Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

The finding of Stone Implements Dozens of Feet — below the Surface also points back Thousands — of Years

The finding of Stone Implements Dozens of Feet
below the Surface also points back Thousands
of Years

(20) A surer sign of great antiquity for the human occupation of New Zealand, and so of Polynesia, is the discovery of cooking ovens and stone implements far below the present page 242level of the soil. On the Manuherika plains a Maori oven was found some fourteen feet below the surface. The slow accumulation of alluvium, wind-blown soil and humus on such high plateaus forces us to place the age of this back into the thousands of years.

(21) But the most careful and scientific description of the find of a stone implement deep in the soil is that given by Sir Julius von Haast of a partially finished chert adze and its sandstone sharpener, found by a party of gold-miners in Bruce Bay, in the south of Westland, a few days before he arrived on the spot in the year 1868. They were lying on a floor of pebble-studded clay, and more than fourteen feet of strata of humus, sand and shingle had to be cut through before this was reached. Totara trees four feet in diameter had to be felled before the surface could be broken; there were also huge trunks that had lain prostrate for generations, and moss-grown moulds of others that had decayed centuries before. The place was 500 feet above high-water mark, with the usual three belts of driftwood sand without vegetation, rush-and-manuka-covered sand, and low scrub. It had clearly passed through these three stages, and its foot of humus must have taken many generations, if not centuries, of herbage to form before the forest giants could root themselves in it. The various accumulations and the ancient growth of the forest belt take us back undoubtedly several thousand years, and even then we have a neolithic race that polished its weapons and had spread so far west and south towards the long uninhabited sounds.

(22) Thus traditions, genealogies, and relics all point to human occupation long anterior to the arrival of the six canoes, if not to a time thousands of years before the beginning of our era. And New Zealand is the only corner of Polynesia that has had its surface stirred by active European colonisation. The other groups have had no page 243cuttings for railways or roads, the usual road of the modern sort being only on the margin of the sea round each island. Nor has mining of any sort disturbed their quaternary deposits. New Zealand, therefore, is the only part that has supplied us with relics of ancient human occupation as yet.