An Account of the Pelew Islands, 1803, by George Keate, p.206-212:|
CHAPTER XXV.Of Their Houses—Their Domestic Implements—
Their Weapons of War—Their Canoes.
Their houses were raised about three feet from the ground, placed on large stones, which appeared as if cut from the quarry, being thick and oblong; on these pedestals the foundation beams were laid, from whence sprang the upright supports of their sides, which were crossed by other timbers grooved together, and fastened by wooden pins; the intermediate spaces closely filled up with bamboos and palm-leaves, which they platted so closely and artificially as to keep their habitations warm and exclude all wet; tnd their being raised from the ground preserved them from any humidity.
The floors were in general made of very thick plank, a space of an inch or two being left between many of them. But in some of the houses they were composed of large bamboos split, which being perpetually trodden over, rendered them very slippery.
The interior part of the house was without any division, the whole forming one great room.
In general, the fire-place stood about the middle of it, sunk lower than the floor, with no timber below it, the whole space beneath being filled up with hard rubbish; but in the larger buildings, where they held their public meetings, they had a fire-place at each end.
Their fires were in common but small, being mostly used to boil their yams, and to keep up a little flame at night to clear away the dews, and smoke the mosquitoes.
Their windows came to the level of the floor,, and served both for doors and windows, having stepping-stones at all of them to enter by. To prevent any inconvenience from wind or rain, which so many apertures might occasion, each of them had a bamboo frame or shutter, interwoven as the sides of the houses were, which sliding on bamboo rods, were easily slipt on one side when any body wanted to go in or out.
On the top of the upright sides beams were laid across, from whence sprang the roof, which was pointed like our barns, the whole inside being clear; this made their houses within very lofty and airy; the outside of the roof was thatched very thick and close with bamboos or palm-leaves.
This was the general form of their houses; some of which were from sixty to eighty leet in length, but these were appropriated to public uses, such as meetings of business, or festivity; at other times they served the natives to assemble in and chat together, where the women usually brought their work, and joined in the conversation. Those which were more properly domestic habitations, were the same, both in shape and texture, though less in dimension.
It was remarked, that the family kept on one side of the central fire-place, and the servants on the other.
OF THEIR DOMESTIC IMPLEMENTS.
In a country where no aid could be obtained from the assistance of iron tools, and where every thing which was convenient and useful could only be produced by much time, labour, and patience, and at last fashioned by such poor means as necessity, stimulating invention, by slow degrees brought about, it will not be expected that their domestic implements would be numerous.
Among the things most essential to their idea of comfort, were little baskets, which they always carried about with them; they had different sorts, some of them were of very nice texture, woven from slips of the plantain-leaf. In these they usually carried their beetle-nut [areca nut], their comb, and their knife; nor did they omit having a little twine in it, to tie up any thing they might want to keep together. They had also wooden baskets with covers, very nicely carved, and inlaid with shells. These they hung up in their houses, for use and decoration.
Their best knives were formed of a piece of the large mother-of-pearl [nacre] oyster shell, ground narrow, and the outward side a little polished. The sort more common was made of a piece of some muscle-shell [clam shell], or of a split bamboo, which they sharpen to an edge, and render exceedingly serviceable.
Their combs were formed of the orange-tree: the handle and teeth fashioned from the solid wood, and not in separate pieces closely connected together, like those brought from most of the late-discovered islands.
No man stirred abroad without his basket of beetle-nut. The common order of people had a short piece of bamboo, in which they carried the powdered chinam [this is coral burnt to a lime, which they shake out through one end of the bamboo where they carry it, on the leaf of the beetlenut], to strew over the beetle-nut before they put it in their mouths. The rupacks or great people had their chinam in a long slender bamboo, nicely polished, and inlaid with pieces of shells at each end; and these were often not inelegantly fancied.
Their fishing-hooks were of tortoise-shell. Their twines, their cords, and all their fishing-nets, were well manufactured, and made from the husks of the cocoa-nut [coconut]. The mats on which they slept, and threw over them when at rest, were formed of the plantain-leaf.
At their meals they generally used a plantain-leaf instead of a plate; the shell of the cocoa-nut serving as a cup to drink out of, which they sometimes polished very nicely. They made also vessels of a kind of earthen-ware, of a reddish brown colour, and mostly of an oval shape. In these they heated their water, and boiled their fish, yams, kc. Our people observed the natives were particularly careful of this pottery, never permitting any of it to approach the fire unless gradually, and always moving it with great caution; from which circumstances it is probable they have not yet discovered a method of burning it sufficiently.
A bundle of cocoa-nut husks, tied together, formed a broom, to dust or sweep their habitations. The only conveniency they had for keeping water in their houses, or bringing it from their springs, was thick bamboos, that had a bore of five or six inches diameter; these they placed upright, and stopped them when they wanted to pour any out, being at the upper end lipped so as to form a kind of spout.
Their hatchets were not unlike those of the South Sea islands, of which so many have been seen in England; the blade part being made of the strongest part of the large Kima cockle [giant clam shell], ground to a sharp edge. But they were happy to adopt iron, when it had been given to them.
They had also another kind of hatchet, which was formed in a manner to move round in a groove, that the edge might act longitudinally, or transversely, by which it would serve as a hatchet, or an adze, as occasion required.
Uncouth as their hatchets might appear to our people, it was a matter of surprise, to observe in how little a time the natives were able to fell a tree with them, though not without breaking several.
The things which I have above mentioned were such as their natural wants required; when these had been provided for, ingenuity superadded a few articles, which might in these islands be deemed luxuries. The shell of the tortoise was there remarkably beautiful, and the natives of Pelew had discovered the art of moulding it into little trays or dishes, and into spoons, with which, on particular occasions they eat their fish and yams. Some of the great ladies had also bracelets of the same manufacture, and ear-rings inlaid with shells.
How they conceived this art of working the tortoise-shell, or the idea of improving on a natural advantage, or what process they made use of to effect it, our people had no opportunity of discovering.
On days of public festivity, there was usually brought out the vessel mentioned in page 68, as representing a bird, the top of which lifted off, forming its back. It contained about thirty six English quarts; and was filled with sweet drink for the King and his rupacks. This was Abba Thulles property; and when one considers it as the work of so much time and patience (and the more estimable, as being the only vessel of the kind in their country), the King's giving it to Captain Wilson [Henry Wilson, captain of the British East India Company's packet ship Antelope] at his departure, as already mentioned, was an additional proof of the liberality of these people, who were ready to divest themselves even of what they most valued, to give to their friends.
THEIR WEAPONS OF WAR.
The principal weapons used in their battles were spears; they were commonly about twelve feet long, formed of the bamboo, with the pointed end made of some wood exceedingly hard; they were barbed transversely, so that, having once entered the body, it was difficult to draw them out without lacerating the flesh, and widening to a great degree the wound.
Another war-weapon was the dart and sling. The sling was a piece of wood about two feet in length, with a notch made in it, wherein the head of the dart was fixed. The dart was of bamboo, pointed with an extreme hard and heavy kind of wood, like the spear, which they compressed with their hand, till the elasticity of the bamboo had formed such a curve as experience told them would reach the object aimed at; then letting it slip from the notch, it flew forth, and fell by its gravitation with the point downward, so as to effect the purpose of being destructive if it fell upon the enemy.
It is hardly to be conceived with what address they directed this weapon, or the distance at which it would prove mortal. Their spears were only calculated for a certain distance, not being in general missible beyond fifty or sixty feet.
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