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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 67

Plate XX

Plate XX.

New Zealand possesses few relics of archæological interest, and fewer still remains of what may be considered as inscriptions. The pictures in the cave of the Weka Pass,* and other cave-paintings, are mere rude pictures, in which, apparently, there has been no effort to produce anything beyond mere representation, and not rising even to the rank of picture-writing. Further investigation and study of these drawings may evolve hidden meanings in some of the smaller marks, but at present there is no light on the subject. In other parts of the Pacific inhabited by the fair Polynesians there are many localities worthy of the study of the archæologist. The "Stonehenge" remains in the Tonga Islands; the pyramids of Tahiti; the wide paved platforms of the Marquesas; the great carved images of Easter Island; the stone temples of the Sandwich Islands: all these are full of interest. But the inscriptions are as yet undiscovered, or they have not as yet been brought to the knowledge of inquirers. Easter Island, with its well-known carved tablets of wood, marked with the incised forms of curious hieroglyphics, which have taxed the learning and ingenuity of many wise men fruitlessly, is the only place where anything like an alphabetical or hieroglyphical system of writing has come to light.

On Pitcairn Island is a rock-inscription in picture-writing. A copy can be found in "Te Ika a Maui." To its faithfulness I can testify, having received an original drawing of the inscription, similar in every way to that in "Te Ika;" and I was famished with additional particulars not mentioned by Mr. Taylor. The incisions are deeply cut into a very hard rock, of the kind generally known as the "French whin," situated near the base of a steep cliff, the foot of which is beaten by the sea,

* "Trans. N.Z. Inst.," vol. x., p. 52.

By the Rev. R. Taylor, edit. 1870, p. 702.

page 354 and the cliff is only descended at the risk of life. There seem to be no reasonable doubt as to the authenticity of the carving the symbols are common to the religions of the ancient world and are scarcely likely to have been sculptured in such a [unclear: pla] by Europeans, castaways or others, although there is [unclear: reason] suppose that subsidence of the island has taken place. [unclear: Lar] tanks or cisterns hewn out of the solid rock, and other [unclear: traces] long ago occupation, were found by the mutineers of the [unclear: Bow] in taking possession of Pitcairn. But there is nothing in [unclear: th] drawing which can be called aught but picture-writing [unclear: in] most primitive form.

Since no inscriptions are available, we may turn to [unclear: ancie] alphabets, and see if any trace of them exists in the [unclear: livi] record, i.e., the language of the people. The letters in [unclear: ancie] alphabets bear plain evidence of their picture-writing birth, [unclear: i] the names by which they are called. Thus A was not [unclear: called] but aleph, that is "the ox;" B was not called b but [unclear: be] "a house." The researches of antiquarians have demonstrated the theory that the art of writing began with the Egyptians passed from them to the Semitic nations (Hebrews, Arabs, etc., and was adopted from the Semites by the Aryan Greeks [unclear: a] Latins. Picture-writing preceded the alphabet, and the [unclear: hie] glyph was the mother of the letter. The Aryans nowhere [unclear: see] to have invented an alphabet for themselves; they always [unclear: to] over borrowed forms from peoples of earlier civilization: [unclear: th] "Ogham" writing of the Irish is comparatively a modern [unclear: scrip] and remained only locally known. It consisted of [unclear: strok] drawn on either side of a centre line, according to the [unclear: value] the letter represented, and is supposed to have been original copied from a tree-branch with leaves on each side. A [unclear: decisi] proof that the Greeks took over the names of the letters, as [unclear: we] as their forms, is that alpha, beta, etc., are [unclear: meaningless] Greek, but translatable in Hebrew : the alpha, our a, having still the old resemblance to the head of the ox [unclear: (aleph),] versed ∀.*

I propose to take three letters or signs, as examples of [unclear: the] others, and to show that if the Maoris (i.e., [unclear: Polynesians)]

* The derivation of the Sanscrit word lipi, "writing," as Dr. [unclear: Bur] ("South Indian Paleography") has pointed out, is not decisively known. [unclear: I] derivations from likh, "to scratch," or lip, "to smear," do not [unclear: saf] scholars: lipi has been best connected with the Achæmenian word [unclear: d] "writing, edict." As the first Sanscrit writing seems to have been [unclear: incis] as in the rock inscription of Asoka, I believe we have the first, or very [unclear: ea] form in the primitive and ancient Polynesian word, found in Maori as [unclear: r] "to cut;" and in compounds, maripi, "a knife;" koripi, "to [unclear: cut;"] Hawaiian, lipi, meaning "an axe," and "sharp"—cf. (Eng.) rip "[unclear: to] open, cut open;" (Middle Eng.) ripen, "to search into, probe;" [unclear: (S] and Norweg.) ripa, "to scratch"; (Danish) oprippe, "to rip up."—[unclear: Sk] "Etym. Dict.

page 355 not call letters by these names, they had similar names for the things by which these letters were known. In the ancient world there was far greater activity and intercommunication of peoples than is generally believed. The wide distribution of jade (greenstone) as ornaments, and of the tin necessary for the production of bronze, (both tin and jade being found in few places,) give proofs of widely extended travel and perhaps of commerce. The three letters in question are k, f, and t.