ornamentation that occurred in the late nineteenth century. The archaeologist Robert Suggs, however, believes the earliest tiki-head pounders may date from the mid-eighteenth century. According to information provided by Marquesans in the 1920s, the unusual bifacial tiki images on the pounders had no symbolic significance but served purely as adornment."