Thursday, November 20, 2014


David Malo gives us the following lesson on Maika, or Ulu Maika.

When people wanted the excitement of betting they hunted up the men who were powerful in rolling the maika stone, and every man made his bet on the one whom he thought to be the strongest player.

The experts also studied the physique of the players, as well as the signs and omens, after which the betting went too ruinous lengths.

Now the maika was a stone which was fashioned after the shape of a wheel, thick at the centre and narrow at the circumference - a biconvex disc. It was also called an ulu, this thing with which the game of maika was played.

The ulu-maika (by which name the stone disc, or the game itself was called) was made from many varieties of stone, and they were accordingly designed after the variety of stone from which they were made.

The game of maika was played on a road-way, or kahua, made especially for the purpose. When all had made their bets the maika-players came to the maika-course.

The ulu which the first man hurled was said to be his kumu, mua, ie, his first basis or pledge; in the same way the ulu which the second player hurled, or bowled, was called his kumu.

If the second player outdid the first player's shot he scored.  If they both went the same distance it was a dead heat.  But if the second player did not succeed in out-doing the first man's play the score was given to the first player.

(It is not clear whether sometimes the play was not to drive the ulu between two stakes set up at a distance, whether the ulu-maika of the first player was removed from the course as soon as it came to a standstill, by what means the point reached by the ulu was marked, if it was removed from the course in order to clear the track for the next player.)

(There was no doubt a great diversity of practice as to these points on the different islands, and even in the different parts of the same island.)  (Malo)

Ellis also notes that at times, “the only contention is, who can bowl it farthest along the tahua, or floor.”   However, he also notes the use of stakes in ‘maita’ or ‘uru maita.’

Two sticks are stuck in the ground only a few inches apart, at a distance of thirty or forty yards, and between these, but without striking either, the parties at play strive to throw their stone.

The uru, which they use instead of a dart, is a circular stone, admirably adapted for rolling, being of compact lava, or a white alluvial rock, (found principally in the island of Oʻahu,) about three or four inches in diameter, an inch in thickness around the edge, but thicker in the centre.”  (Ellis, 1831)

Alexander confirms the two approaches to the game, “A favorite amusement, the maika, consisted in bowling a circular, highly-polished stone disk called an ulu, three or four inches in diameter and an inch or more thick, swelling with a slight convexity from the edges to the center.”

“A kahua or level track about three feet wide and half a mile in length was made smooth and hard. In this track two short sticks were fixed in the ground only a few inches apart, at a distance of thirty or forty yards.”

“The game consisted in either sending the stone between these sticks, or in seeing which party could bowl it farthest. It is said that one of their best players would bowl the stone upwards of a hundred rods.”

Jarves simply notes Maika is “a species of bowling, in which a circular stone, highly polished, with flat sides is used.”  McGregor notes the ‘ulu maika or stone bowling disc date to the Developmental Period (600 to 1100.)

Fornander notes, “we found at the bottom two Maika stones of extraordinary size, which were said to be the particular Ulu which Pāʻao brought with him from foreign lands, and with which he amused himself when playing the favourite game of Maika.”

“These stones were as large as the crown of a common-sized hat, two inches thick at the edges and a little thicker in the middle. They were of a white, fine-grained, hard stone, that may or may not be of Hawaiian quarrying: I am not geologist enough to say.”

“I have seen many Maika stones from ancient times, of from two to three inches diameter, of a whitish straw colour, but never seen or heard of any approaching these of Pāʻao in size or whiteness. Though they are called the Maika stones of Pāʻao – ‘Na Ulu a Pāʻao’ - yet their enormous size would apparently forbid their employment for that purpose.”  (Fornander)

“One of the finest ‘Ulu-maika’ places on the islands was the one belonging to Kou (what is now downtown Honolulu.) This was a hard, smooth track about twelve feet wide extending from the corner on Merchant and Fort Streets now occupied by the Bank of Hawaii along the sea ward side of Merchant Street to the place beyond Nuʻuanu Avenue known as the old iron works at Ula-ko-heo.”

“It was used by the highest chiefs for rolling the stone disc known as "the maika stone." Kamehameha I is recorded as having used this maika track.”  (Westervelt)

The image shows an ulu maika (NationalMuseumAustralia.)  In addition, I have added some other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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