|Lawn bowl and Bowling stone, Tauranga Heritage Collection|
These stone balls have only been found in the Tauranga and Mount Maunganui areas in New Zealand. This example is made of a soft, coarse grained stone - probably a local volcanic rhyolite - 8.5 to 13.5 cm in diameter and weighing 2.52 kg.
Throughout the last 150 years various collectors of Maori artefacts have come across these spherical shaped stones and deposited them in museums for safe-keeping. People are now able to research and document these artefacts, but more importantly it enables us to form an appreciation of, and an insight into, the lives of past cultures and possibly their pastimes, while appreciating the rarity of such taonga throughout New Zealand.
Edward Earl Vaile was a collector who donated 14 bowling stones and 11 pumice bowls, all found at Mount Maunganui and Motuhoa Island, to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Vaile was born on 3rd March 1864 at Hampstead, London, England, and educated at Auckland College and Grammar School. In 1886 he joined the family real estate business and was asked to give his advice on the value of an estate of undeveloped pumice land between Rotorua and Taupo. Around this point Vaile retired from the family business and became a farmer. He also had an interest in philanthropy and endowed the archaeologist’s position at Auckland Museum.
Despite the availability of these objects for research purposes, mysteries remain such as why the stones are limited to one locality? Are there any links between these stones and those of the Pacific Island nations? Were they imported here or locally manufactured? Were they used to establish who the top athlete was, or simply part of a game to pass the time?