1. In Colour the New Zealanders varied more than those of any other of the Polynesian islanders. Various hues of olive, of yellow-brown, and of an approach to the copper-colour were common. A few were of fair complexion; while others were very dusky, particularly of the more Northern tribes. Such colours, however, were not invariably perpetuated by descent; seeming rather to follow the abnormal law of all domesticated animals.
2. In Height they were generally above the middle stature, especially the chiefs; owing, no doubt, to more food and better nurture, as well as to blood. The women generally were smaller than the men. In figure both sexes were well proportioned, muscular, and fleshy; with good sized calves. The men had often finely formed fingers and nails; and many of the women had beautifully small, delicate hands. Their knee-joints were large, and their feet flat and broad, but not long.
3. Their Physiognomy varied much. Generally the open countenance, nose large and broad at the base, but not very prominent, thickish lips and dark eyes prevailed. Sometimes the nose was aquiline, but more often flat; sometimes the whole face was a handsome oval, sometimes round; mostly wearing an expression of cheerfulness and good humour. Rarely were the eyes light, never blue. The eyebrows much as in Europeans, but narrower, and seldom meeting over the nose; and the teeth beautifully regular and white (except in the case of the inland Rotorua and Taupo tribes, with whom the four front incisors were always discoloured). The head was generally well shaped, oval, with a
fine forehead, and well developed cerebral regions. Sometimes the forehead assumed the Turanian type, giving almost a pyramidal appearance; and a few rare instances have been noticed of an approach to the peculiar Mongolian eye and eyebrows. Very rarely has any indication of the prognathous jaw been observed, while the orthognathous type is far from uncommon.
4. As their Complexions varied, so did their Hair. Generally it was profuse, black, and waving, or slightly inclined to curl. Sometimes it was red, of which colour there were also many shades; and sometimes it was of a very peculiar shade for human hair, being of two colours,—a dark reddish brown, having an inch or two of the tips somewhat flaxen, as if bleached. Sometimes it was lank, and sometimes it was excessively curled; and not unfrequently it was to be met with having a wiry appearance, as if every single hair was separately curled, and always in such cases rising high in a pyramidal form. With many, the beard, whiskers, moustache, etc., grew as profusely as with Europeans, and of much the same quality and colour; while a few only possessed a harsh rigid moustache, and some (particularly of the Northern tribes), were wholly without hair on the face; no doubt mainly owing to their continual and early attempts to eradicate it. In age the hair became grey, yet not commonly thin, and sometimes (though rarely) quite white. Hair on the thorax or shoulders, as in some Europeans was wholly unknown.
5. Their Frame being strongly built, and Constitution good, they were naturally long-lived, and generally retained their hair, and their teeth sound and white to the last; baldness being very rare among them. The old natives have always and everywhere affirmed, that formerly they lived to a very advanced age, and commonly only died gradually through old age. The writer is quite inclined to believe this, from the numbers of wiry, lithe, and active aged men and women he has seen among them; as well as from the testimony of Captain Cook.
6. Their Sensorial Faculties were particularly good—far more so than those of Europeans—no doubt, quickened both through their absolute need and constant use. The senses of seeing, hearing, and feeling, were pre-eminently vigorous and acute, insomuch that the writer has been often astonished at the quiet displays he has witnessed. To define an object plainly a long way off among the fern, or shrubs; to distinguish clearly a far off and indistinct sound among many others; to know certainly by the feel of the foot, that the dense moss in the trackless mountain forests had been before trodden by man, (an accomplishment which took the writer many years to learn,) were common things to them; though the last, in its perfection, was confined to the natives inhabiting the mountains. Their senses also of smell and of taste were peculiar, as well as keen; and though blunt and rude, were plain and unsophisticated.
7. They early arrived at the age of puberty, from 12, or even 11, years upwards; they did not, however, cease growing until 18 or 19 years. A few females have been mothers at the age of 13, but such cases were rare. Large families were by no means uncommon; very many women have each borne more than 10, or even 12, children, though they seldom reared them all. Of course the strongest lived; which was a very good kind of natural selection, no doubt highly beneficial to the race. The
act of giving birth, with them, was easy, and mostly a very common matter; sometimes women delivered themselves alone, and having done what was necessary for themselves and infant, returned to their usual occupations. They commonly suckled their children until they were two years old, and sometimes much older. Instances are known of married women having given birth to children when nearly forty years of age, and often after several years of cessation. Twins were not uncommon; though three at a birth was rare. Formerly it was almost unknown for mothers to lose their milk at an early period, but of late years it has become common. If the mother's milk failed, while the infant was still very young, small birds were snared, and their flesh chewed as food for it.
8. Children born blind, or idiots, or deaf and dumb, were all but unheard of; tongue-tied or lisping children were also extremely rare; so were stammerers, though these have certainly increased with civilization. A hare-lipped child was unknown; children however, with six fingers and six toes were not unfrequent; so were some without any fingers on one hand, yet generally having a thumb, and with very small rudimentary nails on the fingerless stump, at the ends of the metacarpal bones. Left-handed persons were not uncommon. Hunchbacks were not unfrequently met with; caused (it is believed by the writer) by their having been injured in passing through their low doors while being borne on the parent's back;—although the natives would never allow it. The fairer children would often be strongly marked with nævus maternus or mole; such nævi, however, were almost always pigmentary, rarely hairy, and never vascular. Albinos, too, though rare, were sometimes born; in their weak reddish-pink eyes and light flaxen hair much resembling the albinos of other nations.
9. Their Diseases were but few; and among them only one which could properly be styled mortal, and at the same time general. That, however, was a fatal species of Consumption, which alone carried off half of those who died from natural causes. A fever, of a typhoid character, was also prevalent in marshy districts in the summer; which also annually took away several victims, more, however, owing to want of proper food and aid when beginning to rally, than to the disease itself. Scrofula, of a very serious nature, often attacked some of the fairest and finest children, (particularly at the northern parts of New Zealand), if, however, they survived till years of puberty they generally recovered. Sometimes it (or a kindred disease, perhaps a severe species of Leprosy, not unlike Elephantiasis, and confined to the North) attacked the miserable patient in the hands or feet, causing the fingers and toes, and even the hands and feet, to drop off at the joints. Fortunately for the poor sufferer, this disease gave little or no pain. Rheumatism, especially in the back, was very common. So also was Ophthalmia, increased sometimes to Cataract and to utter Blindness through the smoke of their close huts, the dust, and the glare of the sun. Amaurosis was occasionally met with. Dropsy was known, but rare; so was Hydrocele. Their principal skin diseases were, a virulent species of Itch (Psora); Boils of two kinds, and often of large size (Furuncle and Anthrax); Shingles, which, however was not common; an obstinate kind of Scalled head (Tinea granulata?); and Ringworm (Herpes circinatus); the two last-mentioned
were confined to children. Worms, especially Ascarides, were not unfrequent. Fits, of an epileptic nature afflicted some, both men and women; while a few have lost their lives through sun-stroke. Sudden deaths were rare. Insanity, mostly aberrant, of a mild melancholy type, was occasionally to be found. And a new epidemic disease, of some violent plague-like character, called by them Rewharewha, and which appeared about 45 or 50 years ago, destroyed nearly 3-5ths of the people of the more Southern parts of the Northern Island; in some villages and sub-tribes leaving only one or two individuals! (This name has since been given by the Maories to the Influenza—a disease of much more recent date.)