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Old Marlborough. or The Story of a Province.

Chapter II. — The Ancient Pit Dwellers

page 43

Chapter II.
The Ancient Pit Dwellers.

I see a column of slow rising smoke
O'ertop the lofty wood that skirts the wild,
A vagabond and useless tribe there eat
Their miserable meal.

A learned writer has stated as the result of his reading and observation that "no country is found desert, by an invading, or migrating race, and that no race however long established, and however indigenous it may deem itself, but will be found to have come from somewhere else, if we can only get back far enough to find out." This conclusion, though not so intended, is distinctly applicable to New Zealand, for it helps to refute an assumption formerly popular both in the Maori and European minds, that this country was destitute of human inhabitants before the arrival of the first historical migration from Hawaiki, conducted by Kupe, the Viking captain of the Matawhaorua canoe. The motive that prompted the Maoris to suppress all knowledge of their predecessors, and induced their tohungas to ignore all reference to page 44them in the recital of the tribal genealogies, was altogether one of sentiment, for there is nothing a Maori is so jealous of as the possession of a pure and noble pedigree. No Englishman, whose ancestors "came over with the Conqueror," could be more proud of his descent than the Maori who can claim amongst his progenitors a prominent Pilgrim Father, who sought a new home in one of the "expedition" canoes; and it was the mortal fear that it might be supposed they had sprung from the original, and therefore from an inferior race, that caused them to obscure the existence of a previous people.

There is, however, a steadily growing chain of evidence to support the idea of an older race than the Maori, quite apart from tradition, and one of the most important links in the chain is the fact that nowhere else in the Pacific are there to be found men capable of producing those beautiful carvings of spiral patterns that abound in Maoriland on the heads of the war canoes, or the lintels and rafters of the wharepunis. Nor do we elsewhere find a people who indulge in that peculiar conception of beautification known as moko, or tatooing the face. The absence of these arts in other islands incline one to the belief that they must have grown up spontaneously among the Maori people after their arrival here, or have been acquired from page 45the then resident race, whose present day descendants in the Chatham Islands have lost these accomplishments in the stress of persecution, or the unfavourable nature ot their new surroundings.

Tradition, however vaguely, speaks of two races, both anterior to the Maori, the red-headed Turehu, whom the story relegates to fairy land, and the Moriori, of whose blood a strain is sometimes seen in a dark complexioned square-featured native, whose physique and countenance seem to indicate a union, by intermarriage, of the two races.

These Morioris were evidently a milder-mannered and more generous people than the sea rovers from Hawaiki, and if we are to attach any value to the somewhat doubtful narrative of Sieur De Gonneville, a French navigator, who would seem to suggest that he spent some six months among them in 1503, and was received "with veneration and treated with friendship," we must believe that they were "a simple people, desiring to lead a life of happiness without much labour." Certainly the results harmonise with this description, for at no period do they appear to have displayed warlike proclivities, or produced a leader able enough to resist, even with temporary success, the aggression of the Maori, who, within one hundred and twenty-years of their landing, had wrested page 46from thern the whole government of the islands, and reduced the survivors of the inter-tribal wars to a condition of vassalage, if not of actual slavery.

It is, however, not so much with the general history of the Moriori people that we are concerned, as with their sojourn in Marlborough, before they were driven in desperation to choose between a long and dangerous voyage to the Chathams and extermination at the hands of the warlike adventurers from Polynesia. Unfortunately there are few traditions, and no historical records, preserved by the living natives concerning these people. We are, therefore, compelled to look to the silent witnesses they have left behind them, and read their story as best we may from the monuments which have survived destruction, exactly as our contemporaries in the Mother land read the unwritten history of the ancient Briton by the aid of the discovered relics of the Stone Age, for only as recently as forty-five years ago, no portion of the colony had more the appearance of "a great lone land" than the County of the Sounds of to-day, which was then simply a tract of mountainous forest-clad country, within which a number of small artificial clearings had at some time been made. A page 47few of these clearings were under cultivation, the remainder being overgrown with fern, scrub, and small trees. Along the shores of the Sounds these abandoned cultivations, always near the water, were particularly conspicuous, the brown fern and bright-foliaged shrubs covering them, contrasting well with the darker green of the tall forest trees which everywhere on the land side surrounded them like a wall. Excepting these silent witnesses, there was little to indicate that the lonely reaches of water had ever been disturbed by man; the dense forest that filled the numerous valleys and clothed the hills from base to summit when examined internally and externally, having all the appearance of a primeval growth. But time has proved that the Sounds were npt always as solitary as when the Europeans began to settle on their shores; the depopulation to which the overgrown clearings testified was only a repetition of what had taken place at some remote period on a much larger scale.

As will be seen in a future chapter, when Captain Cook entered Queen Charlotte Sound in 1770, and again in 1773, he remarked that the natives were subsisting exclusively on fern-root and fish, having no land in cultivation, though in the North Island he had observed considerable areas under crop. As the deserted gardens are not confined to the page 48Pelorus Sound, some still being visible in Endeavour Inlet close to Cook's old anchorage, we must conclude the land was cleared since his time. This conclusion has been curiously confirmed by a discovery on the shore of Tawhitinui Reach, Pelorus Sound. In a hollow hinau tree, on the edge of a scrub-patch called locally the Maori garden, Mr Mills, the present proprietor of the ground, found a broken bayonet, the breech of a gun-barrel, and part of a small worthless hatchet, trade goods of early European days, and several other scraps of iron, evidently a treasure-trove of the time when iron was first introduced. The Maori garden, lately covered with a dense growth of kohe-kohe about six inches in diameter, and various shrubs corresponding exactly with the deserted clearings throughout the Sound, show that a revival of agriculture must have taken place early in the present, or towards the close of the last century, a result probably due to the introduction of potatoes.

About 1855 the destruction of the forest on the shores of the Pelorus Sound, to create artificial pasturage, was commenced, and has gone on uninterruptedly with constantly increasing activity, a larger area having been cleared during the last ten, than in the preceding twenty years. In addition to the destruction for farming purposes, several page break
An Old Pit Dwelling.

An Old Pit Dwelling.

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Pelorus River.

Pelorus River.

page 49large sawmills have worked in the district. Thus excepting the birch, nearly all the marketable timber has been removed and some thousands of acres are now in grass. This uncovering of the land has brought to light traces of human occupation wholly unexpected. Scattered over the steep hill-sides and on the small flats, pits, terraces, shell heaps, cooking places, sepulchral mounds, stone implements, and other relics have been discovered* in numbers that testify as plainly to a large population as do the ruined cities in other lands. Of these remains, the pits, owing to their unmistakably artificial origin and their wide distribution, were the first to attract attention, the names kumara pit, and rifle pit being given them; some concluding they had been used for concealing food, others that they were defensive works, the fact that large forest-trees were growing in as well as around many of them being overlooked.

Although many pits are found without terraces, and where none are required, and there are a few terraces in which no pit has been sunk, they are so commonly associated, and so plainly portions of the same work that they can be best described together. The pits, always rectangular in form and with perpendicular sides, are of two sorts, single and double. The single pit being merely an page 50excavation varying greatly in size, the largest measuring eighteen feet by ten, the smallest and least numerous, only five feet square; the general depth is about four feet, though some are much deeper. The double pit consisting of two single pits placed end to end in a straight line, and separated by a wall or solid block of ground two to four feet wide. These pits, sometimes solitary, sometimes grouped in regular order, always occupy elevated situations on sloping hill-sides or on high flat-topped points of land. Unlike the almost inaccessible pahs on Motuara Island and elsewhere, described by Cook, all could be easily approached, while many were commanded by higher ground. On the sloping hill-sides, before a pit was sunk, the ground was carefully levelled or terraced. The terraces being always much longer and about three feet wider than the pit, allowing between it and the bank at the rear a foot or so of level ground. The bank or wall, generally about three feet high, was always levelled at the top so as to form a narrow horizontal ledge, behind which the hill rose naturally.

In a series of pits and terraces on the spur of a hill, close to Mr. Peter McMahon's residence at Kenepuru, these details can be plainly made out. At the foot of the spur which separates two small valleys, on nearly page 51level ground, the series commence with a double pit, having a dividing wall four feet wide, this is followed by another double pit, the dividing wall being only two feet wide. Above the pits where the ground begins to be steep, is a crescent-shaped terrace, sixty feet long and nine feet wide, on it there is no pit; the second contains one large pit; the next cut straight across the spur, as are those above it, contains a single pit; the fourth, a double pit with small compartments; the fifth, a single pit; and the sixth, about two hundred feet above sea-level, a single pit. In profile the spur has the appearance of a gigantic staircase. On the hill-sides, east and west of the small valleys, many pits, single and double, are scattered, all similar in their construction to those upon the spur.

When Mr. McMahon settled on his holding, the land now cleared was covered with dense bush in which there were but few large timber trees, and amongst the pits and terraces hinau and towai trees are now standing, many of the hinaus being hollow.

In Crail Bay a spur still uncleared is occupied by a group of pits, the largest being eighteen feet long by ten feet wide and eight feet deep, another close by measuring nine feet by eighteen. These remains occupy the upper portion of a steep narrow spur separating two small valleys, the highest pit being page 52about 150 feet above the sea-level. In outline and internal arrangement, the fifth in descending order is unlike any other discovered. Instead of the ordinary two rooms with a partition between, it consists of two rectangular portions, one fifteen feet by eleven, and six feet six inches deep, the other eighteen feet by eight feet six inches, only four feet six inches deep; without any partition, the two portions forming one stair shaped chamber, the floor of the upper step inclining slightly towards the lower portion, of which the floor is perfectly horizontal. In the construction of this abode, or whatever it may have been, more than 700 cubic feet of rock were removed, the material being used in raising the walls and levelling the outer margin of the pit, the site having been originally steep. Throughout, the walls of the chamber are perfectly perpendicular, the angles sharply cut, and the floor even, especially the raised portion, or dais.

On the artificially made ground at one of the lower corners of the chamber a beech tree, measuring ten feet three inches in circumference, four feet from the ground, is now standing. One of the main roots runs down the side and across the floor of the pit, showing that it must have grown since the place was abandoned.

On Whatamanga Point, Queen Charlotte page 53Sound, the remains of a pit twenty-one feet by sixteen feet, as well as several of ordinary type, may be seen, while at other places along the shores of the sound, on D'Urville's and Arapawa Islands, at Vernon and the Clarence, similar remains are to be found, in some places more numerous than in others.

At Moetapu, on the Elephant Rock, a low knoll standing out in the sea, there are four pits, in one of which the remains of wood-work are still discernible. From it we learn that the pit had been lined with the trunks of fern-trees set up perpendicularly. On the ledge at the top of the back wall there is the remains of a totara slab in a very decayed state. To form the ledge, the large root of a birch tree had to be cut through; the stump of the tree rotted down level with the ground being still visible. These remains seem to indicate that the pit was in use within a comparatively recent period; but in another pit lower down an unusually large matipo, an extremely slow-growing tree, is standing. Beside this, near the edge, there is a full-grown birch having its roots projecting over the margin, thus showing that it had grown since the pit was dug; indeed it is probable that all the trees now covering the knoll have sprung up since the place was abandoned.

Even on small islands, destitute of water like the Trias, in Cook Strait, and Mabel*

* So named after the eldest daughter of his Excellency Governor Gore Browne, the first Governor to visit the province.

page 54Island, in Picton harbour, these remains may still be seen. In the north end of the Kaituna Valley, near Havelock, a few pits are found scattered over the hill-sides, but strange to say none have as yet been found in the valley of the Pelorus, although other evidences of human occupation at a very remote period have been discovered there.

On Horohoro-kaka Island, Port Underwood, four pits have been cut out of the rock. These excavations, the largest only four feet by five feet six inches, could not have been habitations. Sunk in sloping ground, the site had not been levelled either by excavating or filling up. The depth has not been ascertained, but it exceeds six feet. For whatever purpose these pits were intended, a site where the rock is close to the surface was evidently selected. On higher ground close by, where traces of other pits can be seen, there is a considerable depth of clay. Horohoro-kaka Island, about an acre in extent, is flat-topped, the sides being in most places nearly perpendicular, the average elevation about 100 feet. Mr. John Guard, who has resided in Port Underwood over fifty years, remembers this little island being occupied by a strongly-fortified pah, page 55where the natives took refuge when attacked by their enemies from the South.

Whether the pits belong to the same period as the pah, which was not erected until after whalers began to frequent the port, there is no means of ascertaining. In the remains of a village discovered in April, 1896, at the head of Matai Bay, Tennyson Inlet, Mr. Rutland found on the floor of a dwelling ashes and charcoal, the clay beneath being burnt to a depth that showed it had for some time been a fireplace. Though elsewhere he discovered traces of fire in these pits, the number examined is too small to justify any conclusion.

The consistency with which these artificial excavations occupy the sunny side of almost every bay throughout the Sounds County, has naturally given rise to a great deal of speculation as to the part they played in the daily lives of the people who expended such pains and labour to hew them out with their primitive implements. As already mentioned, uses both military and domestic have been attributed to them, but in 1894 Mr. Joshua Rutland first advanced the theory that they were the dwelling places of the ancient Moriori people, the first inhabitants of the province. This suggestion will probably never pass beyond the realm of theory, because it is now incapable of positive proof, and for this page 56reason it has not been unreservedly accepted by all scholars of Polynesian history and habits, but it is supported by a series of facts so strong and reasonable m their nature that the case for it is much more convincing than that against it.

As a general rule these pits are so situated together as to at once convey the idea of a village where the inhabitants congregated together for the purposes of protection and intercourse, while the care that was evidently bestowed upon their construction, their sides being perfectly rectangular, their floors truly levelled, and the terraces round their sides most carefully built, indicates that they were intended for more than casual use, nay, the fact that they were generally cut in places where the rock is near the surface is distinctly suggestive of permanency; and the choice of site, on the dry spurs with a northern aspect, is highly consistent with what even a barbarous people would prefer as the location of their homes, be they ever so rude.

The traditions of the Pelorus natives are, however, more reliable than speculations of this kind as a guide to the solution of the problem, for misty as they are, so much of them have been confirmed as to justify credence being given to the remainder. According to the Pelorus Maoris, their ancestors, on entering the district, found it page 57tenanted by a small dark-complexioned Maori-speaking people, who cultivated the ground, resided on the hills, the pits being the remains of their dwellings, and had only very small canoes, which, when not in use, they drew up on the hills by means of ropes. The ancient inhabitants were, in addition, unwarlike, but skilful in various arts, notably the working of greenstone, which their conquerors acquired from them. Throughout the Pelorus Sound the old pit villages are everywhere contiguous to land suitable for agricultural purposes. Though most of the land was recently covered with large forest trees, wherever this land has been brought into cultivation by Europeans, stone implements, often buried deep in the soil, are found, suggesting that the ground had at some former period been cleared; for it is certain that the Pelorus was a forest district when the settlers first entered it. But it is from the far away Chathams that we learn most concerning these ancient pit dwellings and their occupants, for the natives of those islands have had handed down to them a record of how their ancestors formerly lived at Arapawa, but were driven from the Sounds by the invasions from the north, and they give as one reason why the Hawaikians despised and ill-treated them, that they "burrowed," surely an unmistakeable reference to their sunken page 58houses. How these old pit dwellings were roofed cannot be positively ascertained, that portion of the structure having everywhere entirely disappeared. Only indirectly therefore is it possible to arrive at what it was like. The heavy rainfall of the Pelorus district precluding the possibility of a flat roof, we are forced to conclude that a sloping roof of some description was used. Neither is there anything left to show by what means an entrance was effected, as doorways or apertures of any kind seem to have been entirely absent.

But on these two points a description of the Moriori dwellings at the Chatham Islands, as they appeared when Europeans first began to visit them, is sufficient to clear up all doubts. These houses, if such they could be called, were only made of a few poles reared together over a circular pit two or three feet deep, covered in with sods, thus forming a cone-shaped hut, with a small hole on the north side just large enough for a man to creep through, which was afterwards closed with a bundle of sedge or other substance.

As the Moriori people would naturally carry their habits and customs with them in their flight across the sea, and continue them as far as their new conditions would permit, this description is doubtless an accurate replica of their former homes in page 59New Zealand, and if so, bears out in a remarkable way Mr. Rutland's contention.

Next to the Chatham Islanders, the nearest approach we find to the habitations of the Moriori people are the dwelling places of the Koro-pok-kuru, who at some remote period occupied a portion of the Japanese Archipelago and the Kurile Islands, and of which Savage Landor gives the following particulars in his work "Alone with the Hairy Ainu":—"The pit dwellers do not seem to have been particular as to the shape of these dwellings, though they evidently had a predilection for the elliptical or rectangular forms. The pits at Kushiro are nearly all rectangular, while those from Appeshi to Nemuro are either rectangular or circular. The average dimensions of rectangular pits are about twelve feet by nine feet, but I have seen some as large as sixteen feet by twelve feet. The sides slope inwards, and the average depth is from three to six feet. Pits that are situated on cliffs or at any height are generally deeper, probably for the extra shelter required by those living it an altitude compared with those living at the sea level. The round pits are from ten to fourteen feet in diameter, and the elliptical have a length of about sixteen feet, and are about eight feet at the widest part of the ellipse." The Moriori people were un-page 60doubtedly an offshoot of the Polynesian race, and as they were not the only pit dwellers residing on the shores of the Pacific, it is possible that at some very remote period, and in some indirect way, they may have acquired their primitive ideas of architecture from the inhabitants of the Kurile Islands, with whom communication may since have been severed by the altered condition of the Pacific Ocean. But whatever their mode of introduction may have been, the fact that our slow-growing forest trees have now covered them, proves that these pits have not been in use in New Zealand for some hundreds of years, but there can be little doubt that the natives were right in saying that they were dwellings.

Long before Cook reached these shores the great social change had taken place which delivered the ancient Arapawa into the hands of the restless and warlike Maori people, who practised neither the arts nor the industries of their predecessors. They were conquerors, or they were nothing, and the spirit of conquest which brought them ended in a policy of expulsion; the weak and inoffensive Moriori were driven out, and then covetousness and tribal pride added to the hideous anarchy, for after they had exhausted the aborigines they sought new adventures in plundering each other, and when tired of page 61plunder they fought for precedence. The business of bloodshed gave no time for the cultivation of the land, and the lack of opportunity soon destroyed the inclination. And so it came about that the cultivations of the Moriori people were allowed to fall into decay, but as nature is never idle, the land was soon covered with vegetation of another kind, and all trace of the original inhabitants was buried amidst the trees and undergrowth of the ever-spreading forest.

In addition to these deserted dwellings of the exiled people, there are necessarily many other evidences of the former occupation of the Sounds County, of which a most interesting account has been preserved to us by Mr. Rutland.

Shortly after settling in the Pelorus Valley, his attention was directed to a black horizontal seam in a perpendicular clay bank, formed by the encroachment of the Pelorus River on a small island at the head of the tide-way. The seam consisted of charcoal mixed with burnt stones and large mussel-shells, the whole evidently the remains of a cooking place. From one of the shells examined the lime portion had almost disappeared, but the more durable horny cuticle was intact. Above this ancient cooking place there was about three feet of solid clay, over which again stood a large matai tree more than three feet page 62in diameter, from which we may conclude that it was four hundred years old. Between the time when the fire was lighted and the discovery of the remains thirty-eight years ago, the clay must have accumulated and the matai sprung into existence, but more than that, the narrow channel separating the island from the mainland must have been still narrower, or probably it was not the bed of the Pelorus when the old inhabitants tarried beside it to cook their food. It could be plainly seen when the seam of charcoal attracted the attention, that the island had been a point of land severed from the mainland by the river working its way into a stream that drained a small gully a little to the westward. The wide shallow channel on the south side of the island, now only carrying water in flood-time, is plainly the old Pelorus bed. This was the first indication that the district had been longer inhabited than was commonly supposed. Subsequently the washing away of the clay bank continuing, exposed the burnt earth and stones of a Maori kapa (or oven) ten feet below the surface of the island, showing that at some period a filling up or raising of the land had taken place, and that men had occupied the spot occasionally or regularly during the time the reclaiming process was going on.

page 63

The second discovery was made on Mr. Rutland's place, Te Patoa. In carrying a line of fencing through the bush, the large root of a matai had to be cut through in order to sink a post-hole. Near the bottom of the hole, two feet deep, burnt stones and earth, the remains of a Maori kapa, were found; the position of the tree showing it had grown since the oven was in use. Everywhere throughout the district these cooking places have been unearthed under similar circumstances. Lately one was pointed out in North West Bay, with the stump of a very large towai projecting partly over it; close by, a very large stone axe was found protruding from the ground. As the kapas continued in use until superseded by the kohua, or iron pot, they are of any age; frequently we can only gather from them where the former inhabitants have been, but not when. In the Upper Pelorus Valley, fourteen miles inland, several have been observed along with stone implements. As widely dispersed as the kapas, and, like them, belonging to all periods, are the numerous shell-heaps or kitchen - middens. In some the shells are quite fresh, even the perishable pauas not having lost their brilliant colours; in others the shells have crumbled into indistinguishable fragments. Though found on the hill-sides and inland, the shell-heaps are most numerous near the sea-shore, page 64where they have been discovered with large forest trees growing over them, such as the pukatea and the rimu, which in the Sounds grows on the low level lands.

The most positive evidence yet obtained that the Pelorus Valley was inhabited prior to the growth of the present generation of forest trees was furnished by a stone implement discovered by the Messrs. Dalton, while clearing a piece of land for the plough. Upon digging out the stump of a matai tree, about three feet in diameter, they found embedded in the under portion of the wood a chisel-shaped tool now in Mr. Rutland's possession. This implement of grey chert, nine inches long, two and a half inches wide, and one and a half inches thick, is well polished and had been used, the edge being notched, but not broken beyond re-sharpening. Just as stones are frequently embedded in the roots of trees through the wood growing round round them, this interesting relic of some long-forgotten individual was entombed. Some time previous to this discovery a very rude implement, merely a long round water-worn stone having a four-sided point at one end, was dug out at Te Patoa from beneath a matai stump over four feet through. These discoveries made upon adjoining blocks of land, both belonging to a remote period in the history of the district, are important.

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Pelorus Forest.

Pelorus Forest.

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William Adams. First Superintendent.

William Adams.
First Superintendent.

page 65

They warn us against concluding that the very rough unpolished tools found everywhere are the remains of a ruder people than the later inhabitants—they may have been merely made for work that did not require a more finished implement. Mr. Rutland has collected several, weighing from two and a half to four pounds, which have been in use; they are probably mattocks required to work the heavy land of the district. The smaller tools of the same character, so plentiful along the beaches of the Sounds, may have been hastily chipped out for an emergency, and thrown away after they had served their purpose.

In all parts of the districts and the neighbouring sounds, stone implements have been dug from beneath large forest trees, but as they have not been collected for comparison with more modern implements, we do not know whether new patterns have been introduced since the land was first peopled. Amongst the numbers of stone articles scattered over the land or buried in the soil, certain sorts are extremely scarce; thus out of a great many examined, three made of a white, close-grained quartz only have been found. One of these is a large adze highly finished and peculiarly shaped; of the other chisels, one is well polished, the second incomplete. More than a dozen kinds of stone were used in the manufacture of ornaments, weapons, and page 66tools. Of these, greenstone, obsidian, pumice, and diorite were imported, the remainder being probably found in the district.

We do not know of any greenstone article being found actually beneath a large forest tree, but two small implements have been ploughed out, one from eight inches, the other over a foot below the surface of the ground, where heavy bush was standing thirty years ago. Near the coast a greater number of these articles are discovered than inland, most being found where large trees were till lately standing. These greenstone articles, whether ornaments or implements, have invariably been sawn out, not chipped. A large lump of the stone found in a small valley called Kaikumara, in the estuary of the Pelorus, had a slab partly sawn off, evidently with some very clumsy apparatus, the irregular cut being in places half an inch wide.

Amongst the relics which have come into Mr. Rutland's possession is a rough unfinished mere, made of mica schist, the rock of which the country between Queen Charlotte Sound and the Pelorus Sound is composed. This formidable looking weapon, resembling an ordinary looking mere in shape, is fifteen inches long, five and a half wide, and one inch through in its thickest part. The blade, sharp on one side and thick on the other, is page 67rounded at the end. Admiralty Bay, where this relic was picked up, is of the schistose formation; the weapon, or the material of which it is composed, must, therefore, have been taken from some other part of the district. Besides the meres described, other weapons of the common country stone have been discovered on the shores of the Sound. A portion of one in Mr. Rutland's collection is of coarse sandstone, and resembles a Dyak mandau in shape. To what period in the history of the district these implements belong—whether they were lost before any of the forest trees round about (our only time-keepers) took possession of the ground—cannot now be ascertained.

A few relics discovered show that the inhabitants of the Pelorus were as forward in the art of carving as any New Zealand tribe. About twenty years ago a statuette four inches high, of a red material, resembling hard pottery, was dug up in a burying-ground at the head of Mahakipaoa Bay.* Unfortunately this valuable relic was again lost or destroyed. According to the description given to me by the finder, Mr. Henderson, now residing at Kenepuru Sound, it was a well-executed bust, the face unmistakably resembling a Maori. Not far from the burying-ground a small head

* This locality is now commonly called Mahakipawa, and is well known through the discovery of gold there in 1888; but its proper rendering should be Mahakipaoa, meaning smoke rising calmly and placidly, as in a steady column not blown about by the wind.

page 68of a soft dark stone was found, and is still preserved. The face, fairly executed, is more Simian than human.

From the same locality a well-finished greenstone kuru, or ear ornament, intended to represent some animal, has been brought. Another kuru of the same material, plainly resembling a fish, was picked up in the Pelorus Valley on the terrace-land far back from the river. Near the same place some large stone implements have been discovered, showing that the ground, until lately covered with heavy forest, must at some time have been inhabited.

For ornaments, as well as weapons, the common stone of the district was at some period used. Near the Maori garden before mentioned, Mr. Mills found a kuru, in shape and size like a pencil, about two inches long, made of brown slate. This unique relic may belong to the time when the better description of stone these islands furnish had not been discovered.

Besides the ancient pits and the recovered weapons, we have yet another evidence of the former occupation of the Sounds district, which spans the gulf between the living and the dead, and affords interesting food for reflection. In February, 1893, Mr. Rutland was informed by Mr. Joseph McMahon that at page 69Ferndale, Kenepuru, there were a number of mounds or heaps of clay, supposed to be graves. As the pits and terraces already described showed that the locality had formerly been inhabited by a people differing in their habits from the modern Maoris, he was anxious to obtain a few skulls for comparisons. Accordingly, accompanied by Mr. McMahon and his nephew, he visited the place mentioned. On a steep, fern-clad hill-side, facing the east, they discovered the mounds, which were plainly artificial, and commenced the examination by digging carelessly into one of small size near the base of the hill. Instead of the bones expected, they soon discovered that the mound contained nothing but a quantity of ashes and charcoal, evidently the remains of a large fire, over which the clay had been heaped. Perplexed and disappointed, they decided to open another of larger dimensions standing half a chain higher up the hill. This mound, ovoid in form, was about fourteen feet long, seven wide, and five feet deep in the highest part. Immediately above it on the hill-side was a large irregular-shaped hole choked with black vegetable matter that had accumulated since it was dug. In this hole, which they cleared out, nothing was discovered. Between the margin of the hole and the edge of the mound there was a page 70narrow level path about two feet wide.

A careful examination showed that the mound, consisting of clay mixed with small fragments of the mica schist, of which the hill is composed, rested on a layer of ashes and charcoal six or eight inches deep. In the first place, they could see that a site had been dug out in which a very large fire, judging by the remains, was made. When it had burned down or gone out, clay taken from the hole at the rear was heaped over the ashes without being intermingled with them. Besides the smaller mound first opened, there are close by two others in every way similar, and a small piece of ground artificially levelled, where another mound might have been raised. Higher up the hill, on the same spur, there is a second group of mounds, and still higher a third group, while beyond a small gully there are about twenty, and on the western slope of the hill four; one very large mound crowning a naturally level spot on the summit.

In the ashes nothing was detected, but portions of it were caked together as if it contained some adhesive substance. As the mounds were certainly not cooking places, and such an amount of labour would not have been expended merely to cover up the remains of an ordinary fire, it was concluded that the mounds were monuments raised over page 71the ashes of persons who had been cremated on the spot. A small quantity of ashes taken from the larger mound opened, and sent to Wellington for analysis, contained fatty matter, supposed to be porpoise blubber, and splinters of bones supposed to be those of fish. Though this at first seemed irreconcilable with the theory of cremation, the information collected by Mr. R. E. M. Campbell, and published in an article on "Cremation amongst the Maori," proves it was, next to the discovery of human remains in the mounds, the most conclusive evidence that they are sepulchral monuments. After giving his authorities, in this very interesting article, Mr. Campbell describes the process of cremation adopted by the Ngati-apa tribe, of the North Island, as follows:—"When a member of the tribe died, a place was selected in some secluded spot, and, a large quantity of fuel having been prepared during the day, a fire was lighted as soon as night fell, so that the smoke should not be seen, and when well under way the corpse was placed on it. All kinds of fat, including that of the porpoise when procurable, was added to increase the heat. The greatest care was taken to secure a perfect incineration of the body, and that every bit of the wood, even, should be completely consumed."

Shortly after the discovery at Ferndale, page 72several natives belonging to the Pelorus, Rangitoto, Waikawa, and the North Island were questioned, and from all the same information was received, namely, that cremation had formerly been frequently practised by the Maoris, to prevent the bones of their people being carried away and converted into fish-hooks by their enemies. The enquirer was also told that on Rangitoto Island, a place is still pointed out where Rauparaha cremated one of his wives, who died on the island during his wars of extermination, but no mound marks the spot. Subsequently, Mr. Joseph Hypolite, of Rangitoto Island, whose great-grandfather on the mother's side, had been cremated, ascertained that when the custom was in vogue, after the body had been laid on the funeral pile the nearest relative applied the fire, or if there was no relative the ceremony was performed by the head or chief person of the tribe present. After the fire was lighted, if the smoke began to scatter it was regarded as an ill-omen, or that death would soon claim another victim. If, on the contrary, the smoke gently ascended, it was a good omen, the friends standing round calling out, "Mahaki-paoa! Mahaki-paoa!" piled on more fuel. When the mounds were raised, desecration of their graves, as remarked by Mr. Campbell, could not have been dreaded page 73by the inhabitants of the Pelorus. It seems, therefore, inconsistent to suppose that the fat, fish, etc., were merely thrown in to increase the heat of the fire in order that the bones of the corpse as well as the flesh might be consumed. Their presence in the ashes proves that they could not have been added until the fire was nearly, or quite extinguished. Probably they were votive offerings, and the complete reduction of the body to ashes may have had a religious meaning.

"High on the top the manly corpse they lay,
And well-fed sheep, and sable oxen slay;
Achilles covered with their fat the dead,
And the piled victims round the body spread;
Then jars of honey, and of fragrant oil,
Suspend around, low bending o'er the pile.
Four sprightly coursers, with a deadly groan,
Pour forth their lives, and on the pyre are thrown.
Of nine large dogs, domestic at his board,
Fall two, selected to attend their lord.
As a poor father, helpless and undone,
Mourns o'er the ashes of an only son,
Takes a sad pleasure the last bones to burn,
And pour in tears, ere yet they close the urn."
The Iliad, Book xxiii.

Since their first discovery, sepulchral mounds have been observed in various parts of the Sounds. On a hill-side, near Kenepuru Sound, there are a few solitary graves of this description, and at Ely Bay, a cemetery. A mound which was examined at Broughton's Bay, six miles from Ferndale, contained ashes and charcoal similar to those described. All page 74the mounds at present discovered are in open fern land, which must have been cleared at some remote period. Within the forest the recognition of these mounds would be very difficult owing to the inequalities of the ground produced by falling trees and other causes. Their age, therefore, cannot be determined in the same manner as the pits, terraces, and other remains on which large forest trees have been found standing. Still there are good reasons for referring them to the same period.

It has been remarked, that "the abodes of the dead represent the abodes of the living." The long barrows in which the primitive inhabitants of the British Islands are found interred, resembled the caves wherein they dwelt; and the round barrows of their Keltic successors were like the holes or huts they inhabited. The Australian natives, who erect no permanent dwellings, raise no sort of monument over their dead. Why a people who practised cremation selected steep hillsides for burial places, thus entailing on themselves the labour of excavating sites and carrying fuel, can only be explained by their mode of life. They may have been actuated by the same unaccountable desire that makes the proprietor of a castle or mansion erect a costly tomb; a desire that they should after death occupy a position similar in some page 75respects to the position they held during life. There can be little doubt the pits and terraces scattered over the hill-sides and on elevated points of land not chosen for concealment or defence, and the sepulchral mounds so similarly situated, are monuments of the same people. When Mr. Rutland questioned the Maoris, though all were well aware that cremation had formerly been practised in the country, none knew anything of the mounds; to them they were a complete mystery, an almost certain proof of their antiquity. Besides cremation, the former inhabitants of the Pelorus district disposed of their dead in various ways. Recently a tomb built of stones, and containing a much decayed human skeleton, was found at Taradale, Kenepuru Sound. The body had been interred in a squatting position, or reclining with the lower limbs folded against the breast. At Beatrix Bay there was formerly to be seen the remains of a hollow tree that contained many human bones, and bones have been dug up in various places. From these remains brought to light by the destruction of the forest along the shores of the Pelorus Sound, we find that the district was formerly inhabited by a people differing widely in their habits from the Maoris of Cook's or the early missionary times, and that these ancient people occupied the land at a period suffici-page 76ently remote to allow our slow-growing forest trees to come up and attain their full dimensions where their habitations once stood, or where their fires were lighted.

On comparing the bush throughout the Sounds generally with that of the inland valleys, though on the coast it is much denser and more entangled with climbing plants, the quantity of pine timber is much greater inland. Where the forest has been destroyed and the land allowed to remain idle, certain shrubs found along the margin of the undisturbed forest, such as the poro-poro and the ngaio, quickly take possession of the ground. These in time are displaced by larger shrubs and what may be called our timber trees, of which the slow-growing pines are the last to re-appear. In many places on the coast tawa trees nearly monopolised all the level land, though the few large pines scattered amongst them showed that the soil is well adapted for their growth.

This coupled with what we gather from the Maori holes and gravel-covered land, and the number of stone implements found scattered over the flats, seems to justify the conclusion that while the ancient inhabitants dwelt upon the hills they kept the adjacent valleys in cultivation. If this conclusion is correct, it explains why the population was so strictly littoral, for the taro, the kumara, and the cala-page 77bash, the only esculents then in cultivation, will not thrive in the colder inland climate. That the Pelorus Valley was occasionally frequented at an early period is sufficiently proved by the stone implements and cooking places discovered; but there is another and more important evidence of ancient occupation, as it enables us to test the value of native traditions.

The point of land formed by the junction of the Wakamarina and Pelorus rivers, called by the natives Taituku, was occupied thirty years ago by the principal pah of the district. As the word Taituku signifies "the head of the tideway," and the tide at present only flows up the river to Paranui, a mile and a half below the Wakamarina junction, it is apparently a misnomer. In explanation, the Maoris state that according to their traditions, when the place was first occupied, the tide did flow there, and that the name has ever since been preserved. In 1860, since which time the rivers have undergone considerable alterations owing to the goldmining, there were in the Pelorus, below the Wakamarina, two falls, or rapids, one at the head of the estuary, the other about twenty-five chains higher up. Above each of these falls the river was in places very deep. Although when not flooded the surface of the river immediately in front of Taituku was seven or page 78eight feet above the highest tide-level, the bottom of its bed was several feet lower. The two falls—Paranui and Ropaka—were merely dams, the removal of which would have allowed the tide to run up to the Wakamarina mouth, converting it into a veritable Taituku. How these dams originated may still be seen at the Parapara, a mile below Paranui; here a mass of snags embedded in the river bottom has collected gravel brought down in flood-time, and thus raised a barrier, over which, when the tide is out, the river flows with great velocity. In time, if nothing occurs to counteract what is now taking place, the accumulated gravel will raise the barrier above the tide-level, and make the Parapara the terminus of the estuary.

On the Paranui Fall timber is still protruding from the gravel-bed; in the older Ropaka it is only after a flood has scoured a channel that any can be detected. A little above the Ropaka, the river encroaching on its banks, exposed to view beneath ten feet of soil, a bank of stiff clay, having many stumps of trees standing on it just as they had grown. As the stumps were constantly submerged, the growth of trees in such a situation could only be accounted for by the Ropaka Fall, or dam, not being formed when they were living. Near to the mouth of the river trees of the same species, whauwhi, are now growing on page 79land only a few inches above high-water mark, raise the surface of the river permanently by means of a dam, a little higher than tide-level, and these trees, though well adapted to flooded land, must perish.

This is what happened where the clay bank and the stump it supported where exposed. The evidence is unmistakable that at a very recent period, geologically speaking, but remote in the history of unlettered people, the tide did flow up the Pelorus Valley to the Wakamarina where a rocky reef crosses the Pelorus River, forming a rapid of a different nature to those described. As it is extremely improbable that the Maori reasoned out the former condition of the district, we must accept the statement that Taituku has been continuously occupied ever since it was what the name implies, "the head of the tideway."

The preservation of the name Taituku, and the legend attached to it, necessarily implies that this locality or district has been continuously inhabited since the name was bestowed; had the place been deserted for any length of time after the valley assumed its present character, the name must inevitably have been lost. On the other hand, the re-growth of the forest along the shores of the Sound points to depopulation. Between the revival of agriculture, when the over-grown Maori gardens were cleared, and the days of page 80the pit - dwellers, there was an interval of centuries, during which the Sound could only have been inhabited by people subsisting on the natural productions of the district.

What seems most probable is that a small remnant of the ancient population escaped destruction by concealment, and thus their names and traditions have been handed down. A few of the inhabitants were also enslaved, their descendants being still pointed out amongst the Pelorus natives. One family in particular, the Pokiki, is said to be a remnant of the old race. The only known individuals bearing the name certainly correspond with the traditional descriptions of the natives, being shorter of stature and darker-complexioned than the Maoris, and generally differing from them also in features. The strange but persistently repeated story of the little canoes that were hauled up the hill, may relate to the unhappy times when the unfortunate survivors lived like hunted animals, surrounded by the ruins and memories of their once peaceful homes, immediately prior to their migration to the Chatham Islands.

When sorrow gloomed the parting day,
That called them from their native walks away;
When the poor exiles every pleasure past,
Hung round the bowers and fondly looked their last;
And took a long farewell, and wished in vain
For seats like these beyond the eastern main;
And shuddering still to face the distant deep,
Returned and wept, and still returned to weep.