The Moa-Hunters of New Zealand: Sportsman of the Stone Age
Chapter I. Did The Maori Know The Moa?
Chapter I. Did The Maori Know The Moa?
What visionary Pasts revive,
What process of the Years we see!
I Propose to discuss within the compass of these pages a subject that I have chosen to call “The Moa-hunters of New Zealand.” In the comparatively brief course of this Dominion's historical and scientific development there has been no phase of its natural history so fruitful of discussion and difference of opinion as the life-story of our extinct giant bird—the Moa. That this should be so is little wonder, for no animate thing that New Zealand has produced has been so shrouded in mystery, so hedged about with romance, as has this wingless creature, once king of our avian world and monarch of all he surveyed. Whence he came, how he lived, whither he went, once were problems engaging spirited attention; and in spite of the reams that have been written about them these speculations are problems still, because they are as far as ever removed from a convincing solution. To the acute attention devoted to the study of the Moa, not alone page 2 in New Zealand but hardly less in other parts of the world, two factors materially contributed. The first of these was the amazing discovery, under somewhat sensational circumstances, that there had once lived in so small a country a wingless bird of such tremendous proportions and surprising number of species. The second factor was that, coincident with this discovery, there occurred an amazing European development in the study of the natural sciences.
Notwithstanding its antiquity and its sacred character, human inquiry and human knowledge had at last succeeded in breaking through the crust of the Mosaic tradition that the world had been created in six days; and of the many fields of investigation opened up by the freedom of thought flowing from this achievement no field profited so greatly as did the study of zoology, geology, and the other major sciences. The mental activity thus stimulated first became evident on the Continent; but it soon spread to Britain, where the great ecclesiastical currents of the Disruption in Scotland and the Oxford Movement in England had left the nation for a time weary of theology. For relief the inquiring minds turned to the natural sciences, in which the teachings of such men as Laplace, Lamarck, Cuvier, St. Hilaire, Sedgwick, Buckland, Owen, Huxley, and Tyndall, page 3 aided by the timely establishment of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, were playing havoc with the archaic Biblical chronology of Archbishop Usher.* This chronology, inserted by some unknown hand in the margin of the reference editions of the Authorized Version of the Bible, assigned 4004 B.C. as the date of the Creation and 2348 B.C. as the period of the Deluge. Such a narrow outlook was found to be completely at variance with the evidence presented, for instance, by Sir Charles Lyell, who estimated that for the formation of the coal-beds of Nova Scotia alone the passage of some eighty millions of years was necessary. Men had begun to see that there was not a rapid creation, but that a slow and delicate process of evolution was moulding the physical features of the globe, and that time was no longer to be counted in hundreds, or thousands, but in millions of years. It had become obvious that, in the words of Emerson:
All things in Nature are engaged in writing their own history. The planet and the pebble are attended by their shadows, the rolling stone leaves its furrowpage 4 on the mountain-side, the river its channel in the soil, the animal its bones in the stratum, the fern and the leaf inscribe their modest epitaphs on the coal, the falling drop sculptures its story on the sand or on the stone, not a footstep on the snow or on the ground but traces in characters more or less enduring the record of its progress.
* In 1650–54 he published the work which was long accounted his most important production, the Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti, in which he propounded a now disproved scheme of Biblical chronology, whose dates were inserted by some unknown authority in the margin of reference editions of the Authorized Version.—Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., Vol. 27, p. 21, “Usher.”
It does not follow that all the deductions made during this period of scientific productivity were sound, or that all the theories then formed were correct. Nor does it matter: in the final analysis the value of the scientist lies not so much in the mere contributions made by him to our material knowledge, as in the inspiration given to others to go forward and do better. The inspiration—each in his own sphere—of such men as Sir Roderick Murchison, Sir Charles Lyell, Sir William Herschel, and Charles Darwin was real and stimulating.
* The Diffusion of Culture, by Professor Sir G. Elliot Smith, pp. 120–122.
* In 1859 Charles Darwin's Origin of Species was published. In the same year was issued Kirchoff and Bunsen's Spectrum Analysis, which, with the earlier work of Dalton on the atom and of Faraday on the nature of electricity, provided a new conception of the constitution of matter and the nature of energy. The vast antiquity of Man was also in this year established by the finding at Abbeville and St. Achuel, in France, by Boucher de Perthes, of genuine flint implements. In 1863 confirmation was given to the conclusions of the French scientist by the publication of Sir Charles Lyell's Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man. George Meredith's The Ordeal of Richard Feverel and George Eliot's Adam Bede were symtomatic of another aspect of the spirit of unrest. In 1860 there occurred the famous discussion between Bishop Wilberforce, of Oxford, and Professor Huxley on the question of man's descent from the apes, and in the same year six clergymen and a layman created a much more profound sensation by issuing their volume of Essays and Reviews, which led to an action in the ecclesiastical courts in which the Lord Chancellor delivered the verdict that it was not heretical for a clergyman to deny the doctrine of eternal punishment. In 1862 Bishop Colenso published his book, The Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua Critically Examined, intended to demonstrate that much of the Old Testament was unhistorical. In 1865 came Sir John Seeley's Ecce Homo; this year of emotional storm also saw the publication of Edward Burnett Tylor's Researches into the Early History of Mankind.
This progressive influence in the study of the sciences was most happily reflectected in New Zealand when the time came to fill her empty spaces with British colonists. It is no new thing to comment upon the splendid type of men and women who were the pioneers of our provincial settlements. It may not be remembered, however, how many of these men had imbibed a love for the sciences then being so vigorously expounded by the leaders of modern thought in the Homeland from which our colonists had but recently migrated. The stories of the initial page 7 explorations made throughout this country over toilsome Maori paths, and by tattered sail and unstable canoe, are epics in the history of British colonization. The names of the explorers mount rapidly to our lips; and the mass of scientific data brought back from their journeyings by these early observers testifies to the warmth of their zeal in searching after truth, in trying to reach an understanding of Nature's secrets so darkly concealed behind the veil of Time.
It was the fact that so many of our early colonists had been nurtured in the atmosphere of the new geology that inspired their interest in the varied discussions which, upon its discovery, quickly gathered round about the Moa; and fortunate it was for us that by their education and cultural inclinations these pioneers were so well equipped to initiate and to maintain the debates which searched the very heart and marrow of the subject.
The saga of the Moa-hunters as told in these pages necessarily presupposes the existence in New Zealand of the Moa, and therefore I need not devote time to discussing whence came the bird, nor to the elucidation of the riddle as to how it arrived, except to say that there are two possible answers to these questions. The bird might have migrated from the north over land-bridges which have disappeared, or page 8 it may have been indigenous to a great southern continent which has long since vanished, leaving New Zealand as a sole survival. Without wishing to appear dogmatic upon so doubtful a point, I am free to admit that the more I ponder over it, the more I am inclined to the latter view. Uncertain, however, as is our knowledge as to the place whence the Moa came, there definitely is no doubt that the bird was in New Zealand from comparatively early geological times, that it remained here for millions of years, and that it was an inhabitant of the country long before and after man arrived.
As to when, or how, New Zealand was first populated by human beings, we are, in truth, no better informed than we are regarding the advent of the Moa; but we are, I believe, on reasonably safe ground when we say that the first-comers were men and women of the Polynesian race. There may have been, and doubtless were, many migrations; there may have been variations in shades of colour and character between the first-comers and the representatives of the Polynesian people living in New Zealand to-day; but I am not aware that the evidence of tradition, or the examples of their culture which have come into our possession, entitles us to say that New Zealand has not been continuously page 9 inhabited by some section of the Polynesian race since man first hunted in our forests and made his home upon our soil.
It is equally reasonable to assume that amongst the foremost occupations, or recreations, of these people so soon as they had acquired a sense of their own security would be to hunt the Moa. With no natural enemies* to destroy it, and but few natural sources of misadventure to interfere with its reproduction, the Moa increased enormously in numbers, and, unless the human attack upon the birds was carried on along the lines of slaughter rather than of hunting, a considerable time must have elapsed before an appreciable diminution in their ranks was observable, and a much longer period must have passed before the bird became totally extinct. That there were deep tragedies in the bird's history is evident from the great finds of bones in several of our once wild swamps; but whether the Moa-hunters were in any way associated with these tragedies is one of the many matters yet awaiting confirmation. Personally, I think not.
* There was in New Zealand at this time a large bird of flight, Harpagornis moorei, “with talons as strong as those of a lion,” which may have preyed upon the chicks of the Moa, but its depredations are not considered to have been extensive.
* It was the Reverend William Williams who forwarded to England the first consignment of Moa bones, which confirmed Professor Owen in the stroke of “audacious induction” by which he had already diagnosed the existence of the Moa from the small piece of bone submitted to him by Dr. John Rule.—See the author's The Discovery of Dinornis (1936).
The story, unsatisfactory though it was, stimulated Mr. Colenso's interest in the creature, and after vain inquiries and many disappointments he was able to acquire a few bones but not a great deal of information regarding this denizen of the mountain-side. What most impressed Colenso in these investigations was the apparent absence among the Maori people of any settled traditions concerning the bird. To him it seemed incomprehensible that a bird so remarkable in size and character should have escaped the notice or failed to excite the wonder of a people meticulously shrewd in their habits of observation and traditional record. To Mr. Colenso the logic of such a situation was that if the Maori had not preserved the Moa in tradition, that could be only because the Maori had never been in contact with the bird and knew nothing of it.
In an article written for The Tasmanian Journal of Science in 1842, but by an unfortunate mischance page 12 not published until the following year, Colenso thus states the position as it appeared to him:
From Native tradition we gain nothing to aid us in our inquiries after the probable age in which this animal lived; for although the New Zealander abounds in traditionary lore, both natural and supernatural, he appears to be totally ignorant of anything concerning the Moa save the fabulous stories already referred to. If such an animal ever existed within the time of the present race of New Zealanders, surely to a people possessing no quadrupeds, and but very scantily supplied with both animal and vegetable food, the chase and capture of such a creature would not only be a grand achievement, but one also, from its importance, not likely ever to be forgotten, seeing, too, that many things of minor importance are by them handed down from father to son in continued succession from the very night of history. Even fishes, birds, and plants anciently sought after with avidity as articles of food, although having never been seen by either the passing or rising generation of aborigines, are, notwithstanding, both in habit and uses, well known to them from the descriptive accounts repeatedly recited in their hearing by the old men of the village.
Taking, then, the paucity of tradition as he supposed it, together with such other facts as he found them, Mr. Colenso came to the conclusion that:
The period of time, then, in which I venture to conceive it most probable the Moa ceased to exist was certainly either antecendent or coetaneous to the peopling of these islands by the present race of New Zealanders.
Remembering that up to this time Mr. Colenso had lived in a part of the country where the Moa had never flourished greatly, and that he had come into contact with only a small section of the Native race, his knowledge of their traditions must have been far too limited to warrant such a sweeping statement as that quoted above. It has to be admitted, however, that his opinion long carried great weight, and all through the argument it has been freely adopted in support of the view that the extinction of the Moa was a fact accomplished prior to—perhaps long prior to—the arrival of man on these shores.
That the gentleman who was for so long known to and esteemed by us as Sir Julius von Haast was greatly influenced by Mr. Colenso's opinion, he admits; and he, too, became the doughty champion of the theory of the ancient extinction of the Moa, and at one time used the supposed absence of Native tradition as the sheet-anchor of his case. Sir Julius did not come to New Zealand in a scientific capacity; he came, in 1858, as the agent of a German shipping company anxious to promote emigration from Germany. He had, however, received a sound scientific training in his homeland; and what more natural than that in a young country, unexplored, and rich in geological wonders, he should respond page 14 to the call of science. For the remainder of his life he devoted himself to the study and interpretation of Nature's riddles written on rocks, and in rivers, in lakes and glaciers, on moor and mountain.
* Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. IV, p. 67.
The first jarring note to the comfortable acceptance of this positive opinion was the recalling of the discovery by Mr. W. B. D. Mantell, in 1847, in Taranaki, of a site where everything pointed to the fact that there, in times past, both men and Moas had been cooked and eaten by members of the human race. Mr. Mantell was the son of Dr. Gideon Algernon Mantell, LL.D., an eminent English lawyer, but also in his day a geologist of no mean repute. Mr. Mantell became keenly interested in the Moa, gathering its remains in both the North and South Islands and transmitting large quantities of bones to his father, in London, and to the British Museum. He made his first contact with the bones of the bird in the old turbary swamp at Waikouaiti, in the South Island, in 1846, and in 1847, returning to the North Island, he continued his investigations systematically and determinedly, often living with the Maori in the hope of picking up some crumbs of information about the bird. In May of 1847 he reached Taranaki, where he hit upon the great deposit of bones originally discovered by the Reverend Richard Taylor, in 1843, at the mouth of the Waingongoro River.*
* Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. V, p. 98.
Notwithstanding the persistent interference of the local Natives, who deprived him of many of his best specimens, Mr. Mantell was able to make a more deliberate examination of this site than had been the fortune of Mr. Taylor; and after describing to us the circular fire-places of the old inhabitants, with their beds of ashes, calcined bones (both avian and human), fragments of obsidian and various kinds of flint used by the ancient Maori as knives, he tells us that the Native tradition pointed to this spot as being the first settled dwelling-place of their ancestors on their arrival from Hawaiki. This fact, coupled with the tradition which he heard from the local Natives about the use of the Moa as food, of the utilization of its bones for the making of fishhooks and other implements, and of the employment of its feathers for ornaments, established, he says, “a tolerably clear conviction in my mind that these birds, whose relics I had found there, had been killed, cooked, and eaten by their [the Maori] ancestors.”
Rev. W. Colenso, F.R.S.
Hon. W. B. D. Mantell, M.L.C.
Mr. Mantell has given us a detailed account of what he found in these ovens, and he has written his story in an entertaining strain.* One of his chief finds at this place, then called Te Awa-kokomuka, was a large quantity of Moa egg-shell, which satisfied him that the egg of the Moa, when it could be obtained, had been a delectable item in the bill of Maori fare; and he accounts for the hopelessly broken state of some of the shells by humorously supposing that when the meal was over the Maori matamua† had set up the empty shells on the sand as a cock-shy for the boys, the tamariki,‡ or, as Mr. Mantell calls them, “the abominable little ancestral imps.”
* See The Mystery of the Moa, pp. 116–121.
† matamua—head of a family.
On this point, however, it is only fair to state that Mr. Mantell was exceedingly timid about offering definite conclusions. At first he appeared to have no doubt that the people among whose kitchen middens he had been digging were a branch of the Maori race; but later he hesitated in this and preferred to describe them not as Maoris, but as “prehistoric”† people. That they were human beings, he, however, had no doubt or reservation of any kind.
* See Appendix II.
† Wellington Independent, 3rd July, 1871.
Mr. Mantell was not enamoured of the Native name of the spot where he found these latter ovens—Te Awa-kokomuka—and he changed it to the simpler and more euphonious Awa-moa—the “River of the Moa”—and so it is known to this day. What he found there, however, proved beyond all doubt that man and the Moa had co-existed and had been in direct contact. The logical deduction, therefore, was that the Moa had not been extinct before the arrival of man.
The presence of human bones in the Waingongoro ovens induced Mr. Mantell to think that the Moa-hunters of Taranaki were cannibals; but the presence of Moa bones in the ovens at both Waingongoro and Awa-moa did not induce Sir Julius von Haast to abandon his preconceived views. He still preferred to view the problem through what Disraeli has called “the coloured prism of his own atmosphere.” He changed his ground—he did not surrender it. He now evolved the theory that if the Moa had been in contact with man, that man was not the Maori, but a race of autochthones, a race of people indigenous to the soil, who had come and gone long before the arrival of the Maori. He says:
I venture to assert that more careful and systematic researches than Mr. Mantell, owing to the troublesome interference of the Natives, was enabled page 20 to make would prove that the Moa kitchen middens are quite distinct, and that where Maori ovens with indications of cannibalism occur they have been formed over, or within, those of the older race.*
Sir Julius based his theory upon the belief that the Moa-hunters, whose existence he did not now deny, had been a people living in an extremely rude stage of culture, illustrated by the rough flints they had left behind them, a feature that stood in striking contrast to the remarkable artistry of the Maori as exemplified in his polished tools, his carved weapons, and his carefully-finished ornaments.
* Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. IV, p. 78.
† The following species of Moa were identified by Sir Julius von Haast as being among those consumed at Little Rakaia camp: Dinornis robustus, Emeus crassus, Emeus casuarinus, Anomalopteryx didiformis, Euryapteryx elephantopus.
‡ Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. IV, p. 81.
Plan Of Moa-Hunters' Camp At Little Rakaia
The circles indicate ovens; the crosses, strokes, and pear-shaped marks indicate places where stone tools were found; the small squares the situation of houses. Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. IV, p. 74.
Such was the general character of the stone implements found by Sir Julius at Little Rakaia camp, “the really worked or chipped flints” being so very rare that he obtained only a few of them. This evidence satisfied Sir Julius that he was dealing with a race of people much more primitive in their culture than the present-day Maori. So obsessed did he become with this view, that when polished tools were found at Little Rakaia he refused to believe that they were in any way connected with the people who made the rude flints. Like the fires discovered in Taranaki by Mr. Mantell, he accounted for them by assuming that at a later date the true Maori had followed up his autochthones, and that these finished tools were a legacy from them, and not from their predecessors, the Moa-hunters.page 23
In this way he justified his idea that New Zealand had been peopled by two races of men—one, the Moa-hunters of the Palæolithic period, crude in their mode of living and uncultured in their arts; the other, men of the Neolithic period, who displayed a great advance in domestic economy and in the mechanical arts, but who knew nothing of the Moa, which had disappeared long before their arrival.
This pronouncement was made in 1871. In 1865, however, Mr. W. D. Murison, an Otago sheep-farmer, had discovered some cooking-places on the banks of the Puke-toetoe Stream, running through a portion of the Maniototo Plain, in Central Otago.
Apparently he had said little of his discovery at the time, but when, in March, 1871, Sir Julius advanced his theory that the Moa-hunters were of a race quite anterior of the Maori Mr. Murison came out of his concealment and, in September of the same year, in a paper read before the Otago Institute,* he launched the rather startling story of his Otago discovery to refute the Canterbury theory. Provincial feeling ran high in those days, and if the one Province saw an opportunity of taking the wind from the sails of the other, then the proper thing was to do it.
* Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. IV, p. 120.
Mr. Murison explains that when in 1861 he took up some grazing country at the foot of the Rough Ridge (3,400 feet), where the Puke-toetoe Creek enters the Maniototo Plain, he was struck with the frequency with which Moa bones occurred, and with their excellent state of preservation. Scarcely a hole could be dug anywhere in the ground without exposing some of these remains, and when the land came to be cultivated bones and fragments of eggshells in great numbers were laid bare by the plough. It was not, however, until 1865 that any cooking-places were seen. These cooking-places were first observed by Mr. Murison when, as he rode along the banks of the creek, he noticed a chain of hollows which he conjectured to be Maori ovens filled up with more recent deposits. Further and closer examination showed that they had been used for cooking the Moa, great quantities of bones being discovered in each of the ovens. These ovens lay from ten to fifteen yards from the stream, and they were covered with about six inches of more recent soil. Mixed with the embers were pieces of half-charred bones and innumerable fragments of egg-shells. In some of the cooking-places these latter were found in layers, showing that a vast number of eggs had been consumed as food; and scattered through the ovens were found rude chert page 25 flint implements, many of which bore signs of having been used.
In striking similarity to those found at Little Rakaia, most of these were fashioned like knives, and, no doubt, had been employed in cutting up the bodies of the birds. Some heavier implements also were found, one of these shaped like a cleaver, which probably had been used to break the larger bones. In one oven the jaw of a young dog was discovered, mixed up with the bones and knives; and from the same place were taken several fragments of polished stone implements. Mr. Murison remarks:
A great deal of importance is to be attached to the discovery of the latter under such conditions, as, if it is conceded that the polished implements and chert flakes were used by the same people, Dr. Haast's theory of a Palæolithic period and a Neolithic period in New Zealand will have to be abandoned.
Mr. Murison was definitely of the opinion that the Moa-hunters had used both polished and rudely-fashioned stone implements, the latter possessing the great virtues of being both more easily made and more serviceable in cutting up the flesh of the Moas than any polished implement possibly could be. Chert knives, some of which with blunted edges bore signs of having been used, were found scattered page 26 over a large area of ground in the vicinity of the encampment; and several polished stone axes also were found on the surface of the ground in the immediate neighbourhood. These circumstances led Mr. Murison to a conclusion opposed to that of Sir Julius von Haast, that the Moa had been extinguished by a race of men living in New Zealand prior to the Maori, and to an opinion equally opposed to that of Colenso, who, because of a lack of tradition, believed that the modern Maori knew nothing of the Moa. Mr. Murison told his Dunedin hearers:
I contend that, so far as the interior of this Province is concerned, an analysis of the Puke-toetoe cooking-places has proved that the Moa has lived in comparatively recent times, and that the Moa-hunters were, in all probability, the progenitors of the [Maori] race now inhabiting the Island.
Mr. Murison even crystallized his convictions down to the point of saying that from the evidence furnished by Central Otago there was every reason to suppose that the Dinornis had been alive within the previous 100 years, an estimate which he felt sure future discoveries would justify.
It cannot be said, however, that this surmise has been verified, for the two elements in the problem that ever elude us are the fixing by irrefutable page 27 evidence of the period when these and other similar ovens were being used, and by whom they were being used.
The view thus advanced by Mr. Murison was contemporaneously championed by Sir James Hector, who, as the result of his extensive explorations in the South Island, was also able to produce a chain of evidence from Central Otago, where, on its grassy plains and rolling hills, he had little doubt the giant wingless birds of New Zealand “had lingered to latest times.” Here were found many relics of the Moa in such a condition as completely to preclude the idea that the birds had lived in the Palæolithic period, and had been dead for thousands of years.
Nor did Sir James see anything inconsistent in people who in their cultural development had advanced far beyond the Palæolithic period still reverting to the use of stone implements common to that period, when these tools were all-sufficient for their purpose. It was not necessary that they should bring out their electro-plate on every occasion, when the stainless steel of that day would serve as well. The fact that Sir Julius von Haast found but few polished implements at Little Rakaia, Sir James considered, by no means proved that the Moa-hunters of that district were not possessed of them, or that they were incapable of producing them. All that page 28 it proved was that they had not left them at this temporary or seasonal camp, to be found later by curio-hunting Europeans.
The general principles which govern the use and manufacture of primitive tools by primitive peoples was excellently stated in a paper* read in 1924 before the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science.† The writers there pointed out that in the quality of the tool made and used everything depended upon the material available, and that it did not necessarily indicate a low degree of culture if the implements were crudely, roughly, and imperfectly made. In support of this view they quoted their experience in Australian aboriginal artifacts:
In Victoria, along the Portland shores, where flint is freely obtainable on the beaches, every kind of Monsterian and lower forms are found in profusion, with secondary working of the finest class. A few miles along the coast towards Port Fairy the same tribe, under the same conditions, leaves but few worked flints, because flint is scarce, if procurable at all, while crude implements, lower than Mesvinian, made from local basalt, are common. Consequently, we are here, in Australia, as are also investigators in Africa, and both Americas, faced with the fact
* “Evidence of Outside Culture Inoculations,” by A. S. Kenyon, D. J. Mahony, and S. F. Mann, Report Aust. Assoc. Adv. Sci., Vol. 17, pp. 464–466; 1926.page 29 that the classifications, so confidently relied upon by European archaeologists, are quite inapplicable, and that the use of terms implying a geological age as well as a stage of culture cannot be sustained. The needs of the Australian, who had not reached the pastoral, and was far removed from the agricultural, age, were met by the implements possible from the material to hand. Any attempt to compare his cultural period with those of the Old World, with races subjected to periodic invasions of different cultures, with races living, in all probability, in contact with higher or lower civilizations, will lead to the errors into which many eminent ethnologists have fallen.
† Now the Australian and New Zealand Association.
In these graphic words we have exactly described for us the cultural condition of the Maori, who was just as immune from extraneous influences as was the Australian aboriginal. Like him, he was deeply influenced by his environment, and, of his own volition, developed the standard of culture necessary to his well-being. He made his tools of the material convenient to his hand, and of the quality required by his immediate circumstances. Failure fully to recognize this fact led Sir Julius von Haast into an entirely wrong apprizement of the position. But if Sir Julius von Haast doubted the Maori origin and authenticity of the polished implements which he found on the site of the Little Rakaia Moa-hunters' camp, he could not so easily evade the genuineness of those found by Mr. Murison on the Maniototo page 30 Plain; nor could he very well discount those found later at the mouth of the Shag River.
* These adzes are now to be seen in the Otago University Museum.
That the sport, or industry, of hunting the Moa was freely carried on in the South Island is evident from the number of camps already identified; and it is more than a guess to say that not by any means have all these camps yet been found and recognized. If we are to assess this killing of the Moa by man as one of the principal causes of its extinction, then it is evident that the process must have been widely diffused and must have been continued for a long time, for it is safe to say that the destruction of the bird began with the arrival of the first people.
* Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. XXIV, p. 496.
† “Material Culture of the Moa-hunters in Murihiki,” Jour. Poly. Soc., Vol. 41, p. 98.
Of the Moa-hunters' camps in that district Mr. Smith writes:
Along the valley of the beautiful Forest Creek, a tributary of the Rangitata, which separated Mount Peel station from Mesopotamia, for some years the home of Samuel Butler in the early period of the Canterbury settlement, there were several Moa-hunters' encampments. In addition to the masses of incinerated bones and egg-shell of the birds, many well-preserved bones and Maori relics were collected in the vicinity of the encampments and on the page breakpage break page 33 extensive slopes of Ben McLeod Range (6,000 feet) on the south side of the stream.
Taranaki'sCrumblingCliffsThe gap on the left of the picture was the scene of the Kawana Paipai episode.
The Albury Moa-hunters' encampment was of much later date than the camp at Forest Creek. The prodigious number of bones of many species of Moas of different ages and sizes, together with the masses of egg-shell and triturated bones occurring at various depths in the floors of the painted caves and rock-shelters, impressed me unequivocally of the vast area of rich land for miles around having been for ages a large Moa breeding-ground, or ranch. The painted limestone caves and rock-shelters in the extensive Opihi and Totara Valleys are adorned with symbolic figures of the Moas. On some of the walls of these caves grotesque figures have been painted over each other, proving the long occupation of the aboriginals of these primeval abodes. The Moa-hunter encampment near the gorge of the Te-Nga-Wai River, on the Albury station, with its high, picturesque limestone escarpment and bush-clad range, was well chosen. On two acres on the level land, near the painted caves and rock-shelters, the hunters dug their umus, or ovens, and cooked the Moas over a long period. The valuable Maori relics collected, including many stone tools, when excavating the cooking-places and the floors of the caves and rock-shelters,* are all preserved in the Canterbury Museum.
All of these camps have been explored and described* by Mr. David Teviotdale, whose patient industry as an investigator under the skilled direction of Mr. H. D. Skinner† has not only greatly enlarged our knowledge of this fascinating branch of ethnology, but has also vastly enriched the collection of Moa-hunters' relics in the Otago University Museum. These relics are now the only index we have as to what manner of people they were who lived in New Zealand at that time; and on this point Mr. Teviotdale is very definite, for he sums up his long and wide experience in this significant paragraph:
In spite of the contradictory stories, the greater part of tradition agrees on the Polynesian origin of the earliest inhabitants; and when to this is added the overwhelming evidence of the tools and ornaments
* Jour. Poly. Soc., No. 162, June, 1932.page 35 from the ancient village sites, and the total absence of anything of Melanesian origin, there can be no doubt at all that the inhabitants of Murihiki have always been racially and culturally Polynesian.
† Now Curator of the Otago University Museum.
Moa ovens and kitchen middens also have occurred at Tumbledown Bay, near Little River; at Moa-bone Point Cave and Monck's Cave, on the road to Sumner; among the sand-hills near Avon; and on the flanks of Mount Torlesse, about 3,000 feet above sea-level. This list briefly summarizes the known Moa-hunters' camps in the South Island; but “from all the observations I have made,” Sir Julius von Haast observed in 1871, “I am led to the conclusion that the Moa-hunters have left traces in many localities in both Islands, of which only a very few are at present known to us,”* an apprizement of the position which probably holds good to-day.
* Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. IV, p. 89.
The most conspicuous example of a Moa-hunters' camp in the North Island yet recorded was that already mentioned, near the mouth of the Waingongoro River, in South Taranaki. This camp was situated in the country of the Ngati-Ruanui people, and lay about five miles to the north-westward of the present town of Hawera. For many miles on either side of this point the coast of Taranaki presents to the uninterrupted swell of the western ocean a long line of crumbling cliffs which are being remorselessly eroded by the wash of the waves, and from which, in the picturesque imagery of the Maori, “the sea takes its kai.”* At Ohawe, however, the line of cliffs is broken by a deep indentation, concave in form—how caused, it is difficult to say. Some aver that it is the remnant of a landslide, and some that it is the elevated basin of an old lagoon once hemmed in by sand-banks. To-day it has become a popular seaside resort, while in the early days, when the main thoroughfare lay along the surf-beaten shore, it must have afforded a welcome resting-place for the weary traveller. Tradition has it that here the Maori migrants who came with Turi made one of their first settlements.
They called it Rangatapu, the meaning of which is not clear to-day, but it is thought to have had its origin in some sacred rites anciently performed there by the tribal priests, possibly a whakawhetai, or thank-offering to the atuas for having given them safe passage to so beautiful a country.
To the north-west of this place, but divided from it by a narrow ridge on which once stood the Rangatapu pa, the fortified stronghold of the Moa-hunters, flows the Waingongoro River, which tumbles with a rumbling noise between its wooded banks and over its boulder-strewn course. One would like to think that the poetic spirit of the Maori had caught in this “rushing of a mountain torrent o'er its stony bed” some resemblance to the audible breathing of a sleeper when they applied to this stream a name which means “the snoring water,” but tradition is inflexible on the point that the name was suggested by a more mundane circumstance— Turi, their great ancestor, unmistakably snored as he slept beside the rumbling river.
* This pa, now vanished, was occupied by a sub-tribe of Ngati-Ruanui, named Araukuku.
Mr. Taylor had been but recently stationed by the Church Missionary Society as the shepherd of their mission at Whanganui, and he was making his first pastoral visit to the northern section of his flock. Accompanied by two Native guides, he was travelling along the coastal road, when, reaching this singular break in the cliffs, he and his companions rested there in the heat of the day. As he sat upon a billowy dune he saw near him, protruding from the sand, a fractured bone which he thought to be similar in size and character to some he had previously seen at Waiapu, on the East Coast. Taking it in his hand to examine it more closely, he asked his guides what it was. “A Moa bone. What else could it be?” they replied. “Look around and you will see plenty of them.” Starting to his feet, the missionary obeyed their injunction, and was amazed to see the whole surface of the flat covered with similar mounds composed entirely of Moa bones, resembling what he has described as “a regular necropolis of the race.”page 39
When they had sufficiently rested and refreshed themselves with a meal, Mr. Taylor emptied his food-box and filled it with some of the abundant relics from the dunes. This he did to the amazement, perhaps the amusement, of his guides, who marvelled at the foolishness of sacrificing good food for old bones. After reasoning between themselves upon the mystery of such conduct, one of them found the only explanation that seemed possible for such prodigality: “Hei rangoa pea” (“Perhaps he wants them to make medicine”), to which the other assented: “Koia pea” (“Most likely”).
Pressed for time, Mr. Taylor did not on this occasion devote any labour to making a meticulous examination of the site; and when he left it, it is doubtful if he was seized of the full significance of the situation. This was reserved for Mr. W. B. D. Mantell, who followed him in 1847. His exploration revealed for the first time that the men of Taranaki had once hunted and eaten the Moa. Mr. Mantell's researches, however, were also considerably cramped, not by lack of time, but by the not unnatural curiosity, perhaps the cupidity, of the Natives who swarmed down upon him as he dug. “No sooner was a bone perceived than a dozen pounced upon it and began scratching away the sand as if to save their lives, and the bone was, of course, smashed page 40 to pieces. I am only surprised that I ultimately succeeded in getting any entire… My patience was tried to the utmost, and to avoid blows I was obliged to retreat and leave them in full possession of the field,” is Mr. Mantell's regretful comment upon the result of a rather exciting day.
In 1866 the Reverend Richard Taylor returned to the scene of his earlier surprise. On this occasion he was accompanied by Sir George Grey, the Governor of the colony, some British Army officers who were occupying a redoubt on the site of the old Ohawe-tokotoko pa, and, among others, the well-known Whanganui chief Kawana Paipai, whose dramatic declaration that as a boy he had hunted the Moa at once made him a centre of attraction.
The incident in which the chief became involved is thus described by Lieutenant-Colonel McDonnell,* who was present, and who vouches for the accuracy of the story. After commenting upon the opinion of the Reverend William Colenso, that there is nothing in the proverbs and stories of the Maori to show that they knew anything of the Moa, Lieutenant-Colonel McDonnell proceeds:
It seems indeed strange to me that an authority on Maori manners, language, and mythology, of such eminence as Colenso, should never have gleanedpage 41 anything about the Moa from the Natives he met. This is so contrary to my own experience that I cannot refrain from narrating an incident that came under my observation during the Native war on the west coast [of the North Island].
* Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. XXI, pp. 438–441.
It was some time in 1866, during a visit Sir George Grey, at that time Governor, paid to the West Coast, that I, with Kawana Paipai and other Natives from Whanganui, accompanied Sir George to the mouth of the Waingongoro River, where were the redoubts held by the Imperial troops.* Here Sir George met Wiremu Hukanui, a chief of the Ngati-Ruanui, and supposed to be neutral; he was also a relative of Paipai. After the talk was over Wiremu left, when a discussion arose about the Moa, and Kawana Paipai stated that in his youth he had joined in hunting the Moa on the Waimate Plains, which are close by. On being questioned, he gave a description of how they used to hunt and destroy this grand old bird, which was as follows: “The young men,” he went on to say, “stationed themselves in various parts of the plains, and when a Moa was started it was pursued by one of these parties with wild shouts, and sticks, and stones, until they were tired, when another detachment would take up the running; and so on, until the Moa was exhausted, when a chief would administer the coup de grâce.” Paipai said that great efforts were made to drive the bird into the high fern, the more easily to tire it out. “I,” continued the old warrior, “was a youngster at the time, and often used to join in the chase.”
* This position was at this time the most advanced outpost of General Cameron's military force during the Native war on the west coast of the North Island. It has now practically disappeared through the process of erosion by the sea.
I forget now whether it was Sir George or one of the officers who expressed doubts as to the absolute correctness of what Paipai had stated, thinking he was simply relating what he had heard, which doubt raised the old man's ire. He got up, and, casting his eye around as if seeking to aid his memory, said: “What I have told you is true, and we used to bring them here to our fishing village and cook them in large ovens made expressly for them. Let some men bring spades and I will show them where to uncover the ovens.” Some six or seven fatigue men were assembled, and Paipai pointed out where they were to clear away the sand. After shovelling away some 6 feet square of sand, 3 feet in depth, a stone about the size of a 32 lb. shot was turned up, blackened and burned by fire, and then a number of other stones that had evidently been used for cooking, until a Maori oven some 5 feet in diameter was uncovered, containing over and under the blackened stones heaps of broken and partly-charred Moa bones, portions of skulls, and huge thigh-bones, which, later, Paipai said had been broken, so that the oil, or fat, could be sucked out of them. The ring-bones of the throat, or gullet, over an inch in diameter, were in plenty— like curtain-rings. I threaded a number on a flax-stick. More ovens were uncovered, and Sir George obtained some good specimens. I think Dr. Spencer,* now in Napier, got a number, as did many others.Paipai described the plumage of the Moa, which he said was of a brown colour, and unlike the Kiwi, the feathers being larger and coarser, and more like those of the Emu. He said the Moa fought fiercelypage 43 page 44 when brought to bay, and that it struck out with its feet, but was easily killed with clubs. Kawana Paipai died some four or five years ago. He must have been over ninety, at least, and by what he said he was about sixteen years old when these birds were killed and eaten, so that would bring the time to near the beginning of this [nineteenth] century.
Lieutenant-Colonel McDonnell concluded his relation of the above incident with this personal observation: “I do not propose to treat the subject from a scientific point of view, but the bones and ovens that I saw at Waingongoro in 1866, and the evidence obtained by the Hon. Walter Mantell at Awa-moa, certainly afford proof that the Moa lived down to very recent times.”
† Kaumatua—an old man; an elder statesman.
We reached Waingongoro, where our tents were already pitched. The Governor had scarcely got settled before he asked me to show him where I found the Moa bones some twenty-four years before. The officers accompanied us, but although they had long been living here, and the ground was covered with Moa bones so as to be quite white with them, still they had not noticed them. We found my inclined bank on the side of which there were several regular lines of ancient ovens. These we dug into and found remains not only of Moas, but of all kinds of birds, parrots, ducks, seals, pawa, limpets, fish, and charred human bones, also fragments of Moa egg-shells, and obsidian, and rude stone knives of chert, which had been chipped so as to form a sharp edge. The ovens had evidently been used for years, as the layers of ashes were thick and several of them in one spot repaired by a layer of sand. The Governor collected several baskets of bones of all sizes, some large, some small, evidently belonging to many species of birds. These chert knives are something like those found in the ovens in the Otago Province, but rather ruder, if possible.
It seems strange if such things were really an evidence of the earliest efforts of man to supply an article of such general need that they should be thus left in such numbers by the sides of their ovens. It appears more probable that they were extemporized articles merely made for the occasion and then page 46 abandoned, or left for another time. It is evident these ovens had been used for years from the great accumulation of ashes and a regular absence of charcoal or charred wood, the small remnants of one fire being totally consumed by that of another.
“On the next day,” Mr. Taylor tells us, “we had another walk to the old ovens, when the Governor was very successful.”* In this search “he met with several well-made and polished stone axes, and even the toys of children, such as tops formed of pumice, as well as carved bone handles of hatchets.”
Here, then, was repeated at Waingongoro, in the north, the story of the south; and in summing up his conclusions on the proceedings of the day the Reverend Richard Taylor has placed on record his considered opinion† that these Taranaki middens were contemporaneous with the Moa; that when they were first used that wonderful bird was abundant; and that perhaps the last remaining representatives of the North Island struthious giants were cooked in them. It is also to be noted that, in Mr. Taylor's opinion, “the perfect state of their remains forbids us assigning to them an antiquity of more than two centuries, and probably not even the half of that.”
* Mr. Taylor's requirements were modest, for in a postscript he remarks, “I did not carry away much.”
† Te Ika a Maui, p. 417.
At a later stage in his interesting book, Te Ika a Maui (p. 426), Mr. Taylor is even more emphatic in his belief in the comparatively late extinction of the Moa, when he writes: “The bones of these ancient races of birds are still abundant, and the recent state of many of them clearly proves that they have lived within the last half-century, and long survived the Dodo.”
In view of the authentic nature of the incidents above related and the responsible character of the opinions expressed, supplemented by all that is to follow, it appears to the writer that there can be but one answer to the question, “Did the Maori know the Moa?” and that answer must be in the affirmative.*
So far as the writer is aware, no classification of the Moa bones taken from Waingongoro by the Reverend Richard Taylor and Sir George Grey was ever made; but the following list of those secured by Mr. W. B. D. Mantell in 1847 is published in the Catalogue of Fossil Birds in the British Museum, arranged by R. Lydekker, in 1891.
* “The testimony of Taylor, Mantell, and others, indubitably shows that the various species of Moa found at Waingongoro were contemporary with Maori man, and were used as food by him.”—Geology of Egmont Subdivision of Taranaki (Bulletin of the Geological Survey of New Zealand, No. 29), p. 57.
- Dinornis novae-zealandiae Owen (pp. 226, 227, 228).
- Dinornis (?) robustus Owen (p. 242).
- Dinornis (?) struthioides Owen (pp. 246, 247).
- Dinornis gracilis Owen (p. 249).
- Anomalopteryx (?) sp. (pp. 256, 257).
- Anomalopteryx (?) casuarina Owen (described and figured by Owen as Palapteryx geranoides) (p. 265).
- Anomalopteryx (?) dromaeoides Owen (pp. 268, 273, 274).
- Anomalopteryx didiformis Owen (pp. 276, 277).
- Anomalopteryx curta Owen (pp. 282, 283, 284).
- Anomalopteryx (?) geranoides Owen (pp. 289 et seq.).
- Emeus (?) gravipes Lydekker (p. 304).
Mr. Lydekker also mentions eight tracheal rings which, from the smallness of their size, he believes belong to a bird of the species Anomalopteryx curta. Several fragments of egg-shell also were secured by Mr. Mantell; and Sir Richard Owen credited him with having rescued from this site an imperfect egg which is figured in Plate CV in his Extinct Birds of New Zealand,* and provisionally assigned to Dinornis crassus—Emeus crassus of Lydekker.
* In his book, Petrifactions and their Teachings, Dr. Gideon Mantell mentions that his son also found bones of two species of seal, of a dog, and of a man in the Waingongoro middens.
The following are the more important published references to the Waingongoro middens:
Owen, Sir Richard: “On Dinornis, an Extinct Genus of Tridactyle Struthious Birds—Part III.” Trans. Zool. Soc. London, Vol. 3, pp. 345–378; 1848. (Memoir on the ornithic remains discovered by Mr. Walter Mantell at Waingongoro.)
Mantell, G. A.: “On the Fossil Remains of Birds collected in New Zealand by Mr. Mantell, of Wellington.” Q.J.G.S., Vol. 4, pp. 225–241; 1848.
Mantell, G. A.: Petrifactions and their Teachings, pp. 101–103, 108 et seq.; 1851.
Mantell, W. B. D.: “On Moa Beds.” Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. 5, pp. 95–97; 1873.
Taylor, Rev. R.: “An Account of the First Discovery of Moa Remains.” Idem, pp. 97–101.
Owen, Sir Richard: Extinct Wingless Birds of New Zealand. 1879.
McDonnell, Lieut.-Col.: “The Ancient Moa-hunters at Waingongoro.” Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. 21, pp. 438–441; 1888.
Lydekker, Richard: Catalogue of the Fossil Birds in the British Museum (Nat. Hist.); 1891.
Hutton, F. W.: “The Moas of New Zealand.” Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. 24, pp. 93–172; 1892.
Parker, T. Jeffery: “On the Cranial Osteology, Classification, and Phylogeny of the Dinornithidæ.” Trans. Zool. Soc. London, Vol. 13, pp. 373–431, plates lvi-lxii; 1895. See also abstract in Proc. Zool. Soc., 1893, pp. 170–172.
Buick, T. Lindsay: The Mystery of the Moa, pp. 98–101; 1931.