Art. IV.— On New Zealand Lake Pas.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 9th October, 1872.]
It is now nearly thirty years since I first visited Horowhenua Lake, which, though not of great extent, is still one of much beauty. I was then struck with its singular appearance from a number of watas, or native store-houses, being erected on posts in the middle of the lake, and seeing the natives ascend to them from their canoes by means of a notched pole.
When afterwards, in 1854, the remains of villages were discovered in the Swiss lakes, and similar ones, called crannogues, in Ireland, it then struck me that the same practice had formerly prevailed in New Zealand, and especially in the Horowhenua Lake, and that the watas I had seen there were but remnants of the custom. On putting the question to Tamihana Te Rauparaha he said that he recollected two pas being in it, which belonged to the Muaupoko tribe, the ancient owners of the district, and that one was called Te Namuiti, but he could not recollect the name of the other.
Afterwards I was so fortunate as to obtain from an old chief of the Muaupoko tribe a sketch of the lake, in which he placed six pas, giving me their names and positions. Their sites are still to be seen, as so many islets, covered with a luxuriant vegetation. The old chief also described the way they formed them—first by driving strong stakes into the lake to enclose the required space, then by large stones being placed inside them, and all kinds of rubbish being thrown in to fill up the centre, upon which an alternate stratum
of clay and gravel was laid until it was raised to the required height, on which the houses were then erected, and the pa surrounded with the usual fence. The only approach being by canoe they were secure from any sudden attack. Rauparaha and his tribe took them. Such a dread of that redoubted warrior seized their inhabitants that when they saw his fleet approaching they lost no time in making their escape to the surrounding forest. Rauparaha landed and burnt them all. This was about the year 1825.
These lake villages differ from the Swiss ones, which were built upon platforms resting on posts driven into the lake, and connected with the shore by a pier, having a rude drawbridge in the centre, which could be drawn up at night, or on the approach of an enemy, but the crannogues of the Irish lakes, on the contrary, were artificial islands closely resembling in their construction those of the Horowhenua Lake. They were formed by sinking beams and logs, and then erecting walls of large stones upon them, filling up the centre with stones and clay. This was by no means an uncommon mode of defence amongst the Maoris. In the Papaetonga, a neighbouring lake to that of Horowhenua, there were two pas of a similar kind. On Motutaiko, a small island in the centre of Taupo Lake, there was a formidable pa, to which there was only one landing place, and that was strongly defended. Another existed on an island in Rotokakahi Lake, and perhaps the most celebrated of all was that of Mokoia, in the centre of Rotorua Lake, where their most venerated idols were kept, and the only resemblance of a temple found; there also their greatest warriors were buried.
Probably the idea of making artificial islands for defence may have originated from these natural islands being used for that purpose.