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The Moa-Hunters of New Zealand: Sportsman of the Stone Age

Monck's Cave

Monck's Cave

No attempt is here being made to give a detailed account of what is known in Moa history as Monck's page 101 Cave, a physical feature also situated in a spur of Banks Peninsula, but now, I understand, partly, if not wholly, destroyed. If it still exists, it will be found about a mile to the east of Moa-bone Point Cave. This cave, like its companion, at one time had its human inhabitants, but at some prehistoric date, during the absence of its occupants, a huge landslide falling from the hill above had covered and completely closed its only entrance. The cave lay concealed and unknown for many years after European settlement had surrounded it, and its ultimate discovery was accidental.

Some visitors who had with them a small dog were walking in the vicinity, the dog meanwhile doing as dogs will do, scouring along the hillside, when suddenly he disappeared through a hole and fell into the cave below. Being missed, his muffled cries were heard from the depths, and in the efforts to rescue him the existence of the cave was disclosed. This was in August, 1889.

The evidences of human occupation were at once seen, but the subsequent attempts to “explore” the cave appear to have been done in a manner most perfunctory, with the result that no safe conclusions can be deduced from the material recovered. Slight evidence of stratification was found, and there is some reason to suppose that the “explorer” believed page 102 all the objects found were of Moa-hunter date. For instance, in his report he states, “The quantity of fragmentary bones of fishes, and of Moa bones, shows that these were the animals principally eaten by the Natives inhabiting the cave.” Unfortunately, the record of how they were found, and of the manufactured articles found with them, is so incomplete that Mr. H. D. Skinner, who examined them for the Canterbury Museum, considers that for the present, at least, they must be “placed in a suspense account.”*

Monck's Cave, although it is frequently mentioned as a site of a Moa-hunters' camp, must, therefore, rank as a negligible quantity in so far as it contributes to our knowledge of the Moa-hunters and their ways of living.

* Records of the Canterbury Museum, Vol. II, No. 4, p. 152. A detailed description of the articles recovered from the cave will also be found in this paper.