Art. IV.—Moas and Moa Hunters. Address to the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury.
[Read before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, 1st March, 1871.]
Gentlemen,—When I had the honour to deliver to you last year the usual anniversary address, I earnestly hoped that you would elect for the next session another of your members as your President, but although I repeatedly acquainted you with my wishes in this respect, I had to give way to your urgent request to keep for this year the honourable position assigned me, for which, no doubt, many of the members of our Institute are, in many respects, much better qualified than I am.
In my address of last year, I pointed out how very desirable it would be to have scientific and technical education introduced among us to further the sound advancement of the Province; and the members of the Philosophical Institute, by petitioning the General Assembly, and by several other means, have shown their anxiety for the same object. Hitherto, however, no further steps have been taken by the authorities of the Province, with the exception of the opening of the Canterbury Museum in a building of its own; but I have no doubt that the desire for the progress of the colony, and the wise liberality of the Provincial Council will, in due course of time, bring about the desirable improvement and addition to our educational machinery.
In a country like ours, with its resources only partly developed, with a great variety of fine and useful raw material, with a large and daily increasing agricultural population, and with magnificent and never failing water power in every direction, every step tending to teach its inhabitants to make better use of their dormant resources is in the right direction, and New Zealand can only become great and truly independent when its growing population will have the means to obtain all those advantages which older countries now offer to their youth. Not that I wish for a moment to assert that scientific and technical education would offer a panacea for all shortcomings we have to contend with,
because it is self-evident that many causes must combine advantageously to advance a nation, but it is one amongst others of which, I can truly say, that it has produced good results in other countries; and I am not going too far in stating that the advantages gained just now by one great nation over another, to the utter astonishment of the whole civilized world, have, in many respects, only been obtained by the daily improving system, of which scientific and technical teaching forms a portion, through which all classes of the German Empire have become more highly educated, whilst the French nation has remained comparatively stationary.
I should like to dwell somewhat longer upon this very important subject did I not fear I should weary you with it. I shall therefore devote the space of time allotted to me to some other subjects which have for a considerable number of years occupied my attention.
When a French savant in Amiens, Boucher de Perthes, announced to the world in 1847 that he had discovered, in the gravels of the valley of the Somme, rude flint implements, together with the bones of the mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, lion, cave bear, etc., an incredulous smile, if not more, passed over the faces of scientific men, geologists as well as archæologists. Both considered it a settled point, that the huge pachydermata which at one time inhabited the European continent, were so long extinct, and the human race of such recent origin, that it was impossible they could be contemporaneous. However, further researches in almost every European country have proved beyond a doubt that the French savant was right, and that these gigantic animals, although having been extinct for such a length of time that we have no means of calculating it even approximately, were nevertheless hunted and used as food by man, and were thus connected with the present age, showing conclusively that Europe has been much longer inhabited by the human race than was formerly supposed or admitted. If we turn now to the southern hemisphere, and especially to New Zealand, we have to overcome the opposite difficulty, it having been generally asserted that the extinct gigantic birds formerly inhabiting these islands, and doubtless representing the huge pachydermata and other gigantic forms of the same geological period in the northern hemisphere, have only recently become extinct, that there were no original inhabitants in these islands, and that the different species of Dinornis only became extinct by the exertions of a race of new comers, who, not many hundred years ago, landed as immigrants on the coast of New Zealand. With your permission, I shall devote the next portion of my address to these interesting questions, which are so full of suggestive matter.
The pre-historic people in Europe have been divided into four great divisions, according to the nature of the tools they employed:—1st. To the
Palæolithic period belonged those oldest inhabitants who used only flint and stone implements roughly chipped, without any attempt to polish them. 2nd. To the Neolithic, those who had already advanced a considerable step in art, and whose stone implements of well selected forms were more or less finely polished. 3rd. The Bronze age included those nations who used bronze implements. And lastly—4th. The Iron age, those who, after the introduction of iron, almost exclusively employed this ore for the manufacture of their weapons and tools. Europe has been for many centuries in the last-mentioned age, whilst New Zealand at the time of the arrival of the Europeans was only in the neolithic period, or that of polished stone implements, but there is ample evidence that the palæolithic period, and with it a people most probably belonging to a different race from the present native inhabitants of these islands, had passed away together with the different Dinornis species, long before the Maoris settled here. I shall endeavour to prove these propositions by laying before you the main evidence I have been able to collect, but I shall give you only the general results, leaving for some other occasion all the details in proof of my hypothesis, for which drawings, sections, and maps are necessary.
Our first step must be to inquire what geological evidence we have of the age of the Moa, or Dinornis, because if we are able to settle that important point satisfactorily, the age of the moa-hunting population, of which I shall speak more fully in the sequel, is also fixed with the same degree of certainty. Moa bones occur first in beds which have been formed during the glacier period of New Zealand, and the era immediately following it. The principal strata in which they are imbedded are either lacustrine or fluviatile beds, situated between or immediately above the large morainic accumulations which mark the former extension of our enormous glaciers in post-pliocene times. Some localities, such as the banks of the river immediately below Lake Tekapo, an old glacier bed surrounded by enormous moraines, have been always favourite resorts for obtaining moa bones in a good state of preservation. Similar beds in the neighbourhood of Lake Wanaka have also yielded them occasionally. Following down our large river courses towards the sea, these remains sometimes occur in their banks, either water-worn amongst the shingle, or in more perfect condition where they were preserved in silt, probably deposited in back-waters or similar localities. It is evident that an enormous period of time must have elapsed, first to enable these large shingle masses to be deposited, forming our large plains; and afterwards, when the rivers retreated to higher sources and dwindled to smaller watercourses, to be cut through to such an extent that their contents became exposed to a depth of several hundred feet. From the observations we were thus able to make, the conclusion has been forced upon us that these gigantic birds must have
been able to sustain life over a long period, because the same species which occur in the lower lacustrine and fluviatile deposits are again found in the bogs and swamps, in the fissures of rocks, and in the kitchen middens of the moa-hunting race, which latter evidently mark the end of the Dinornis age.
As before observed, boggy grounds are also frequent localities for the preservation of moa bones, of which, amongst others, the comparatively small swamps near the Glenmark home station have yielded the richest harvest, and where, as it appears from observations made during my excavations, a great portion of the birds may have perished by becoming entangled in the swamp, either by accident, or, what seems to me more probable, from having been driven by fire or man into it in endeavouring to cross the valley. Another portion of the bones, together with driftwood of large dimensions, which had evidently been carried by floods into the swamp, were doubtless still connected by the flesh and ligaments when deposited, as no water-worn bones were found amongst them. Thus in some spots a complete leg of one specimen is found without any bones of the same individual near it, whilst the neck of another, or the pelvis of a third, each belonging to different species, lie close to it. However, I intend to lay before you at a future meeting a detailed account of the results obtained during the Glenmark excavations, for which hitherto more pressing work has not afforded me the necessary time. I may be permitted to state here only a few of the facts bearing upon the subject under review. The Glenmark Swamp lies in a hollow of the post-pliocene alluvium, skirting the hillsides. Its formation dates only from the end of the post-pliocene period, when the alluvial beds were already existing. The Glenmark Brook having afterwards cut a channel through these deposits, the whole mode of formation is well exposed. Close to the swamp in question, fluviatile deposits of a thickness of thirty feet, mostly silt and shingle, are laid bare, with here and there a small layer of peaty matter interstratified, pressed together by the superincumbent mass into a much smaller compass, and containing great quantities of moa bones. Thus we have here ample evidence that the different species of Dinornis existed already when the valley was first filled with debris brought down during the glacier period from the higher regions, and that they continued to flourish till not only was the valley filled with alluvium, but also, in their turn, the hollows in the latter became levelled by marsh vegetation, and by extraneous organic substances, such as drift timber and animal remains, washed into them by floods. Immediately below the Glenmark Swamp I obtained moa bones down to the water's edge of the brook, at least thirty feet below the level of the former, so that this alone convinces us that a long period must have elapsed between the formation of the first and last deposits. Higher up the little valley the excavations of the rivulet have been on a still larger scale. Two
miles above the homestead, in a cliff about 100 feet high, water-worn moa bones occur near the water's edge, amongst the post-pliocene shingle; and in another locality, about twenty feet from the summit of the cliff, in a peaty layer, a nearly complete skeleton was obtained. The hill-sides above Glenmark station are covered with silt, looking like a lacustrine formation, which, in many cases, is also studded with moa bones. I may here observe that since my first excavations in Glenmark, and after the articulation of the different Dinornis skeletons in the Canterbury Museum, I have been so fortunate as to obtain single skeletons of almost every one of these species, some of them nearly complete, the bones lying still in situ, which, in every instance, have fully confirmed the correctness of these articulations. Moa bones are found abundantly in other localities, such as fissures or caves in limestone rocks, the neighbourhood of which appears to have been a favourite resort of the Dinornis, and the hills formed of drift-sands, which, from their nature, are well adapted to the preservation of the osseous remains of these gigantic birds.
We come now to another and more difficult question in connection with their extinction. It would appear, at least at first sight, that the different species of Dinornis, and even some of the largest, must have been living in comparatively recent times, owing to the fact that moa bones have been found on the ground, amongst the grass on the plains, or between rocks and debris in the mountains. I must confess I have never observed any in such positions, except when it could be easily proved that they had been washed out either by heavy freshes from older deposits in cliffs, along river beds, or by the disappearance of the luxuriant virgin vegetation, consisting of high grass or bushes, the soil having been laid bare, so that its upper portion would speedily be washed away by the rain water. I have been repeatedly informed that in the neighbouring province of Otago, some plains, when first visited by Europeans, were strewed with moa bones. This account reminded me of a passage in Darwin's “Journal of a Naturalist,” pages 167 and 168, where he mentions having observed on the plains of Patagonia, near the banks of the Santa Cruz river, masses of bones perfectly intact, of the Guanaco or wild Llama, which, he supposes, must have crawled before dying beneath and amongst the bushes, as it were to a common burial ground; and that distinguished naturalist adds the following pertinent remark:—“I mention these trifling circumstances, because in certain cases they might explain the occurrence of a number of uninjured bones in a cave, or buried under alluvial accumulations, and likewise the cause why certain animals are more commonly imbedded than others in sedimentary deposits.”
However, on further thought, I do not consider that a similar explanation could be offered for the occurrence of the moa bones on the plains, as I am led to believe that their exposure may be more properly traced to the agency
of man, whose appearance in these islands, as everywhere else, must have brought about some very important physical changes on the face of the country. The burning or destruction of the luxuriant vegetation in valleys and on hills and plains, the diminution or even drying up of swamps, which formerly retained the produce of the rain or of the melting snow much longer than at a later period, have, as we could quote numerous instances to show, brought about many considerable alterations on the surface and drainage of the country. One of the principal results of this action is the occurrence of much larger floods than those formerly experienced, the waters running off far more rapidly than they did when the thick virgin vegetation, together with the swamps and boggy grounds, acted, as it were, like a sponge, retaining the moisture for a longer period. Another argument in favour of this supposition, that the Dinornis must have become extinct much earlier than we might infer from the occurrence of bones lying amongst the grass, is the fact proved abundantly by careful inquiries, that the Maoris know nothing whatever about these huge birds, although various statements have been made to the contrary, lately repeated in England; however, as this question stands in close relation to the age of the moa-hunting race, I shall leave it until I proceed to this portion of my task.
The testimony that moa bones have been found lying loose amongst the grass on the shingle of the plains, together with small heaps of so-called moa stones, where probably a bird has died and decayed, is too strong to be set aside altogether, or to be explained by the assumption that the bones became exposed, as I suggested before, through the original vegetation having been burnt so extensively. We are, therefore, almost compelled to conclude that the bones have in some instances never been buried under the soil, but remained lying on the surface where the birds died. I can, however, not conceive that moa bones could have lain in such exposed positions for hundreds, if not thousands, of years without decaying entirely. Even if we assume that the birds have been extinct for only a century or so, it is inconceivable that the natives, who have reliable traditions extending back for several hundred years, and of many minor occurrences, should have no account of one of the most important events which could happen to a race of hunters, namely, the extinction of their principal means of existence. At the same time, the pursuit of these huge birds to a people without firearms or even bows and arrows, although they might have possessed boomerangs or a similar wooden weapon, must have been so full of vital importance, excitement, and danger, that the traditions of their hunting exploits would certainly have outlived the accounts of all other events happening to a people of such character.
The Rev. J. W. Stack, with whom I repeatedly conversed upon this
subject, fully agrees with me that the absence of any traditions places an almost insurmountable obstacle in the way of our supposing that the moa bones found lying on the plains or hillsides are of such recent origin as their position at first might suggest. Some moa bones, broken or otherwise injured, but excavated in good condition from the Glenmark Swamp, were left by me on the banks, where in a short time they became bleached by the sun. After a few years, when again visiting that locality, these bones had entirely disappeared, and only small decayed fragments indicated in a few places where the larger specimens had previously lain. Of course I am aware that these semifossil bones have not the same power of resistance as fresh ones, but nevertheless this rapid destruction ought to show us that, were they fresh bones, they would not resist for any number of years the agencies at work—heat and cold, rain and frost,—without becoming totally destroyed. I do not know how long the bones of cattle and horses remain on the plains exposed to the atmospherilies without becoming entirely destroyed, but I imagine they would not last for a number of years. On the other hand, if we assume that all the bones which became exposed had been subjected to the action of fire, and were thus in a calcined state, which would have prepared them to offer better resistance, I do not think that this could have preserved them for such a long period as we are obliged to believe that the Dinornis has been extinct. I may here add that at present moa bones and moa stones in the Canterbury plains are found only by digging ditches and ploughing, and that, as far as I am aware, no instance has occurred lately where they have been of superficial occurrence, so that the bones which were exposed sixteen to twenty years ago have all disappeared.
From the occurrence of moa bones amongst morainic accumulations, it might appear that the Moa existed in New Zealand only when the climate was different from that we at present enjoy in these beautiful islands, so much favoured by nature in this respect. In some other publications I have already treated of this subject, pointing out that at the present time in the morainic accumulations forming below the Francis Joseph glacier at the West Coast, and less than 700 feet above the sea level, the trunks and leaves of large pines and arborescent ferns are imbedded, together with the bones of Apteryx, Strigops, Nestor, and Ocydromus, from which the investigators of future days might conclude that these species had existed in a much colder climate than that of the West Coast of New Zealand at the present time. In the same way, having this interesting fact of the present day before us, we are debarred from believing that, from the former larger extent of the New Zealand glaciers, the climate was much colder in similar positions, as far as regards aspect, altitude, and general orographical features, than it is at present. If we look, for instance, at the country at the southern base of Mount Cook, between the Tasman, Hooker, and Mueller glaciers, the outlets of which form the Tasman
River, a luxuriant vegetation delights our eye, where certainly throughout the whole year the Dinornis would have found ample nourishment even close to the ice. I say so with more confidence, knowing that the locality referred to is now used as a ram paddock, always assuming that the sheep is not of a more hardy nature than those former inhabitants of the country.
Judging from the structural character of the different species of Dinornis, they must have inhabited the open country where such existed, and not the forest regions, where not only innumerable impediments to locomotion would have stood in their way, but where they also would probably have found little food suitable to them. In the term ‘open’ I include plains and hill sides in the low lands covered with grass, fern, tutu (Coriaria ruscifolia), flax (Phormium tenax), and cabbage trees (Cordyline Australis), and the subalpine regions, with bushes—Spaniards (Aciphylla), wild Irishman (Discaria toumatou), and snow grasses. It has often struck me that to all appearance the greater portion of the luxuriant vegetation of New Zealand is of comparatively little service to the present fauna, whilst it would produce more harmony in the household of nature if we imagined that the seeds of the Phormium tenax (the New Zealand flax), of the Cordyline Australis (the cabbage tree), of the large species of Aciphylla (spear-grasses), the different species of Coprosma, and many other plants, had been at one time the favourite food of the Dinornis, whilst the roots of the Aciphylla, of the edible fern (Pteris esculenta), and several other plants, might have provided an additional supply of food when the seeds of the former were exhausted. Moreover, I have no doubt that the different species of Dinornis, like those of the Apteryx, were omnivorous, so that they did not despise animal food, and thus lizards, grasshoppers, and other insects might also have constituted part of their diet.
Another observation which I have been enabled to make convinced me that the Dinornis species remained generally in certain localities, being of stationary habits and not roaming over the country, and crossing rivers and mountains in quest of food. In collecting the crop-stones lying with the skeletons. I invariably observed that they must have been picked up in the immediate neighbourhood. Thus, to quote only a few instances. In the caves of Collingwood, all the moa stones are derived from the quartz ranges close by, in the Malvern hills from the amygdaloids of the same zone, and in Glenmark only from the chert rocks in the neighbourhood.
It has been the fashion to assert that the present native inhabitants of New Zealand, the Maoris, are the race who have hunted and exterminated the Moa, and there are even natives who declare that their fathers have seen the Moa and eaten its flesh. If such assertions could be proved, our researches would have been much simplified. It will therefore be my duty to examine the data upon which such statements rest, and to bring in my turn what I consider
overwhelming evidence to the contrary, namely that the forefathers of the Maoris not only have neither hunted nor exterminated the Moa, but that they knew nothing about it.
The main authority quoted for the former assertion, that the Dinornis species are not long extinct, are the writings of Dr. Mantell, the illustrious geologist, who, in his various works, when speaking of the subject under review, gives his son's (the Hon. W. Mantell's) statements. Thus in “Petrifactions and their Teachings,” London, 1851, p. 93, the following passage occurs:— “The Maoris, or natives, were acquainted with the occurrence of such bones long ere this country was visited by Europeans; and traditions were rife amongst them that a race of gigantic birds formerly existed in great numbers, and served as food to their remote ancestors. They also believed that some of the largest species had been seen alive within the memory of man, and that individuals were still existing in the unfrequented and inaccessible parts of the country. They called the bird Moa, and stated that its head and tail were adorned with plumes of magnificent feathers, which were worn and much prized by their ancient chiefs as ornaments of distinction. The bones were sought for with avidity, and were used in the manufacture of lures for fishhooks and other implements.”
Again, Dr. Thompson, surgeon, 58th Regiment, in a letter to Dr. A. Smith, as quoted by Dr. Mantell, when writing of the discovery of several caves containing moa bones, speaks of the same subject, page 104 of the same work:—“During the month of September, 1849, Servantes, the interpreter to the General here, was told by a native that he had discovered a cave in which were many bones of Moas. I accompanied him in search of this place, and was rewarded by getting many curious specimens and several skulls with mandibles. The beak very much resembles that of the ostrich or emu. This cave is on the west side of the North Island, in the limestone formation which extends along the coast. The country around is wild, and there are many similar caves, which, we were told, also contained bones. The popular opinion is, that the country has been set on fire by an eruption of Tongariro, and that all the Moas fled to the caves for refuge, and there perished. From traditions and other circumstances it is supposed that the present natives of New Zealand came to these islands not more than 600 years ago. However this may be, that the Moa was alive when the first settlers came, is evident from the name of this bird being mixed up with their songs and stories. One of the bones I obtained bore marks of having been cut or chopped, perhaps to get at the marrow.”
It is evident that the statements of such observant scientific men as Messrs. Mantell and Thompson deserve all attention and credence, the more so as both had such favourable opportunities to collect native traditions, and consequently
it was generally considered an undeniable fact that the Maoris had not only been cotemporaneous with the Dinornis, but had hunted it, and had also reliable traditions about it.
When I first observed the geological position of the moa bones in situ I began to doubt the accuracy of such statements, because it became clear to me that the huge birds were the representatives of the gigantic quadrupeds of the northern hemisphere in the post-pliocene period. I mean to say that they have lived as far back from the present as the mammoth, the rhinoceros, the cave lion, and cave bear, the bones of which are found in similar deposits in Europe. And as even the highest civilized nations in Europe have no traditions of the occurrence of these huge animals, it seemed to me highly improbable that a far inferior race, having advanced only to the state of those people representing the neolithic period in Europe, could have retained traditions extending over such an immeasurably long period. The discovery of a fossil bone of Dinornis Australis in New South Wales, also in post-pliocene beds, and resembling very much the Dinornis crassus of New Zealand, offers additional evidence of the great antiquity of these huge birds.
Being occupied in examining the contents of the large encampment of moa hunters at the mouth of the Rakaia, I applied to several of my friends in the Colony, who, by their knowledge of Maori lore, had ample opportunity of forming an opinion upon the matter. I wrote to the Rev. William Colenso, who, as far back as 1838, or 33 years ago, began to devote much attention to the subject, and requested his assistance. He kindly forwarded to me a copy of the “Annals and Magazine of Natural History” of August, 1844, which contains an exhaustive paper, written by himself, bearing the title “An account of some enormous fossil bones of an unknown species of the Class Aves, lately discovered in New Zealand,” and with which I was not previously acquainted. In this paper the author gives an excellent description of the moa bones in his possession, assigning to them their correct place in the classification of the avifauna. Mr. Colenso also relates in the same publication the principal traditions of the natives respecting the Moa—that there was still one specimen in existence which lived in the Wakapunaka mountains, guarded by two Tuataras, gigantic lizards; that it was like a huge cock with the face of a man; that it lived on air and had wattles. The author, from the latter assertion, is inclined to believe that the Maoris, of Malayan origin, had still some tradition of the Cassowary, the only struthious bird having fleshy appendages. I cannot refrain from giving from that important paper the following passages bearing upon the subject, page 89:—“From native traditions we gain nothing to aid us in our inquiries after the probable age in which this animal lived; for although the New Zealander abounds in traditionary lore, both natural and supernatural, he appears to be totally
ignorant of anything concerning the Moa, save the fabulous stories already referred to. If such an animal ever existed within the time of the present race of New Zealanders, surely to a people possessing no quadruped, and but very scantily supplied with both animal and vegetable food, the chase and capture of such a creature would not only be a grand achievement, but one also, from its importance, not likely ever to be forgotten; seeing, too, that many things of comparatively minor importance are by them handed down from father to son in continued succession from the very night of history. Even fishes, birds, and plants (anciently sought after with avidity as articles of food, are now, if not altogether, very nearly extinct), although never having been seen by either the passing or the rising generation of aborigines, are, notwithstanding, both in habit and uses, well known to them from the descriptive accounts repeatedly recited in their hearing by the old men of the villages.” And again, further on—“In fact, unless we suppose this bird to have existed at a period prior to the peopling of these islands by their present aboriginal inhabitants, how are we to account for its becoming extinct, and, like the Dodo, blotted out of the list of the feathered race? From the bones of about thirty birds found at Tauranga in a very short time, and with very little labour, we can but infer that it once lived in considerable numbers; and from the size of those bones we conclude the animal to have been powerful as well as numerous. What enemies then had it to contend with in these islands, where, from its colossal size, it must have been paramount lord of the creation, that it could have ceased to be? Man, the only antagonist at all able to cope with it, we have already shown as being entirely ignorant of its habits, use, and manner of capture, as well as utterly unable to assign any reason why it should have thus perished. The period of time, then, in which I venture to conceive it most probable the Moa existed was certainly either antecedent or cotemporaneous to the peopling of these islands by the presentrace of New Zealanders.” In his masterly essay “On the Maori Races of New Zealand,” Mr. Colenso briefly alludes to the same subject, affirming that he has not changed his opinion concerning the age of the Dinornis, and that he has never been able to obtain any reliable traditions concerning it.
The Rev. James W. Stack, who has also made careful inquiries in both islands, has come to the conclusion, after sifting the so-called traditions of the aborigines, that beyond the fact that the Moa was a bird, and that its feathers resembled those of the Kiwi or Apteryx, the Maoris do not possess any information about it. They, moreover, attribute its extinction to a great fire, called the fire of Tamatea, which they assert swept over the Canterbury Plains about 500 years ago, the smouldering remains of which, as they think, may still be seen in the gorge of the Rakaia. The so-called smouldering remains are, however, seams of brown coal in combustion, and this fact alone proves the
legendary character of the tradition. The proverb “He moa kaihau” (a wind-eating moa) is the only trace which Mr. Stack can discover in the sayings of the ancient inhabitants, relative to the existence and habits of these birds. If it is true, as I have been informed, that it is a favourite habit of the African Ostrich to stand with its beak wide open towards the wind, such a coincidence in the habits of two allied terrestrial birds would be very curious, and would clearly show that although all other traces have been lost, the proverbial saying has outlived all past generations. Moreover, it would compel us to believe in its correctness. We might, however, trace it to the Cassowary, as suggested by Mr. Colenso in respect to the wattles.
Mr. Alexander Mackay, Native Commissioner, who enjoys excellent opportunities of obtaining accurate information upon this and other subjects in reference to the natives, has also made diligent researches. This gentleman informs me that there is not a single tradition amongst the natives respecting the Moa; in fact, that they know nothing about it. It seems evident to me that the present native race, unable otherwise to account for the huge remains of the Moa found sometimes washed out from the post-pliocene alluvium, occurring in caves, etc., had recourse to miraculous legends. On comparing the Moa bones with those of other living species of birds, they undoubtedly found that in their principal characteristics they most resembled those of the Kiwi or Apteryx, which were sometimes mixed with them, and which fact may account for the tradition concerning the similarity of the feathers. But a still greater proof of the long extinction of the Dinornis, is the fact that all early voyagers, who had ample opportunities for observation, who assiduously collected specimens of the fauna and flora of both islands, and noted down carefully the traditions of the natives, never allude to the existence of the Moa, nor do they speak of its osseous remains. Thus I looked in vain through the accounts of the three voyages of Captain Cook, of those of Captain Vancouver, Admiral d'Entrecasteaux, and of Captain King, but in all of these no trace of such traditions can be detected. Captain Cook, that admirable observer, who gives us such a faithful account of the animal life of New Zealand, made inquiries through his interpreter, Tupia, during his first journey, concerning the native traditions; on his second visit he obtained further intelligence from a native chief in Queen Charlotte Sound, which is of such interest that I wish to transcribe it. Thus he says, in the “Voyage to the Pacific Ocean,” vol. i., p. 142: “We had another piece of intelligence of him (Tawaihurua), more correctly given, though not confirmed by our own observations, that there are snakes and lizards there of enormous size. He described the latter as being eight feet in length, and as big round as a man's body; he said they sometimes seize and devour men, that they burrow in the ground, and that they are killed by making fires at the mouths of the holes.
We could not be mistaken as to the animal, for with his own hand he drew a very good representation of a lizard on a piece of paper, as also of a snake, in order to show us what he meant.” I cannot stop now to inquire what animals Tawaihurua may have meant, but it shows us clearly that he was an intelligent man, whose drawings were so well executed that the animals could be readily recognized. Queen Charlotte Sound, being in easy communication with the more southern portion of this island, and in close proximity to the Wairau Plains, where moa bones have been found repeatedly, must we not assume that the natives of those days had no traditions of the Moa, or this chief would certainly have spoken of it, and drawn it also, as the most wonderful animal of New Zealand? In any case, this is certainly very important negative evidence in support of my opinion.
Proceeding now to an examination of the traces left by the moa-hunting population, I believe that it was also the Hon. W. Mantell who first drew the attention of scientific men to the fact that there was ample evidence to prove convincingly that man had been co-temporaneous with the Dinornis. He describes the occurrence of small circular beds of ashes with charcoal very ancient, and such as are generally left by the native fires that have long been burning on the surface. They contained calcined bones of men, dogs, and Moas. Fragments of obsidian, flint, two fishing-line stones, and a small whalebone mere were also dug up. The Maoris informed Mr. Mantell that the sand-flat of Te Rangatapu, where he obtained these relics, was one of the first spots on which their ancestors located.* A similar account is given by the Rev. J. Taylor, who has examined some localities in the valley of the Wanganui river abounding in old cooking places. If further investigations of these interesting localities would prove beyond a doubt that really the bones of man, moa, and dog, with flint chips and true Maori implements, occur together, and have not been mixed up accidentally, the present indigenous race having chosen the same favourable spots for their camping grounds as the moa hunters did before, the question, as far as the Northern Island is concerned, would soon be settled. However, I venture to assert that more careful and systematic researches than Mr. Mantell, owing to the troublesome interference of the natives, was enabled to make, would prove that the Moa kitchen middens are quite distinct, and that where Maori ovens with indications of cannibalism occur, they have been formed over, near, or within those of the older race. In the course of this address it will be my duty to show why I believe that such a result would be gained, and which would confirm my observations made in this province upon the subject.
Another important question which remains still to be answered is, whether the human skeletons found amongst the sandhills, which, by the shifting of
[Footnote] * Petrifactions and their Teachings.”
the sandss, become exposed, as well as those from ancient burial grounds, are all of Maori origin, or if, at least, some of them do not belong to a race distinct from the present aborigines. Unfortunately, I never found any human bones in or near the moa hunters' encampment, to which fact I shall again call your attention in the course of this evening, otherwise they would have offered valuable material for comparison. However, one authority, and that one of the highest we could desire, has already pronounced that some of the skulls found in these sandhills are not derived from the Maori race. In the year 1868 I sent to Professor Dr. C. G. Carus, the President of the Imperial German Academy of Naturalists, two skulls, which I considered belonged to the Maori race, and which were obtained from some sandhills near the Selwyn. That eminent physiologist, upon examining them, informed me that I must have made some mistake, as these skulls could not be of Maori origin, but must have belonged to some other race. Unfortunately, before my answer arrived in Dresden, the illustrious octogenarian had in the meantime passed away, but I may expect to receive shortly, from some other reliable source, drawings of these two skulls, together with measurements, descriptions, and a careful determination of the question as to which human family they approach nearest in their principal characteristics. As Mr. Alexander Mackay, the Native Commissioner, informed me, the natives assert that in the interior of the North Island a race had existed called Maero, which they described as wild men of the woods, and somewhat like Australians. According to the Wellington natives, a member of this race should have lived in a comparatively recent time on the island of Kapiti. It is foreign to the scope of my address to enter upon a discussion as to the manner in which these islands have been peopled. This has been done already by eminent men amongst us, as well as by distinguished savants in Great Britain, Germany, France, and America, without, however, deciding the question; on the contrary, the matter remains more uncertain than ever, and it will be long before it can be definitely settled.
My next object will be to ascertain how far back we can trace the occurrence of polished stone implements, which, in this province at least, the moa hunters did not appear to have become possessed of. Passing over the well-known localities, such as old Maori pahs, battle-fields, burial and camping grounds, these tools have been found under the roots of huge trees, and in cutting deep drains through bogs in the Wellington province, which may be taken as a proof of their great age. In this province the plough has disinterred many on the plains, buried to a depth of several inches with soil or silt. But another instance of still greater antiquity has come under my notice, namely, the discovery of a well-polished stone adze, together with a grinding stone, at the West Coast, about fifteen feet below the undisturbed surface, over
which a luxuriant pine forest was growing at the time. In a paper published in the Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London, I have described these interesting specimens of pre-historic human workmanship, which, two years ago, I had the satisfaction of laying before you, accompanying their exhibition by a verbal description. I shall therefore not repeat what I then stated, but proceed to the description of the principal locality in which I discovered a moa-hunter encampment of considerable extent.
A great and almost insurmountable difficulty in the way of the foot traveller in this island is the presence of large torrential rivers, coming down from the central chain, since they can only be crossed by him when they are very low, over long fords, and even then not without considerable danger. It is therefore not surprising that the aboriginal population should have searched from the earliest times for any spots where the necessity for crossing on foot could be dispensed with. They observed that all these rivers, before entering the sea, expanded into still-water lagoons, often of considerable extent, which they could easily cross with canoes, or on rafts, or even by wading, and thus the native paths, of which in many localities the traces are still quite distinct, were always found upon the coast. The Rakaia being one of the most dangerous of these rivers, it is natural that the northern side of the river, near the sea, should always have been a frequented spot. Here, also, the lagoon extends along the coast, affording the natives a secure resting-place for their canoes or other means of conveyance, and, at the same time, a favourable fishing ground. Thus it was to be expected that we should find near the mouth of the river numerous remains of Maori occupation in the form of ovens, signs of former huts, and occasionally a Maori implement; but this locality, on being more closely examined, proved to be of still greater interest, having at one time been the camping ground of a moa-hunting population, and covering an area of more than fifty acres. It is to this remarkable encampment that I shall devote the next portion of this address. However, before proceeding, I wish to offer a few general remarks on the topography of the spot, in order to show how well this pre-historic people had selected their habitations.
Between the mouth of the Rakaia and Banks Peninsula, and even as far as Sumner, all round the western foot of that volcanic system, a succession of lagoons, of which Lake Ellesmere is by far the largest, swamps and deep boggy creeks exist, through which, in former years, before the original vegetation was destroyed and better drainage introduced, this portion of the country must have been kept in an almost impassable state. Looking over the country between Banks Peninsula and the mouth of the Rakaia, we observe, first, Lake Ellesmere, covering a large portion of that region, and between it and the river several lagoons, surrounded by impenetrable swamps, from the
outlets of which, and from several springs a little higher up the plains, a creek is formed, now called the Little Rakaia, which, after a short southerly course, empties itself into the Rakaia lagoon. Consequently, a large triangular block of country, surrounded on two sides by ground almost impassable to man or beast, is formed, whilst a similar block exists on the southern side of the river, with this difference, that the sea coast forms one of the sides, which was also available for hunting purposes.
Referring more especially to the encampment under consideration, we find that here the Canterbury Plains run without any break to the banks of the Little Rakaia, where they form cliffs ten to twelve feet high, whilst towards the main river two terraces occur of an altitude of eight and four feet respectively. It is chiefly on the lower terrace that proofs of Maori occupation are to be found, but ovens of the moa-hunters also occur in the same locality. On the plains above the terraces, distant about sixty yards, both from the first terrace and from the bed of the Little Rakaia, Mr. Cannon, the owner of the land, to whose courtesy and kind permission to collect and to make further excavations I am much indebted, in ploughing the ground uncovered a mass of former cooking-places and kitchen-middens, the latter consisting mostly of broken moa bones, and extending over an area of about fifty acres. When on a visit to Mr. Edward Jollie, whose property is in the neighbourhood, I was accidentally informed of this interesting fact, and in his company I devoted several days, with the active co-operation of Mr. F. Fuller, to a careful examination of this remarkable spot. The old ovens, generally covered by three to six inches of silt and vegetable soil, are found all over the ploughed ground, but most of them are situated near the centre of the field, where also the greatest amount of kitchen-middens occur. They are about 150 yards from the banks of the Little Rakaia, and nearly an equal distance from the first terrace sloping down towards the main river. This circumstance is more surprising, as the moa-hunters had to carry stones and water for their cooking ovens a great distance, a labour they might have avoided had they selected some locality close to either of the two watercourses. When passing, however, along the perpendicular banks, ten to twelve feet high, of the Little Rakaia, before it joins the Rakaia lagoon, we obtained in the silt, four to six inches below the surface, a large piece of flint, about seven inches long and three to four inches broad and thick, from which pieces had evidently been chipped for knives. In other spots, in the same layer, moa bones, either broken or entire, occurred, but isolated, suggesting that they had more probably been thrown away by man in passing, or dropped by dogs, than that they were the remains of a regular kitchen-midden. No moa bones, as before stated, were found by me anywhere on the surface. All of them had been covered by silt, or at least by thick layer of vegetable soil; but I
have been informed that the very same locality was covered with moa bones, but whether broken or entire I could not ascertain.
As previously observed, the principal ovens and kitchen-middens are situated some distance from the banks of the rivers; about twenty acres are more or less covered with them, so that in some instances they must have offered some difficulty to the plough. Although now mostly disturbed, I could readily recognize the form and diameter of these cooking-places. Some of them were of an oval shape, eight feet long and five feet broad, others more circular and about eight feet in diameter. Generally covered by three to four inches of soil at the border, they are about eighteen inches deep in the centre. The outer rim is generally built up by larger stones, smaller ones fill the interior, piled in four to five layers upon each other, of which, of course, many by the intensity of the heat have been split into angular fragments. Occasionally, small pieces of charcoal are still found lying between them. From five to eight of these ovens are usually in close proximity, with intervals of about twenty yards between them and the next group; the ground between having probably been the camping ground of the moa-hunters. I may here add that these pre-historic people without doubt cooked their food in the same manner as the aborigines of the present day, which has been so often described that I need not repeat it here. There are seldom any moa bones or other remnants of their meals amongst the stones of the ovens; these are generally situated a few feet from them, where the offal has been thrown in a heap, together with the chips of their rude stone implements. Large flat stones, ten to twelve inches long and six to eight inches broad, are sometimes found near them, together with a roundish long boulder, also of large dimensions, which I have little doubt have been used for breaking the bones in order to extract the marrow, or for pounding other materials. All these stones, without exception, had to be carried from the rivers or sea-shore to the plains, and their great quantity testifies that for a long time this locality must have been a favourite resort of those inhabiting the country at that distant period.
I assume also that this spot was to them very important in a strategical point of view; the natives, after crossing the lagoon with their rafts or canoes, being out of the reach of their enemies, who, without the same means of conveyance, could only cross with difficulty and loss of time. Scattered over the ground an enormous quantity of pieces of flint are strewed, proving that the manufacture of rude knives or flakes must have been carried on upon the spot for a considerable period of time. The most primitive form of stone implement, and of which a great number is found lying all over the ploughed ground, consists of fragments of hard silicious sandstone, broken off apparently with a single blow from large boulders, and for the manufacture of which considerable skill must have been necessary. The boulder was always selected
in such a form that if fractured in the right way it would yield a sharp cutting edge. These rude sandstone flakes are very different from pieces detached by heat in the ovens, where the natural joints of the rocks are always exhibited, while here the rough surface of the broken side attests clearly that the specimens have been obtained artificially. These primitive knives are mostly three to four inches long and two to three inches broad, possessing a sharp cutting and sometimes serrated edge; but there are also some of larger dimensions, being six inches long and nearly four inches broad. Some of them have evidently been much used. They were probably employed for cutting up the spoil of the chase, and severing the sinews. Similar specimens have been obtained in abundance in the Northern Island. Their frequent occurrence may be accounted for by the rapidity with which they were manufactured, and consequently they were of small value.
The really properly worked or chipped flints are so very rare that I obtained only a few of them, although of chips and flakes I could collect several hundreds, of which many show that they have been used. Before entering upon a description of the former, I wish to speak of the material which has been selected for the manufacture of the greater portion of them. The principal regularly shaped implements consist of a greyish greasy-looking peculiar flint rock, the original bed of which is not known to me. If it should exist in this part of the South Island, the only locality might be in the neighbourhood of Gebbie's Pass (Banks Peninsula), where so many varieties of silicious deposits occur. Another reason for believing that the rock has been brought from a great distance is its scarcity, which shows that unlike the sandstone knives or flakes, the ancient inhabitants took greater care of it. From specimens received from Dr. Hector and Captain Frazer, it appears that it has also been extensively used in the interior of the Otago province. There is in the Otago Museum a series of fine specimens manufactured of the same rock, collected in a short time in or near the Manuherikia plains by the last-named gentleman, so that there is no doubt that we must seek in that neighbourhood the original workshop whence they were derived. There are also, but far less frequent, smaller implements and flakes made of chert, porcellanite, and a few of chalcedony, semi-opal, cornelian, and agate, probably collected for their hardness in the neighbourhood. But the most interesting objects were small pieces of obsidian, in lithological character identical with that obtained near Tauranga. It is thus evident that a race so remote from our own times must have had communication with the Northern Island, and as the different species of Dinornis, as far as I can judge from Professor Owen's drawings and descriptions, are identical in both islands, it forces us to the conclusion that in the era of their existence Cook Straits did not yet exist, but that both islands formed part of a larger island, or even continent, over which the wingless
terrestrial birds could roam at will. In no other way can we account for the existence of the same species of Dinornis over the whole of New Zealand. We might even assume that the human race made its appearance when this communication still existed, entirely, or at least partially, because it is rather difficult to conceive that a people in such a low state of civilization could have built canoes sufficiently large and strong to cross the boisterous strait now existing between the islands. In any case, we may safely conclude that the human races in the southern hemisphere are of far greater antiquity than might appear at first sight, and, instead of migrations, possible and impossible, to explain the peopling and repeopling of New Zealand, geological changes might afford a more satisfactory explanation. If we admit the former existence of land in the Pacific Ocean, either as a continent or large island, where now the boundless ocean rolls, and if we further suppose this land inhabited by autochthones, of whom we find remnants all over the islands, either still existing or extinct, and only proving their former existence by their works of art, the whole problem is solved. Such an explanation is, moreover, in better accordance with the present state of geological and ethnological science.
It appears to me that the flakes, which have generally a sharp-cutting edge, have also been used by the moa-hunters for the purpose of cutting, perhaps, also, as small scraping knives to prepare their meals, or, what is still more probable, to assist them in eating their food, because doubtless they would have required some instrument to cut through the sinews and ligaments, or to otherwise divide the meat after being cooked in the large ovens, which from their size would easily have contained a whole bird. The principal specimen of flint implements which I obtained from the locality in question, is of the so-called spear-headed pattern, closely resembling those found in the post-pliocene beds of France, and in many other spots of the same geological age in Europe. It is four and a half inches long and two inches at its broadest parts. There is, however, one great difference between this antipodean tool and those of Europe, namely, that the former is flat on one side, all blows having been struck on the other. That their form and peculiar manner of manufacture are not accidental is proved by similar specimens collected by Captain Frazer and now in the Otago Museum, to which I alluded already. There are at least half a dozen amongst them which have exactly the same form, being at the same time only chipped on one side.
Two other specimens found at the Rakaia are flint implements, manufactured in the form of a chopper, about six inches long and three inches broad, and three-fourths of an inch at its thickest part. They are also flat on one side with a ridge near the centre on the other, whence they have been worked towards the edges, which are both sharp. At one corner a piece has been
removed so as to form a kind of handle, or for fixing it to a piece of wood. A similar specimen is also in the Otago Museum. As far as I am aware no implement resembling this curious tool has been described from Europe. There are some flint implements of the so-called oval-shaped hatchet type, presenting the same peculiar characteristics, and again some smaller flint knives resembling those found near Abbeville, in France. I may here observe that I also found two smaller spear-head implements, which in every respect resemble those of the mammoth and rhinoceros beds in Europe; intermediate forms are also present.
As I stated previously, this locality shows traces of having been afterwards inhabited, from the fact that true Maori ovens, for ordinary cooking as well as for the preparation of the cabbage tree, are not unfrequent; moreover, the Maori track leading to the south passed over the same ground. It is, therefore, not surprising that a few greenstone adzes, and some other well polished Maori implements, should have been turned up by the plough.
Another more interesting discovery was made by Mr. Cannon; a cache, containing twenty-two pieces of roughly chipped Palla, a green silicious rock, occurring only on the northern side of the Gawler Downs, between the forks of the Hinds. They had evidently been brought a distance of over fifty miles to be shaped into the proper form by polishing them. They had already been prepared to take finally the more recent forms adopted by the Maoris, which at once distinguishes them from the moa-hunter implements. This is the more evident, since, in many localities, polished Maori adzes have been obtained manufactured from this peculiar green silicious rock. When I first found it on the Gawler Downs, about seven years ago, I was struck by the large amount of chips lying about, which led me to believe that somebody struck by the flinty appearance and fine colour of this rock, which besides this spot, occurs only in Transylvania, had amused himself by making specimens. I am now satisfied that the Maoris visited the spot in question to obtain this rock for their stone implements, carrying it away such long distances. Mr. John Davies Enys found some of the Palla adzes in the Upper Waimakariri country.
I searched for a long time, anxious to obtain any other relic which might show that the pre-historic race had used any durable ornament made of stone or bone, such as ear or nose ornaments, amulets to wear round the neck, bracelets, or needles and pins made of bone. At last we discovered two pieces of the ulna of the wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans), which, at their proximal end and below the condyle, had evidently been bored through by the hand of man. Both, however, were broken in the middle of the shaft, the lower portion of both being missing, and they had therefore probably been thrown away. Of course it is impossible to say for what purpose these neat
holes had been bored; but, belonging to such a majestic bird, is it not possible that they might have been worn as charms or amulets, or used in connection with some religious rite?
Amongst all the stone implements, there was not a single one from which we might draw an inference how the moa-hunters killed their prey, but as the birds lived doubtless in droves, they were probably driven by men or dogs towards the apex of the triangle either to be killed with heavy wooden implements or stone spear-heads fixed to staves, to be snared, or to be caught in flax nets. Another method of killing them, if we assume that the moa-hunters were allied to the Australians, may have been by the use of the boomerang or a similar wooden weapon, to be hurled at their prey.
Proceeding to an examination of the kitchen-middens or refuse heaps, we observe that by far the greater portion consists of moa bones, belonging to several species, identical in every respect with those the skeletons of which we excavated in the Glenmark Swamp. In the first volume of the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” page 89 and sequel, I have given a list of the Dinornis bones found in Glenmark, arranged according to the species they belonged to, and showing the number of each. From that list, it will appear that of all these species, Dinornis casuarinus is the most numerous, being represented by bones belonging to at least forty-five specimens, while Dinornis didiformis follows with thirty-seven, Dinornis crassus in the third line, and then Dinornis elephantopus. The other species, Dinornis gracilis, struthioides, robustus, giganteus, and maximus, are of much more rare occurrence, and Palapteryx ingens is only represented by one single specimen. I ventured to draw the conclusion, that the smaller and more numerous species had been living in droves, whilst the larger ones were of solitary habits and of much rarer occurrence. During the examination of the kitchen-middens, and while in the act of collecting their contents, I was at once struck by the curious fact that the more or less frequent presence of the bones coincided closely with similar observations made concerning the skeletons imbedded in the Glenmark Swamp, and which showed that the frequency of the different species in that locality was not accidental. It also became evident to me that all the species, except perhaps the largest ones, had been co-temporaneous, affording ample food to the aborigines of the country. Of the remains of Dinornis casuarinus, the leg-bones are the most plentiful. A few only of the tarsus-metatarsus were intact, by far the greater portion broken on both extremities, the tibia was always broken on both ends, the shaft of the bone smashed to small fragments, with the exception of a few pieces which were left uninjured. This additional trouble had doubtless been taken in order to extract the medullary contents for food; also the epiphyses both of the proximal and distal ends were generally partially destroyed, having been scooped out to get at the marrow. The femur
appeared generally broken in the centre, but a few were also fractured on both ends. Of Dinornis didiformis, which with D. crassus, was next in number of individuals, only one tarsus-metatarsus was intact; the tibiæ were either broken in the centre or more frequently on both extremities. Of the femora, a few were collected, broken in the middle, but generally they had been left entire, so as to suggest that the medullary contents, which must have been very small, were not thought worth the trouble of extracting. Dinornis crassus seems also to have occurred in large numbers on the plains, judging from the great quantity of bones belonging to it. The metatarsus is only rarely broken, the tibia always at both epiphyses, and the femur in the centre. Of Dinornis elephantopus, bones belonging to a few specimens were collected, of which the tibia is invariably broken, whilst the femur, and, in a few cases, the tarsus-metatarsus, have been fractured in the centre. Of Palapteryx ingens I obtained remains belonging to at least three specimens. They are, however, a little smaller in size than that figured by Professor Owen. All the three principal leg bones, without exception, are broken at both extremities, and the intermediate portion fractured to small fragments. The epiphyses also show clearly how they have been scooped out to obtain the marrow.
No bones of other species came into my possession, such as those of Dinornis gracilis, struthioides, and the more gigantic forms, which, considering that they are very rare in comparison with the species enumerated above, is not surprising, and does not prove that they did not exist. Further excavations in the same locality will doubtless afford us more information on the subject. Of Cnemiornis, a bird with well developed wings and of the size of the bustard, and of which I also collected some portions of the skeleton in Glenmark, a few bones were also found at Rakaia. Small pieces of moa bone, mostly derived from the leg bones, are very numerous, and lie generally upon the refuse heaps. Occasionally they are burnt, so that it appears that the moa-hunters generally threw the refuse of their meals upon the middens, and only accidentally into the fire, unless we assume that they used the bones occasionally as fuel. Phalanges of all the species already mentioned are present, and in the same proportions; they are generally intact. Of the pelvic bone only one large piece of Dinornis didiformis was obtained, but otherwise its fragments were of frequent occurrence. They were probably broken up to get more easily at the meat. The same observation also applies to the sternum, of which only small pieces were found. Ribs and intercostals, generally broken, are not rare. A great many vertebræ, and occurring in the same proportion as the leg bones, mostly in a good state of preservation, were collected. It is remarkable that only in a few bones cuts or other marks could be observed; the reason may be that the larger bones, as already pointed out, were probably broken with stone mallets. However, some of the smaller bones show clearly the marks of the rude stone knives.
The fact that the vertebræ and other smaller bones, such as costals and intercostals, were quite uninjured, and that I never found any sign of gnawing on any of them, either large or small, would imply that the dog was not domesticated by the moa-hunters, but lived in a feral state, and was hunted by them like the Moa. Several of the skulls of D. casuarinus and one of D. didiformis were obtained, some of them in a very fragmentary condition, and each of them having been scooped out from below to obtain the brains. Of minor bones were collected the upper and lower mandibles, tympanic bones, and tracheal rings of most of the species named, which, with the rest are now exhibited in the Canterbury Museum; also a good selection of moa stones could be made, consisting either of pebbles of quartz, agate, etc., such as we obtain in the Malvern Hills, or of silicious sandstone, and of chert. It was in vain that we searched for egg-shells; if once existing, they must have decayed. Of the bones of smaller birds we were able to distinguish those of the New Zealand Rail (Rallus pectoralis), the Black-backed Gull (Larus dominicanus), the Swamp Hen (Porphyrio melanotus), the Mollymawk (Diomedea melanophrys), and the Godwit (Limosa uropygialis). Apteryx bones were missing, but this may be easily explained by the distance of timber-covered country from the encampment; but a more striking feature is the total absence of bones of the Weka (Ocydromus Australis), which is at present found all over the island. Could this bird have been confined during the Dinornis era to the forest region, kept there by the attacks made by the large birds upon it? Another interesting fact is the frequent occurrence of tympanic bones of whales; there is, however, not a single specimen amongst them belonging to the Caprerea antipodarum, nor of any of the other large right whales visiting the coast of New Zealand; all the specimens belong to smaller species, such as Berardius Arnuxii, etc. These bones are mostly in a fragmentary state, having been broken in such a way that the interior cavity or lower surface remains intact. It is difficult to understand why these bones, of which we picked up more than a dozen, should have been collected and brought up to the encampment; they could not have been used for ornaments, as they are always broken too unevenly for such purpose; or can they have been used for drinking cups or ladles? Some of the pieces were charred. There were also a few pieces of larger bones, belonging to the skeletons of cetaceans of the smaller dimensions. Seals must have formed also a favourite article of food, as many bones, belonging to at least two species, are found frequently in the kitchen-middens.
The dog is also represented in these refuse heaps. We obtained parts of a few lower jaws, belonging to several individuals, some vertebræ, part of the pelvis, sternum and of the skull. It was of the size of a shepherd's dog, the canine tooth longer and more slender in comparison with the other teeth than is generally the case with the present varieties of the same size. These remains
are, however, rare, which might suggest that the dog was only exceptionally eaten, either when its owner was short of provisions, or perhaps when some of these animals were killed by the Moas during the chase. I have, however, already given some reasons why we are almost compelled to believe that the dog was not domesticated by the moa-hunter. Some few shells were also found between the bones, consisting of freshwater mussels (Unio), and of a large Mytilus.
Bearing in mind what the Hon. W. Mantell states in respect to the occurrence of the bones of men, together with those of the Dinornis, dog, and seal, in the kitchen-middens of the Northern Island, I concluded that the moa-hunters must have been cannibals; however, the most careful search, continued for a number of days, has never brought to light the smallest portion of a human bone at the Rakaia. And, although this evidence is merely of a negative character, it is strong enough to induce the belief that the moa-hunters were not addicted to anthropophagy, as Mr. Mantell's observations might suggest. Had the inhabitants of the Rakaia encampment been cannibals, there is no doubt, in my mind, that amongst the thousand fragments of bones passing through my hands, at least some of the human skeleton should have appeared to bear witness. Mr. F. Fuller, who lately discovered a small moa-hunter encampment in Tumbledown Bay, near Little River, found close to it, amongst some sandhills, the traces of a cannibal feast, but there was nothing to connect the one with the other.
Some other localities, in which the ancient population has left evidence of its presence, are the flat near Moa-bone Point, on the road to Sumner, another near Mr. Joseph Palmer's former residence among the sandhills near the Avon, and on the opposite side below Mr. Wright's property. Here, moa bones, broken in the usual manner, associated with those of the seal and tympanic bones of whales, are exposed by the sands having been shifted by the wind. Similar flakes, manufactured of flint and sandstone, occur also there, together with great quantities of pipi shells (Venus intermedia) and of Amphibola avellana. The contents of the ovens consist of common river shingle, but also of rough pieces of volcanic rocks, derived from Banks Peninsula, and which must have been brought all the way, unless we admit that during the time of the moa-hunters the sandhills in question were still close to the sea shore, or at least fringing an arm of the sea, running round Banks Peninsula. Another locality, where Mr. John D. Enys has collected flint implements of the same type as those described previously, is situated on the western flanks of Mount Torlesse, about 3,000 feet above the sea level.
From all these observations I am led to the conclusion that the moa-hunters have left their traces in many localities in both islands, of which only a very few are at present known to us. I have no doubt that further search
will bring to our knowledge many more large camping places, and will offer us more ample material to draw conclusions as to the character, life, and manners of that pre-historic people whose implements, so far as we know, are of the same character throughout both islands.
Fragmentary as my researches have been, so are necessarily my notes on this important subject, but I trust that they will be at least the means of procuring more attention to the matter amongst my fellow colonists, many of whom, I have no doubt, can assist me materially in more fully investigating it, either by collecting specimens, describing their own experience, or pointing out to me where similar encampments may be examined. I need scarcely observe that I am far from considering the inductions drawn from the observations I have been able to make as final, or that I claim for the different hypotheses I venture to propose more than a simply suggestive character.
Every day, especially if other observers will give us the result of their labours, new vistas will be opened before us, and our ideas become enlarged and modified. I should feel quite satisfied with the result of my labours, even should some of the views expressed to-day prove erroneous, if by this means I shall have been instrumental in extending our acquaintance with the ancient inhabitants of this country, and thus promoting the advancement of knowledge and truth.
[Read before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, 5th April, 1871.]
In the address I had the honour to deliver to you at our last meeting, I omitted some points of importance concerning Moas and moa-hunters; I trust, therefore, that you will allow me to supplement the information then given by returning once more to the subject. However, before doing so, I wish to observe that it has never been my intention to attempt to deal exhaustively with the subject, in so far as alluding to all former publications upon it, for the simple reason that most of those writings were published in newspapers, or in the Transactions of scientific societies not accessible to me, my principal object being to allude to those of a few well qualified authors, who were the first to collect traditions concerning the Moa amongst the natives. This I did in order to inquire how far my own researches into the geological position of the remains of Dinornis confirmed or contradicted those so-called native traditions. I selected principally the oldest writings, such as those of the Rev. W. Colenso and of Dr. Mantell, because the old natives with whom Mr. Colenso and Mr. W. Mantell conversed, and who now have, doubtless, passed away, were still in full possession of the traditions of their ancestors prior to
the arrival of the Europeans, and were consequently more reliable than those of the present Maori generation. When writing that address I was well aware that Mr. Mantell had delivered, only a few years ago, a lecture on the Moa, but it had entirely escaped my memory that an extract of this lecture had been printed in the first volume of the Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute. However, as I remembered having seen somewhere a notice of it, I searched amongst some cuttings from Wellington newspapers which I kept by me, but in vain. Consequently I had to fall back on Dr. Mantell's works, containing, as far as I knew, the most authentic information of the views and statements of his son. Dr. Hector, on his late visit to Christchurch, pointed out where I could find the desired information. In reading the interesting extract of that lecture in the first volume of the Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, it became apparent to me that since the publication of Dr. Mantell's works the Hon. W. Mantell had somewhat modified his former views, because, when speaking of the extermination of the Moa, he is reported to have expressed himself to the following effect:—“That this must have taken place within a short period after the appearance of man, adducing the only slight and obscure allusions in the most ancient Maori traditions to their existence as proof of this.” It appears also that Mr. Mantell is inclined now to believe that the Moa owed its destruction to a different race, and prior to the arrival of the Maori race in New Zealand, a conclusion at which I also arrived by comparing the tools of the moa-hunters at the Rakaia with those of the Maoris. The same gentleman is also reported to have stated that there was evidence that cannibalism prevailed at the time the Moas were used for food, but only in the North Island, confirming my observations made at the Rakaia and elsewhere, that the moa-hunters in this island were not anthropophagi. However, I still doubt very much whether the inhabitants of the North Island, in the same era, were cannibals, as I believe that the same favourable localities, formerly selected by the moa-hunters, were also used by the Maoris as camping grounds, by which the mixture of the kitchen-middens of both races has been produced. Even were we to admit that the inhabitants of each island had belonged to a different race, or that they had not had communication with each other, so that different habits of vital importance had become formed in each of them, the discovery of obsidian in the kitchen-middens of this island clearly proves that such arguments would be fallacious. The pieces of obsidian being of such frequent occurrence, we are obliged to assume that regular communication existed between both islands, and it is difficult to conceive that, under these circumstances, the one island should have been inhabited by cannibals and not the other. Nor could different races have inhabited the two islands during the extermination of the Moa, and the southern race have gone to the North Island to obtain the much
coveted obsidian without fear of being devoured by the more savage tribes inhabiting it. Such a case seems to be improbable. I regret very much, and every lover of science will agree with me, that Mr. Mantell has not allowed the publication of his lecture in extenso, as, no doubt, much valuable information and sound speculation would have been placed before us. I have been told that the present race inhabiting New Zealand must have been co-temporaneous with the Dinornis, because the word Moa forms part of the designation of several localities in New Zealand, but this occurrence might be explained in several ways. In the first instance, it is very possible that the word Moa in those names is only the alteration of another word in course of time, because words having the same, or nearly the same sound, are not unfrequent in the Maori language, such as moa, a bed in a garden, a certain stone; moana, sea; moa ta, to be early; moe, sleep or dream; moho, a bird; mou, for thee; or moua, the back of the neck;* or that the natives used the expression to designate localities where moa bones were principally found. Another explanation might be given by pointing out that the word Moa is used in connection with other birds. Thus I may quote from the Rev. Richard Taylor's “A Leaf from the Natural History of New Zealand,” Wellington, 1848, the following expressions:—Moa kerua—a black bird with red bill and feet; a fresh water bird; a water hen. Moa koru—very small rail. Moeriki—rail of the Chatham Islands. And may we not therefore conclude that if the Maoris had known anything of the Dinornis, the present representative of the genus, which, in appearance, form, and plumage, most probably closely resembles some of the extinct gigantic forms, would have in preference been named by them Moa-iti, or some similar appellation, instead of calling the Apteryx, Owenii kiwi, from its peculiar call; and the Apteryx Australis, Tokoeka and Roa? The fact that they added instead to the names of birds, resembling somewhat the domestic fowl, the prefix moa, might be taken as an additional confirmation of the probability that the theories advanced by me are correct. And how can we reconcile the difference in the statements concerning the plumage, which, according to one account, consisted of magnificent plumes on head and tail, whilst, according to the other, it resembled that of the Apteryx? Another point of importance must strike the observer, concerning Maori nomenclature. If the present race had known anything of the Dinornis should we not expect that several and very distinct names would have been preserved to us for the different species? We may safely presume that the moa-hunting races had different names for the huge Dinornis giganteus, robustus, and for Palapteryx ingens, for the smaller and more slender species of Dinornis casuarinus and didiformis, as well as for the stout-set Dinornis elephantopus and crassus; which, moreover, were doubtless distinguished by
[Footnote] * Williams' Maori Dictionary, London, 1852.
different habits and modes of life. Instead of that, we find them speaking of the Moa indiscriminately, a word extensively used all over the Polynesian Islands. I may also here state that the Rev. R. Taylor alludes already in the publication previously quoted to the native report about the Maero, or wild man of the wood. Another important fact, of which I have omitted to speak, is the discovery of a Dinornis skeleton in the Manuherikia plains, in which not only portions of integuments and feathers were still attached to the sacrum, and a portion of the sole of the foot was still intact, but also the joints of one leg had their ligaments and inarticular cartilages preserved. We owe to Dr. Hector many interesting details concerning the discovery and position of this unique specimen, which was found fourteen feet below the ground, partly imbedded in a stratum of dry sand. As some portion of the skeleton was already in the fossil condition in which moa bones are usually found, we must assume that the better preserved portion owes its present condition to a very exceptional case, such as being imbedded in a layer of very dry sand, by which it has been transformed into a natural mummy, and in which state human and animal remains are known to have existed in several parts of the world for a very considerable time. The discovery of a human skeleton, together with a moa egg-shell, in excavating for the foundations of a house on the Kaikoura peninsula, is another fact I should have alluded to. Unfortunately, the skeleton has not been preserved, or we might conclude from its examination to what race the owner of the egg had belonged. However, I have been informed that the Maoris had not the least tradition of a burial place of their own race having ever been in that locality, and disclaim the skeleton as belonging to them. And even if it had turned out that it had been of truly Maori origin, and that polished stone implements had been also found near it, we could not conclude therefrom that the Dinornis egg was of co-temporaneous origin with the individual with whom it was found buried. We might as well believe that the eocene or cretaceous fossils, artificially bored, which, together with human remains, have been found in caves on the continent of Europe, must be of the same age as the human bones with which they are associated. In addition to the facts that small heaps of so-called moa stones are found on the plains, which might indicate a spot where a bird had died, I wish also to state that I have met with moa stones in such localities where it would have been impossible for a body to lie, and which offered evidence that, like the Emu, the Dinornis had the power of disgorging the stones when they were so much polished that they could not longer be used for the comminution of the food. This is the more probable as the stones in such positions are always very smooth, while those I found with the skeletons, and of which one fine specimen, from the Aorere caves in the Nelson province, is in the Canterbury Museum, exhibit well their natural roughness. Finally,
“Taylor's New Zealand,” page 124, contains some instructive information concerning a Maori tradition, which, if reliable, at once points to the fact that when the present race arrived in New Zealand the Moas were already extinct. In giving the list of original canoes, Mr. Taylor relates, in speaking of No. 12, “Te Rangi na mutu. Tamatea Kokai was the chief; Nga ti rua nui. It came to Ranga tapu. On their arrival at that place they saw stones like English flints and moa bones,” and he adds, “it was there that I discovered the largest quantity of the bones of the Dinornis which I have seen. The flints, I have no doubt, were the stones which that bird used to swallow, being chiefly quartz pebbles.” However, as the reverend gentleman distinctly speaks of stones like English flints, might this not suggest that at least a portion of them were rude stone implements and chips made of flint, such as we still find in the kitchen-middens of the moa-hunting race?
Third Paper on Moas and Moa Hunters.
[Read before the Philosophical Society of Canterbury, 20th December, 1871.]
In my anniversary address delivered to you on 1st March of this year, I had the honour to lay before you some of the principal facts concerning the so-called native traditions about the existence of the Dinornithes. I also offered a description of the moa-hunter encampment situated between the junction of the Little Rakaia and the main river, and of some others of minor importance, discovered by me in other parts of this province, but of similar ethnological interest.
At our meeting of April 5th, I laid before you some additional information on some points of importance concerning the same subject previously overlooked, and to-night, with your permission, I wish to give a further account, based partly upon my own researches and partly upon communications received from different parts of the colony, all bearing upon questions intimately associated with the subject under review.
I am happy to say that my papers have had the effect of eliciting the publication of very important information; first, in two papers read before this society by the Rev. J. W. Stack and Mr. John D. Enys; and afterwards, in two other papers of Dr. J. Hector, F.R.S., and Mr. W. D. Murison, both read before the Otago Institute, which are full of valuable facts and suggestions, and to which I shall have to refer fully in these pages.
During the course of this winter I paid another visit to the Little Rakaia encampment, and as the ground had all been broken up, and the owner of the property, Mr. T. Cannon, allowed me to make excavations wherever I thought
fit, I obtained a great deal more information than I formerly possessed. In fact, I was thus enabled to trace and examine the whole extent of the encampment from the banks of the Rakaia to the Little Rakaia, all across the fields.
During that visit the same gentleman handed over to me, as a presentation to the Canterbury Museum, a fine series of Maori and moa-hunters' stone implements collected by him.
In my first notes on the subject I explained that between the main river and the Little Rakaia a small terrace exists about eight feet high, by which a lower triangular flat is formed. The lines of the moa ovens and kitchen-middens run in the same direction as this terrace, so that their position must in some respects be in connection with that line. The ovens consist in the centre of five to six rows, sometimes close together, sometimes at some distance from each other, but near the banks of both rivers they diminish considerably in number.
Generally they are situated ten to twelve feet from each other, and are either empty, nothing except loam and vegetable soil lying upon the stones of which they are built, or they are filled with heaps of broken bones and chips of chert and knives of sandstone; this refuse sometimes also forming distinct heaps in close proximity to the ovens.
Besides this principal belt there are a few scattered ones on the open space towards the first terrace, as well as immediately below it, of which one refuse heap is of particular interest, to which I shall refer in the sequel.
I have previously described the moa-hunter remains near the small watercourse bounding the triangular flat, and cannot add any new information, as I did not make any more excavations in that portion of the fields.
Before proceeding to an examination of the kitchen-middens of the moa-hunters, I wish to allude to the numerous polished stone implements found over the same property. In the small sketch map annexed to this paper I have marked the principal localities.
All over the fields numerous smaller polished stone implements are found indiscriminately in and near the moa-hunter encampment, as well as away from it. Many of them were picked up previously amongst the grass, but by far the greater portion became exposed when the land was broken up by the plough.
In my first paper on this subject I have shown that long after the moa-hunters had ceased to exist, this locality continued to be a favourite camping ground of succeeding generations, who, in the course of ages, became more civilized, as shown by their polished and more finished stone implements.
Near the north-eastern boundary of the moa ovens, but in close vicinity to them, Mr. Cannon, jun., found a cache containing four large stone adzes,
made of a hard blackish chertose rock, of which two were finely finished, whilst the two others were only prepared for the polishing process by being cleverly chipped so as to assume the intended form.
These stone adzes are twelve inches long, and proportionately broad and thick. From the manner of their occurrence, as explained to me by the discoverer, it is evident that they had been placed in a cache dug for the purpose, just in the same manner as the chipped specimens of Palla described in my first paper, were hidden close by.
On the south-western side, just outside the line of moa ovens, a large square rubbing-stone, made of coarsely-grained sandstone, twelve inches long and four inches broad and deep, together with some other stone implements, were dug up, evidently forming also the contents of a cache. Some of the latter consisted of small chisels and gouges of distinct patterns, without doubt specially adapted for some peculiar kind of work.
Some of the smaller implements are made of a greyish chert, such as is found on the Nelson side of the Dun Mountain range. I am not aware whence the black chertose schist can have been obtained, but suspect that it has also been brought by the Maoris from a considerable distance.
A little away from this latter cache a piece of nephritic schist was obtained, ten inches long, four inches broad, and two to three inches thick. There had never been an attempt made to work it, without doubt owing to its inferior quality.
Amongst the other objects found is a sinker, made of white compact limestone, such as is of frequent occurrence north of the Kowhai, in the so-called Weka Pass formation. It is egg-shaped, with a depression for the insertion of a fastening string all round its longer axis.
Below the upper terrace, on the second flat, before the land was broken up, I observed on my first visit that a hut had been standing here, about fifteen feet long and seven feet broad, with an opening towards the north. The outlines were shown by the floor being raised above the surrounding flat. The plough, in effacing all traces of these contour lines, had exposed the spot where the former cooking place in this hut had been situated. Here the soil was baked to a hard cemented mass, containing small pieces of charcoal, bones, either broken or entire, of fishes and small birds, together with a few fragments of polished stone implements, but not the least sign of moa bones, flint implements, or chips amongst them. On the same terrace, in two localities, cemented masses of the same kind proved the former existence of similar cooking places.
In the neighbourhood of the hut four human bones were also exposed by the plough, consisting of two tibia, one femur, and one humerus, all belonging to the same individual, a full-grown man. Each of these bones had its
extremities sharply broken off, as if for the extraction of the marrow, but only one of them appeared as if it had afterwards been gnawed by a dog.
It will thus be seen that polished Maori stone implements occur all over the extent of the land, and as I had occasion to convince myself, also in the neighbouring fields, in which no sign of moa-hunter encampments exist; but in no instance were polished stone implements found in the kitchen-middens of the moa-hunters, of which I examined carefully a great many, they invariably maintaining the same characteristic features.
A further examination of the kitchen-middens of the moa-hunters confirmed fully the statement made in my first report, concerning the relative proportion in the occurrence of the bones of the different Dinornis species, the remains of Dinornis casuarinus still continuing to be the most numerous, and next those of Dinornis didiformis and crassus. A few more specimens of Dinornis elephantopus were also obtained, but no more of D. ingens, and none of the largest species, D. robustus and giganteus, so that I cannot add any new information on this head.
The hollow space in one of the cooking places towards the central position of the encampment had been filled up with masses of broken moa bones, as this, as before observed, is not unusual; but this spot gained additional interest from finding that nearly two complete necks had been thrown on the heaps, so that, when we exposed the bones to view, we observed the vertebræ, and the rings of the larynx along them, still in their natural position. One of these necks, which were lying one across the other near the bottom of the old oven, belonged to Dinornis casuarinus, and the other to D. didiformis; the skulls belonging to them were also present, and had been scooped out in the usual manner. In examining and collecting carefully the contents of this oven, I found the broken leg-bones, portions of pelvis, sternum, also phalanges, ribs, intercostals, and even some of the tympanic bones belonging to these two specimens on one heap together, with a few chips of flint and a sandstone knife. Thus we had here the remnant of a meal before us for which two birds of different species had at the same time been cooked.
If we had had no other bones at our disposal, we could have constructed from this refuse heap alone, two species of the extinct Dinornithes. I also examined again fragment after fragment, to see if I could not trace by gnawed pieces the co-existence of a domesticated dog, but in vain; even the smallest bones being quite intact, and the bigger ones, which were broken, showing invariably the original fractures, sharply defined.
I may also allude here to the curious fact that I never obtained any scapulo-coracoid bone, which, judging from the existence of this bone in the skeletons of the larger species, the smaller ones ought also to have possessed. However, the Glenmark Swamp in this respect never yielded a single
specimen except those of Dinornis giganteus and robustus, so that I almost despair of ever obtaining this bone from the smaller species.
Amongst other specimens of interest, I obtained a great quantity of bones of the New Zealand dog, of which one kitchen-midden below the terrace contained a considerable number, besides a great quantity of broken moa bones. We made at that spot quite a collection of lower jaws and fragments of skulls and of limb bones, having belonged to numerous specimens mostly of the same size.
The examination of the lower jaw shows that this dog had a very narrow muzzle, with powerful teeth for its size, resembling the dingo and jackal in that respect, although smaller than these animals. In one of these lower jaws I observed that one præmolar existed above the usual number. I also obtained a great quantity of the bones of the leg, but mostly broken in two or more fragments.
A considerable number of bones of seals were also dug up, including portions of the skull and lower jaw, but they invariably belonged to an Otaria (fur seal). Tympanic bones of whales, either entire or broken, were again found in considerable numbers, but without offering any clue as to their use.
Besides the numerous flakes of flint and obsidian, I obtained a few more well-worked flint implements, of which the principal ones are figured as illustrations to this paper.
With one exception they also exhibit the same peculiarity of being only chipped on one side; some of them were evidently used as knives. Amongst the larger pieces is a block of flint of a yellowish colour, about five inches long and four inches broad and thick, and another flat piece eight and a half inches long by five inches broad and two inches deep.
The former shows clearly, and this I think is very important, that it was used merely for the chipping of flakes whenever they were wanted, and not for the manufacture of larger knives or hatchets.
A fine block of obsidian, six inches long, four and a half inches broad, and three inches deep, shows the same marks of small chips and flakes having been broken off in a similar manner, and evidently for the same purpose.
Thus, from the appearance of these blocks, we may safely deduce that the moa-hunters were in the habit of breaking off small chips for their daily use, perhaps being compelled to do so by custom or superstition, not being allowed to use the same cutting edge to two animals; such an explanation, which I admit is very hazardous, might account for the enormous quantity of small chips and flakes found amongst the kitchen-middens.
Numerous sandstone knives were also obtained, turned up by the plough, some of them clearly showing that the cutting edge had been sharpened by additional blows all round. I was also fortunate enough to find during my
last excavations a large flat sandstone boulder from which these knives had been broken off all round the edge. From the appearance of this stone it was evident that they had been obtained by one blow, as the stone was otherwise intact, but from the planes of fracture it could easily be seen that some of the knives had not been of the desired shape, and in searching closely I found some broken pieces which evidently had been thrown away as useless.
I also obtained during these last excavations a shell, Fusus Zelandicus, through which a hole was bored in a neat manner, a testimony that this prehistoric people was not devoid of the love of personal adornment.
Before I shall enter into a consideration of the arguments brought forward against portions of my deductions, based upon the facts given in these papers, I wish to lay before you some new information, some of it of considerable importance, bearing upon the subject under discussion.
Mr. Sherbrook Walker, who is well acquainted with the Friendly Islands, where he is a partner in a sheep run, writes to me as follows:—“There is a tradition of a gigantic bird which once resided in Eua (one of the Friendly Islands), and about half a mile from our house, on the top of the island, there is a small hill of about one and a half acres in extent, and about fifty feet high, covered with trees. This is called by the natives ‘Te Moa,’ which is, being interpreted, ‘moa dung,’ and the legend is that the bird one day, whilst passing over the island, evacuated at that spot, and raised the mount in question. Of course, all this is extremely absurd, but it is curious that the natives should have such a tradition; and there is another thing I should like to point out to your notice, namely, that the native name for the common fowl is ‘moa,’ which would seem as though the traditions handed down amongt them anent the extinct bird showed that it had some external resemblance to the domestic fowl, which, I think, would certainly have been the case with New Zealand Moa, only of course on vastly different scales. There is also a legend in this island of a gigantic lizard, which half the natives in the island made an attack upon, and, after a desperate battle, succeeded in slaying. I have often had the spot pointed out to me where the fight took place.”
I consider this information highly important, because it proves beyond a doubt that the Polynesian inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean have the same legends about a gigantic bird and lizard, and that the Maoris, as proved by the Rev. W. Colenso, have in this respect no other knowledge which has a less fabulous character.
Speaking of this gentleman, I regret deeply that ill-health prevents him from writing more fully on the subject under discussion, of which no one in New Zealand is more thoroughly master, but I am glad to say that Mr. Colenso fully agrees with all the principal deductions concerning the extinction
of the Dinornis in pre-historic times, and the utter ignorance of the Maoris on the subject.
In my first essay I tried to explain that the Maoris, by comparing the moa bones with those of other living species of birds, and finding that they resembled most closely those of the Apteryx, might have traced in such a way the near relationship of both genera; however, as Mr. Colenso states in a letter dated 13th July, even in this respect I went too far, because, alluding to this subject, the reverend gentleman says, “Believe me, no Maori of thirty or thirty-five years ago ever once supposed the moa bones to be those of a bird, they always obstinately denied it. That they since have done so is entirely owing to the pakehas.”
Mr. Colenso informs me, also, that he would translate differently the Maori proverb, Te moa kaihau, to which I am indebted to the Rev. J. W. Stack, although he does not give me his translation.
My attention has been directed to a letter of Sir George Grey to the Zoological Society of London, in March, 1870, in reference to my first communication to the same society concerning the moa-hunter encampment at the Rakaia, in which that gentleman states, “The natives all know the word ‘Moa,’ as describing the extinct bird; and when I went to New Zealand twenty-five years ago the natives invariably spoke to me of the Moa as a bird well known to their ancestors. They spoke of the Moa in exactly the same manner as they did of the Kakapo, the Kiwi, the Weka, and an extinct kind of Rail, in districts where all these birds had disappeared. Allusions to the Moa are found in their poems, sometimes together with allusions to birds still in existence in some parts of the island. From these circumstances, and from former frequent conversations with old natives, I have never entertained the slightest doubt that the Moa was found by the ancestors of the present New Zealand race when they first occupied the islands, and that by degrees the Moa was destroyed and disappeared, as have several other wingless birds from different parts of New Zealand.”
It will be seen from that extract that Sir George Grey speaks of allusions to the Moa being handed to us in the poems of the Maoris, and it is therefore very much to be regretted that none of these allusions are to be found in any of the published traditions or poems, of which the classical volume of Sir George Grey is considered the most reliable, because, as the Rev. James W. Stack informs me, in none of them is any allusion made to moa-hunting, though frequent references are made to kiwi and weka-hunting, and sports of other kinds.
In my first paper I alluded to two human skulls from the sandhills, sent by me to the late Professor Dr. C. G. Carus, and which by that illustrious anatomist were thought not to be of Maori origin. Since then Professor
Dr. Leuckart has examined them very carefully, compared them with a genuine Maori skull, and has informed me that they are not to be distinguished from the latter. This distinguished naturalist has thus set this matter at rest, and the question appears to me settled that if these skulls really belonged to the pre-historic moa-hunters, of which however there is no evidence, that race was not different from that at present inhabiting New Zealand.
There is another important point to which I wish to refer, namely, to the occurrence of a gigantic raptorial bird in New Zealand, the Harpagornis Moorei, of which the Canterbury Museum possesses portions, found in the turbary deposits of Glenmark, together with bones of the extinct Dinornithes.
There is no reason to suppose that the Harpagornis became extinct before the Dinornis, and thus if the present inhabitants of New Zealand had any reliable traditions about the Moa, would it not be evident that the existence of this more terrible bird of prey would have been recorded by them? This is certainly circumstantial evidence, which cannot easily be set aside. *
However, returning to Sir George Grey's letter, may I express a hope that the Maori traditions about the Moa, contained in songs, etc., to which that distinguished Maori scholar alludes, might be collected and published by him for our benefit, so that we can judge how far the present native inhabitants of these islands have any traditions concerning its existence; I wish this the more sincerely as the Rev. J. T. H. Woehlers, of Ruapuka, who has been nearly thirty years amongst the natives in the southern portion of this island, writes to me and states that he has never been able to obtain any information on the subject, thus in every respect testifying to the accuracy of the information received from the Revs. W. Colenso and Stack, and Mr. Alexander Mackay.
Two very important papers were read before the Otago Institute, to which I wish to refer at some length. Dr. J. Hector, F.R.S., gives in the first paper a great deal of valuable information which he possesses on the subject, for which every lover of science must feel grateful, and which was particularly welcome to me, although Dr. Hector arrives at somewhat different conclusions to my own.
One of the principal facts upon which Dr. Hector bases his conclusions as
[Footnote] * I found, however, that Professor Owen, when exhibiting in November 1839, at a meeting of the Zoological Society of London, the fragments of the shaft of a femur of Dinornis, the first bone brought to Europe, he observed that he had received this bone from Mr. Rule, with the statement that it was found in New Zealand, where the natives have a tradition that it belonged to a bird of the eagle kind, which has become extinct, and to which they gave the name of “Movie.”
to the recent occurrence of the Moa is the neck of a Dinornis discovered in Otago, with portions of the skin partly covered with feathers still attached by shrivelled muscles and ligaments. Hitherto, however, we have not heard in what position this neck was found, but I may observe that the skeleton of Dinornis robustus excavated near Tiger Hill, on the Manuherikia plains, was found to possess also portions of skins, feathers, and ligaments, attached to the bones in exactly the same manner, although lying fourteen feet below the ground. Moreover, the important fact, which we must not overlook, that portions of that Tiger Hill skeleton were in the semi-fossil condition in which moa bones usually are preserved to us, is in itself sufficient evidence, that from the occurrence of another well preserved portion we cannot altogether judge correctly as to the recentness of these remains.
Dr. Hector himself, in a letter to Professor Owen, dated 15th February, 1864, as printed in the “Transactions of the Zoological Society,” when giving him a description of the geological features of the ground where the Tiger Hill skeleton was found, expresses himself as follows:—“The dry climate and the fact that the bones were imbedded in dry sand, prevent our necessarily inferring from the well-preserved condition of this skeleton, that it is of more recent date than the bones that are usually found; and, moreover, as some parts of the skeleton are quite as much decomposed as the generality of the moa remains, it is more natural to suppose that the preservation of the more perishable parts of the remainder of the skeleton has been due to an accidentally favourable position of the soil.”
I fully agree with this conclusion, and I wish to point out that under favourable conditions, even in tertiary rocks, similar organic remains have been preserved. Thus in the paper coal of the brown coal beds of Rhenish Prussia, which are of miocene age, feathers of birds have been discovered, which shows that under exceptionally favourable circumstances organic substances can be preserved, which otherwise perish in a very short time.
That the neck of the Moa, now in the Colonial Museum, which is in a similar remarkable state of preservation as the Tiger Hill skeleton, was once imbedded in micaceous sand, is stated by Dr. Hector himself. We are, therefore, not too bold to assume that it has been excavated from a bed similar to that in which the last-mentioned skeleton was found.
However, to my mind, one of the main arguments in favour of the great antiquity of the moa ovens, from which we may conclude also of the long extinction of the Dinornis species, is given by Dr. Hector when relating the interesting discovery of the two steatite dishes carved in Maori fashion, of which one was found near an old Maori oven at the coast and the other far in the interior.
This fact proves beyond a doubt that the natives had reliable traditions for
centuries back, even of such minor events as the existence and loss of two carved stone dishes, and this suggests that certainly they would have similar correct and reliable traditions as to the existence and the extinction of the huge wingless birds, had they been known to their forefathers. What better argument could I bring forward in proof of the long lapse of time since the Dinornithes must have become extinct?
The occurrence of moa bones on open plains, etc., as described by Dr. Hector, is quite in accordance with observations made in this province, but if their presence is explained in the way the Rev. J. W. Stack has so successfully attempted, all difficulties on this head are easily removed.
The south-eastern portion of this island was not only inhabited by large tribes of Maoris, but they were also constantly in the habit of travelling to the lakes in the interior for fishing purposes, and to the West Coast for obtaining the much coveted greenstone.
Every valley and peak, every creek and ford over a river had a name, and was perfectly well known to them for centuries. But besides these fishing and other excursions, they went to the interior for catching rats and woodhens, and they were therefore exceedingly anxious that no fires should run over the country, so as to destroy the means of their subsistence.
But when the Europeans came and settled upon the land, this fear was greatly removed; extensive fires passed repeatedly over the country, and the moa bones, which for ages had been preserved under the protecting cover of the peaty soil, were laid bare, but soon disappeared again, when subjected to the destructive atmospheric influences. How can we account otherwise for their sudden appearance and disappearance?
My first extensive exploration in this province dates back to the beginning of 1861, or ten years after the country was first occupied by European settlers; but even then I never found any moa bones lying in the grass, except when they could be traced to their having been washed out from the banks of creeks and deposited there by floods.
The extensive layer of bones which in many localities were seen by the first settlers had already entirely disappeared in the short space of ten years, and this has doubtless been the case in Otago.
Thus, for instance, there were great quantities of moa bones, no doubt uncovered a short time previously by great fires, at some locality on the banks of the southern Ashburton, when the first settlers went there, over which the track leads to the lakes near the head of that river, to which the Maoris resorted for centuries for purposes of eel-fishing. Now even supposing that the moa bones had been lying there for 100 years, which is utterly impossible, as the bones of horses and cattle disappear within twenty years on our plains, is it conceivable that the natives, of whom some were of very great age when
the first Europeans arrived, should have had not the least idea of the existence of those birds, except perhaps a few fabulous legends common more or less to all the Polynesian Islands?
Dr. Hector, at the conclusion of his very interesting and instructive paper, cites, amongst others, the testimony of the Hon. W. Mantell in support of his view, namely, that the Moa survived to very recent times; but in my opinion the views of that gentleman do not altogether coincide with those of Dr. Hector.
In my second paper I quoted from a lecture of Mr. Mantell's, and showed that he had somewhat modified his former views. Since then, at a meeting of the Philosophical Society of Wellington, as I see from the “Wellington Independent,” of 3rd July, 1871, when speaking of the occurrence of moa eggs in the Northern Island, Mr. Mantell is reported to have expressed himself as follows:—“Mr. Mantell explained that he had discovered these eggs in what were called Maori ovens, or, as he preferred to call them, pre-historic man ovens, etc., etc.” Mr. Mantell thus offers additional confirmation to the correctness of my deductions, and I was truly glad to see that this gentleman was willing to modify his former views, in accordance with those advocated by me, as soon as he became convinced of their correctness.
The next paper to which I wish to refer is entitled “Notes on Moa Remains,” by Mr. W. D. Murison, and was read before the Otago Institute. This contribution to the questions at issue is particularly valuable, as Mr. Murison offers principally the results of his own researches. His examination of the ovens in the Maniototo plains shows convincingly that in all their principal features they are identical with those of the Little Rakaia, with the exception that they contain numerous pieces of egg-shells, of which not a single specimen was obtained in the latter locality.
Mr. Murison lays great stress upon the fact that from the same place several fragments of polished stone implements were taken out, but as we have not that gentleman's testimony that they were found by himself in a kitchen-midden or oven of the moa-hunters, I cannot attach much weight to it. Although that gentleman thinks that it is unlikely the natives ever visited the Puketoi-toi creek, on the banks of which the moa ovens are situated, with any other object than that of moa-hunting, I wish to point out that that small and insignificant creek has a Maori name, and that when the country was covered with vegetation, the volume of water was probably much larger than at present, when the whole district has been dried up by the systematic burning of the vegetable growth by the sheep farmer.
Unfortunately, I am not acquainted with the topography of that district, but I am certain that the occurrence of the numerous moa ovens on the banks of that creek proves it being a favourable locality for camping. I also wish to
remind you that the Maoris went not only eel-fishing, but also rat and woodhen catching.
If I am allowed to offer a simile, I would compare the finding of polished and unpolished stone implements together, with finding some coins of the middle ages near some stone implements and bones of the giant elk in a boggy deposit on the banks of a small gully in Ireland, and we should conclude therefrom that they must all have been co-temporaneous, because after the extinction of the giant elk no other means of sustenance could be procured near such a locality.
However, even supposing that really polished stone implements had been mixed up with the chipped flint Instruments, this would merely prove that of a people possessing a very low standard of civilization, the generality used only very rough and primitive stone implements, but numbered a few favoured persons amongst its members, who were already in possession of fine polished ones, indicating a much higher state of civilization for them than for the great mass of the tribes.
To believe in such an anomalous state of things would be, to my mind, taking a very strange view. However, this would not prove that the Moa had lived in more recent times, than from the absence of reliable traditions, and from the generally very primitive form of flint implements, we are compelled to assume.
Moreover, I wish to point out that even polished stone implements are of considerable antiquity in New Zealand, as they have been found in such positions that their great age cannot be doubted.
In volume II. of the “Journal of the Ethnological Society of London,” page 110, etc., I have described two stone implements, a polished stone adze and a sharpening stone, found in Bruce Bay, fifteen feet below the ground, in an undisturbed deposit, over which a forest, consisting of large trees, was growing; since then I have received another adze made of sandstone, possessing a well polished cutting edge, found at Hunt's Beach, West Coast, eighteen feet below the ground, amongst the roots and stumps of an ancient forest, which last June, during the progress of gold mining operations, was laid bare.
Plate IV. fig. 1 gives a drawing of this stone implement, now in the Canterbury Museum, of the considerable age of which there can be no doubt.
The story of the whaler about the Moa, to which Mr. Murison alludes, is simply a sailor's yarn, with which we have been favoured repeatedly.
I am sorry I cannot agree with the conclusions of Mr. Murison, but sincerely hope that that gentleman will personally superintend some excavations in the valley in question, and if the discovery of polished and rudely chipped stone implements in co-temporaneous deposits should be confirmed by him, a great step towards solving the question at issue will have been made.
It is not my intention to enter into a discussion of the vexed question of Polynesian migrations, although in some respects this interesting subject has some bearing upon the so-called Moa traditions.
Several essays and books, in English, German, French, and Italian, lie on my table, all treating of that question from various points of view, and in which attempts are made to settle it one way or the other, but it would be beyond the scope of this paper to enter into a discussion of the different theories propounded therein. However, I wish to offer one suggestion, which might assist in removing some of the difficulties as far as New Zealand is concerned.
It appears that before the arrival of European vessels in the Pacific Ocean, frequent communications between the Ladrone Islands and Tahiti, and from both these points to Hawai, by canoes existed, which afterwards ceased, owing most probably to the circumstance that the Polynesian navigators were frightened by the European vessels. Consequently, if the Polynesians some hundred years ago had the courage to sail such long distances, it is very possible that some of the large canoes, taken from their usual track by currents and winds, landed in New Zealand, where a population of Autocthones, the direct descendants of the moa-hunters and of the same Polynesian race as the new comers existed.
Were this the case it could easily be accounted for, that when Tasman first visited our shores the Maoris possessed double canoes, manufactured by them in imitation of those which had brought the few new-comers to their shores, but which, in course of time, were again discarded for their original canoe of a more simple construction.
Such an explanation might also account for the tradition about their arrival in New Zealand. The same explanation may also assist us to understand that some feathers of the Cassowary (Moa) were brought to New Zealand, and that the fable of the large Moa and huge reptile from the Friendly Islands, if not of much older origin, found also its way to our shores.
In summing up the points at issue, I think that the following propositions are proved by me:—
1st. The different species of the Dinornis or Moa began to appear and flourish in the post-pliocene period of New Zealand.
2nd. They have been extinct for such a long time that no reliable traditions as to their existence have been handed down to us.
3rd. A race of Autocthones, probably of Polynesian origin, was co-temporaneous with the Moa, by whom the huge wingless birds were hunted and exterminated.
4th. A species of wild dog was co-temporaneous with them, which was also killed and eaten by the moa-hunters.
5th. They did not possess a domesticated dog.
6th. This branch of the Polynesian race possessed a very low standard of civilization, using only rudely chipped stone implements, whilst the Maoris, their direct descendants, had, when the first Europeans arrived in New Zealand, already reached a high state of civilization in manufacturing fine polished stone implements and weapons.
7th. The moa-hunters, who cooked their food in the same manner as the Maoris of the present day do, were not cannibals.
8th. The moa-hunters had means to reach the Northern Island, whence they procured obsidian.
9th. They also travelled far into the interior of this island to obtain flint for the manufacture of their primitive stone implements.
10th. They did not possess implements of Nephrite (greenstone).
11th. The polishing process of stone implements is of considerable age in New Zealand, as more finished tools have been found in such positions that their great antiquity cannot be doubted, and which is an additional proof of the long extinction of the Moa.