The Adze is an ancient versatile tool, similar to an axe, used since the stone age.
In Maori and Polynesian prehistoric times, they were important tools in wood carving and more. In the Cook Islands, the tool has also been used for many centuries. In Cook Island legends, Te Erui, the second ancestor who arrived in Aitutaki from the Society Islands, brought with him an adze called Aumapu, considered the first adze brought to Aitutaki. While it is possible that Te Erui bought other adzes along his travels, they might have been of poor quality not considered in the chants and dance. The adze is not only considered a tool, but a symbol of wealth.
A Ta’aunga, an adze maker, has an important position in social and economical significance. Paid in food and cloth, they can also be able to buy protection from a powerful chief as well, as long as they have a large collection of adzes. In the 19th century, adzes carvers began selling the tools for foreign trade. some of these bought adzes are now on display in museums, including some in Auckland and in the United Kingdom, dating back to the 1800s.
Nowadays, the adze is mostly for ceremonial use in the Cook Islands, used for the initiation of local chiefs, and even as gifts such as for 21st keys.