Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 7, 1874
This text is also available in PDF
(3 MB) Opens in new window
– 57 –

Contents of Cave.

An examination of the surface beds showed that the floor of the main cave was, in some localities, covered with the remains of European occupation, in many others by the excrements of goats and cattle, introduced into Canterbury by the Europeans in 1839; but that everywhere below them, when visible, portions of shells of mollusks were occurring, the same species as still inhabit the estuary close by, and had served as food to the natives of the islands visiting the cave in former times.

Towards the end of the main cave these beds gradually thinned out and were mixed with each other, till at the entrance to the second cave marine sands, the former floor of the cave, reached the surface.

So, proceeding with two labourers to the cave, I instructed them to dig two trenches, crossing each other at right angles, in the centre of the cave,

– 58 –

till they reached what they considered the lowest part of the deposits due to human agency. On 29th September, when arriving early in the morning, the greater portion of that work had been accomplished, the workmen having reached a bed of agglomerate, which they considered the bottom of the cave, for our purpose, or at least reaching to the earliest beginning of human occupancy.

Digging, by my direction, through this agglomerate for a considerable distance down into the sands below it without any proof of human presence being obtained, I also reluctantly, at least for the present, gave up any further work below it.

Sections Nos. 1 and 2 (PI. I.) give the details of the excavations then performed. At the centre of the cave, where the two trenches crossed, I noted the following sequence:—

Ft. In.
1. Shell beds, consisting of the remains of the following species, now still inhabiting the estuary:— Chione stutchburyi (cockle) huai or pipi; Mesodesma chemnitzii, pipi; Amphibola avellana (periwinkle) hetikutiku; Mytilus smaragdinus (mussel), kuku 1 10
2. Ash bed with some pieces of flax, cabbage tree leaves, charred wood, etc. 0 8
3. Bed consisting of shells, often very much decomposed, the same species as No. 1 1 2
4. Ash and dirt bed, with a few pieces of Moa bones 0 9
5. Agglomeratic beds, consisting of pieces of rocks fallen from the roof 0 6
This latter deposit rested upon 4 11
6. Marine sands, in which I had dug down 3 feet without results.

Between 3 and 4 a sharp line of demarcation was clearly visible, which, as the continuation of the excavations showed, was of great importance.

European beds do not appear as occurring on the surface at this point, as they had been previously cleared away by the workmen.

Near the entrance of the cave the following beds were passed in the longitudinal trench (see PI. I., sec. 1).

Ft. In.
1. Beds of European occupation, cow-dung, tins, pieces of bottles, etc. 0 9
2. Shell beds 2 3
3. Ash beds 0 5
4. Shell beds 1 4
5. Ash beds, chips of wood, tussocks 0 6
6. Shell beds, often very much decomposed, with small chips of timber, and thin beds of ashes between them, about 3 0
(Lowest portion of No. 6 not reached.) 8 3
– 59 –

Owing to the depth of the trench at this spot the same was not continued. The spot where I noted this section was about 10 feet from the entrance of the cave. At the point where it reached the large rock, lying nearly across the entrance of the cave, the sequence was as follows:—

Ft. In.
1. Beds of European origin 0 7
2. Shell beds 2 1
3. Ash beds 0 6
4. Shell beds 1 4
5. Ash beds 0 9
6. Drift sands 1 0
7. Ash and dirt bed (lower series) 0 7
8. Agglomerate 0 5
7 3

The shells in the beds were exactly of the same description as those given in the foregoing section at the junction of both trenches in the centre of the main cave. The sequence of the beds and this identity of species proved clearly that a native population, living principally upon the mollusks now inhabiting the estuary, have occupied every part of the cave during a very long period, that portion near the entrance being of course preferred; this accounts for the greater thickness of the beds in its immediate neighbourhood, which, as will be observed, gradually thin out as we advance towards the termination of the first cave.

Advancing to a consideration of the section exhibited in the cross trench, we find that it passes through the following beds on A—it's eastern side, (Pl. I., sec. 2):—

Ft. In.
1. European beds, consisting of wheaten straw, bones of butcher's meat, shells, match-boxes, horse dung 2 1
(Here was evidently a favourite spot for the cave dwellers of European origin.)
2. Ash bed, tussocks (Maori) 0 4
3. Shell beds, similar to those described previously 0 8