Art. II.—Notes on the Extinction of the Moa, with a review of the discussions on the subject, published in the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute.”
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 6th September, 1875.]
You are doubtless aware that a considerable amount of discussion has taken place, during the last few years, amongst scientific enquirers in New Zealand, as to whether the Dinornidæ became extinct before or since the occupation of the Islands by the present native people, and as the question at issue is one of great interest, I have been induced, in consequence of having lately received important information on the subject, which I propose to give in the sequel, to review this discussion.
In the year 1871 Dr. Haast, who leads the discussion on the first side, read three elaborate papers on the subject before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, in the latter of which he sums up the conclusions to which he professed himself justified in arriving, as follows:—
“1st. The different species of 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 cotemporaneous with the Moa, by whom the huge wingless birds were hunted and exterminated.
“4th. A species of wild dog was cotemporaneous 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 descendents (by which Dr. Haast evidently meant “successors”) 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.”
Many of these “conclusions” will be considered sufficiently startling by those who take the trouble to analyse the grounds upon which Dr. Haast affects to have arrived at them, but with a view to the sequel, and in order that no injustice may be done to Dr. Haast with reference to such of them as are specially under consideration in this paper, I think it right to extract from his publications the various passages in which he attempts to support them either by argument or evidence.
“Another argument,” says Dr. Haast, * “in favour of this supposition, namely, that 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 enquiries, 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 extensively. We are, therefore, almost compelled to
[Footnote] * “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. IV., p. 71.
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 leave 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 fire-arms 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 hill-sides are of such recent origin as their position might at first suggest.”
Further on in the same paper (p. 73), he says—
“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.”
In support of the positions thus taken, Dr. Haast quotes not only the Rev. Mr. Stack, but also the Rev. W. Colenso and Mr. Alexander Mackay, a Native Commissioner, all of whom, he tells us, possessed excellent opportunities of obtaining accurate information upon this and other subjects connected with the present New Zealanders.
With regard to the Rev. Mr. Stack, he informs us that that gentleman did mention the existence, amongst the Maoris, of a proverb relating to the Moa, namely, “He Moa Kaihau,” translated, “a wind-eating Moa,” in allusion to a supposed habit of the bird of keeping its mouth open when running against the wind, (a habit, by the way, which exists in the Ostrich,
and was only likely to become known, as regards the Moa, from direct observation), but he says (erroneously, however, as will appear from the extracts hereafter given from Mr. Stack's own writings on the subject) that “this was the only trace Mr. Stack could discover in the sayings of the ancient inhabitants, relative to the existence and habits of those birds.” He then proceeds to detail, at great length, the circumstances under which he alleges that Moa bones and other animal remains had been found in kitchen middens, in what he terms “a Moa-hunter's encampment,” at the Rakaia in the Province of Canterbury, particularly noting the discovery, amongst these remains, “of quantities of obsidian, identical in lithological character with that obtained near Tauranga.”
Tauranga, as you are aware, is in the Province of Auckland, and I think I am justified in asserting that no obsidian has ever been found, in situ, in any part of the South Island, or even to the southward of the great volcanic system in the centre of the North Island.
The fact thus mentioned is, as you will find in the sequel, of very great importance when taken in connection with the information recently given to me.
But Dr. Haast, although he mentions the discovery in this encampment of stone implements and other articles of apparent Maori origin, dissociates them, at all events throughout the papers published in 1871, from those which he assigns to the “Moa-hunters,” arguing, moreover, that it was not until long after the extinction of the Moa that the encampment in question was used by the present race.
If this fact were really well established, it would be a very interesting one; but a careful consideration of Dr. Haast's own statements has entirely failed to satisfy me that he was justified in drawing the line of demarcation above referred to, or, indeed, in dissociating the Maori at all from the destruction of the Moa.
With respect to the mode in which his supposed Moa-hunters killed their prey, he says:—*
“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
[Footnote] * “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. IV., p. 86.
been by the use of the boomerang, or a similar weapon, to be hurled at their prey.”
Upon the question whether his Moa-hunters were cannibals, he says:—*
“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 North 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 Moa-hunter encampment in Tumbledown Bay, near Little River, found, close to it amongst some sand-hills, the traces of a cannibal feast; but there was nothing to connect the one with the other.”
“Mr. Mantell is 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 favorable 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 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 exter-
[Footnote] * “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. IV., p. 89.
[Footnote] † “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. IV., p. 91.
mination 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.”
With reference to the name “Moa” as used by the Maoris, Dr. Haast says—*
“I have been told that the present race inhabiting New Zealand must have been cotemporaneous 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 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 the 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 Palap-
[Footnote] * “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. IV., p. 92.
teryxingens, 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 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.”
In the third of the papers above referred to, Dr. Haast criticises the views of Dr. Hector, Mr. Murison, and Mr. Mantell upon the subject under discussion, and, notwithstanding some very cogent evidence to the contrary, adduced by those gentlemen and others, sums up the discussion by stating the “conclusions” already extracted.
I think it necessary, however, before proceeding further, to call especial attention to the entire absence from these papers of any evidence relevant to the proof of the first, fourth, and fifth “conclusions.” The first of these Dr. Haast probably adopted in order to support his theory that New Zealand was entirely submerged up to the close of the Tertiary period, and, on its re-emergence, was subjected, during Pleistocene times, to an universal glaciation similar to that of Greenland and the Antarctic lands.
But whence he derives the Dinornidæ and his wild dog is nowhere even suggested, unless, indeed, the language in which the first “conclusion” is couched admits of the assumption that he believes in special creation; whilst the fourth and fifth involve additional difficulties which are too palpable to need specifying. It would be well if Dr. Haast would supplement his papers on this part of the subject, by giving the evidence or reasoning, as the case may be, which led him to the conclusions in question.
Dr. Haast's statements as to the absence of any Maori traditions relative to the Moa, were in some degree supported by the Rev. Mr. Stack in a paper read before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, on the 5th of April, 1871, * in which the reverend gentleman, after referring to the invasion of the Middle Island by the Ngaitahu, a section of the Ngatikahungunu tribe, some 200 to 250 years ago, says—
“Ngaitahu, having incorporated the remnants of the two preceding tribes, the traditions of these tribes would become the property of Ngaitahu, and be handed down with the rest of their tribal lore to posterity. Now, while these traditions are full and distinct in everything else to which they relate, and extend as far back as to events that occurred before the migration from Hawaiki, they only contain very vague and meagre references to the Moa. It is inconceivable that an observant and intelligent people like the Maoris should be without traditions of such exciting sport as Moa-
[Footnote] * “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. IV., p. 107.
hunting had they ever engaged in it. And these traditions, did they exist, would not be confined to particular localities, but would be met with in every part of these islands in which the remains of the Dinornis are found. I have occasionally heard in the North Island stories of Moa hunts, but they were regarded by all, but perhaps those who related them, as pure fabrications. In common with most people, I was long under the impression that the extinction of the Moa was an event of recent date, and hastened by the Maori. I took it for granted that the natives only required to be questioned to afford every information regarding its nature and habits, and the causes of its disappearance. Further enquiry, however, has led me to think that the Maoris were not Moa-hunters, and that the bones that strewed the plains of Canterbury were lying there at a period anterior to the last migration from Hawaiki.”
He, however, says:—*
“But how are we to account for any allusions to the Moa at all in Maori poetry and proverbs, unless the people were familiar with it? Dr. Thompson, as quoted by the President (Dr. Haast), says, ‘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.’ But Dr. Thompson was probably not aware that the Maoris were familiar with a large land-bird, which they called the Moa before ever they came to New Zealand. The name by which the Cassowary is known in the islands is Moa, and as it somewhat resembles the Dinornis in form, an exaggerated description of it would be a sufficiently accurate description of that gigantic bird to mislead any one not fully prepared to question the knowledge of the Maoris on the subject, into supposing that they were perfectly familiar with its form and habit. I remember hearing, when a child, of the beautiful plumes that were found at the top of the cliff which overhung a cavern somewhere on the East Coast of the North Island, where the last of the Moas hid itself. But no one I ever met had seen them. Those who described them had only heard of them from others. It is quite possible that Moa feathers may have been found and used as ornaments; but it is not necessary to believe they were so, to account for the description the Maoris give of them. The feathers of the Cassowary are used as ornaments in the islands where they exist, and probably the ancestors of the Maori brought some away with them. These, from their rareness, would be highly prized and carefully preserved, and when all recollection of the Hawaikian Moa had faded away, would be thought to belong to that Moa of which remains were everywhere visible. In the same way we may account for the saying regarding the toughness of the Moa's flesh, which could only be
[Footnote] * “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. IV., p. 108.”
thoroughly cooked with the twigs of the Koromiko, by supposing that it was the flesh of the Hawaikian Moa, and not of the Dinornis, that was meant. But, unless the Maoris saw the Dinornis alive, how did they know that the bones they found strewing the earth were the bones of a bird? The largest form of land animal life with which they were familiar on their arrival here was that of a bird which they called a Moa. Probably they found many skeletons of the Dinornis lying in such positions as clearly to indicate its form when alive. Being careful observers of nature, they would note the resemblance between the skeletons they found here, and the skeletons of the Moa with which they were acquainted in the islands, and would at once conclude that they were identical, and call them by the same name.”
It will be observed that Mr. Stack does not go the same length that Dr. Haast does as to the time which has elapsed since the Moa became extinct, although he supports the Doctor in his opinion that its extinction preceded the arrival of the present race in these islands.
But whilst he goes no further than this in supporting his leader's “conclusions,” he calls upon us to accept a series of very remarkable propositions, which he makes on his own account:—
Firstly, that the bones found on the surface of the plains in various parts of the North Island existed there before the introduction of the present race into New Zealand—an event which careful inquiry leads us to carry back to a very remote period.
Secondly, that the present race must necessarily have migrated from some place in which either the Cassowary, or some other bird of the same kind existed, and was so commonly used as food that the very structure of its skeleton was matter of ordinary knowledge amongst the inhabitants.
Thirdly, that, upon the discovery by the immigrants of the present race, of Moa bones on the surface of the plains, they would at once have assigned them to birds similar in structure to, but of immensely greater size than the Casswary—a notable feat in comparative anatomy which would entitle the Maori who performed it to rank with Owen or Cuvier,—and, moreover, that the occurrence of bones under such conditions would lead them to hand down to their posterity, exaggerated accounts of the appearance and habits of a mythical bird; of the mode of hunting and cooking it; of the nature of its flesh; and of other matters connected with it which could possess no possible interest for the numberless generations of Maoris who could never have an opportunity of understanding such stories.
It will, however, be observed in the sequel, how naturally all that Mr. Stack has stated fits in with the information which I am about to communicate to you, and how needless it becomes to resort to improbable assump-
tions in order to apply “the allusions to the Moa found in the Maori poetry and proverbs,” and the descriptions they give “of the appearance and habits of the birds,” and the fact that” the name of the Moa is mixed up with their songs and stories.”
On the other hand, Dr. Hector, Mr. Murison, Mr. Mantell, Sir George Grey, Dr. Buller, the Reverend Mr. Taylor, and many others who have enjoyed far greater opportunities of obtaining information on the subject than those who are quoted so approvingly by Dr. Haast, strongly dissent from the views propounded in his papers, and have adduced a large mass of facts relevant to the proof that the extinction of the Moa is a matter of comparatively recent date.
As bearing upon the special information set forth in the sequel, I call attention to the following passages from their several writings on this subject.
In a paper, by Dr. Hector, read before the Otago Institute in September, 1871, * in which he described the bones of an embryo Moa chick, found with the egg which had contained them,—and the cervical vertebræ of a Moa of large size, upon the posterior aspect of which, the skin, partly covered with feathers, was still attached by the shrivelled muscles and ligaments,—and a remarkably perfect skeleton, in which portions of the ligaments, skin, and feathers were still attached to some of the bones,—all of which were discovered in the Province of Otago, the Doctor says:—
“The above interesting discoveries render it probable that the inland district of Otago, at a time when its grassy plains and rolling hills were covered with a dense scrubby vegetation, or a light forest growth, was where the giant, wingless birds of New Zealand lingered till latest times. It is impossible to convey an idea of the profusion of bones which, only a few years ago, were found in this district, scattered on the surface of the ground, or buried in the alluvial soil in the neighborhood of streams and rivers. At the present time this area of country is particularly arid as compared with the prevalent character of New Zealand. It is perfectly treeless—nothing but the smallest sized shrubs being found within a distance of sixty or seventy miles. The surface features comprise round-backed ranges of hills of schistoze rock with swamps on the top, deeply cut by ravines that open out on basin-shaped plains, formed of alluvial deposits that have been everywhere moulded into beautifully regular terraces to an altitude of 1,700 feet above sea level. That the mountain slopes were at one time covered with forest, the stumps and prostrate trunks of large trees, and the mounds and pits on the surface of the ground which mark old forest land, abundantly
[Footnote] * “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. IV., p. 110.
testify, although it is probable that the intervening plains have never supported more than a dense thicket of shrubs, or were partly occupied by swamps. The greatest number of Moa bones were found where rivers debouch on the plains; and that at a comparatively late period these plains were the hunting-grounds of the aboriginies, can be proved almost incon-testably. Under some overhanging rocks in the neighbourhood of the Clutha River, at a place named by the first explorers “Moa Flat,” from the abundance of bones which lay strewn on the surface, rude stone flakes of a kind of stone not occurring in that district, were found by me in 1862, associated with Moa bones. Forty miles further in the interior, and at the same place where the Moa's neck was recently obtained, Captain Fraser, in 1864, discovered what he described to me as a manufactory for such flakes and knives of chert as could be used as rough cutting instruments in a cave formed by overhauging rocks, sheltered only from the South-west storms, as if an accumulation by a storm-stayed party of natives. With these were also associated Moa bones and other remains. Again, at the top of the Carrick Mountains, which are in the same district, but to an altitude of 5,000 feet above the sea, the same gentleman discovered a gully, in which were numerous heaps of bones, and along with them native implements of stone, amongst which was a well-finished cleaver of blue slate (Pl. VII., fig. 5), and also a coarsely made hornstone cleaver, the latter of a material that must have been brought from a very great distance.
“Still clearer evidence that, in very recent times, the natives travelled through the interior, probably following the Moa as a means of subsistence, like natives in countries where large game abounds, was obtained in 1865-6 by Messrs. J. and W. Murison. At the Maniototo Plains, bones of several species of Dinornis, Aptornist, Aptery, large Rails, Stringops, and other birds are exceedingly abundant in the alluxium of a particular stream, so much so that they are turned up by the plough with facility. Attention was arrested by the occurrence, on the high ground terrace which bounds the valley of this stream, of circular heaps composed of flakes and chips of chert, of a description that occurs only in large blocks along the base of the mountains at a mile distant. This chert is a very peculiar rock, being a ‘Cemented Water Quartz’ or sandy gravel converted into quartzite, by infiltration of silicious matter. The resemblance of the flakes to those they had seen described as found in the ancient kitchen middens, and a desire to account for the great profusion of Moa bones on a lower terrace shelf nearer the margin of the stream, led the Messrs. Murison to explore the ground carefully, and, by excavating in likely spots, they found a series of circular pits partly lined with stones, and containing, intermixed with charcoal, abundance of Moa bones and egg-shells, together with bones of
the dog, the egg-shells being in such quantities that they consider that hundreds of eggs must have been cooked in each hole. Along with theses were stone implements of various kinds (reduced to one-third natural size in Pl. VII., figs. 1 to 4) and of several other varieties of rock besides the chert which lies on the surface. The form and contents of these cooking ovens correspond exactly with those described by Mantell, in 1847, as occurring on the sea coast; and among the stone implements which Mantell found in them, he remembers some of them to have been of the same chert which occurs in situ at this locality, 50 miles in the interior. The greater number of these chert specimens found on the coast are, with the rest of the collection, in the British Museum. There is another circumstance which incidently supports the view that while the Moas still existed in great numbers, the country was open and regularly traversed by the natives engaged in hunting. Near the old Maori ovens on the coast, Mantell discovered a very curious dish made of steatite, a mineral occurring in New Zealand on the Coast, rudely carved on the back in the Maori fashion, measuring twelve by eight inches, and very shallow. The natives at the time recognised this dish by tradition, and said there were two of them. It is very remarkable that, since then, the fellow-dish has been discovered by some gold-diggers in the Manuherikia Plain, and was used on an hotel counter at the Dunstan Township as a match box, till it was sent to England, and, as I am informed, placed in a public Museum in Liverpool.
“Along with the trimmed chert flakes, the Messrs. Murison found polished adzes of aphanite, and even jade, which shews that the hunting natives had, in addition to the flake knives, the same implements as those which are so common among the natives at the present day, though their use is now superseded by iron.
“In the ovens on the coast, besides flakes and rough knives of chert and flint, are found flake knives of obsidian, a rock which only occurs in the Volcanic District of the North Island, and also adzes and axes of every degree of finish and variety of material. Although there is no positive evidence, in the latter case, that more highly finished implements were in use by a people cotemporaneous with the Moa, whose remains, collected by human agency, are so abundant in the same place, nevertheless the fact of a similar association occurring far in the interior, affords strong presumptive evidence on this point, as the finely finished implements must have been carried inland, and to the same spot where the Moa remains occur, to be used at native feasts, of which these bones are the only other existing evidences.”
Dr. Hector then refers to the evidence afforded by the contents of the kitchen middens in the North Island, of the co-existence of the Moa and the Maori, and points out that Mr. W. D. Murison had suggested how infallibly the wholesale consumption of eggs, which were evidently highly prized as an article of food, must have led to their rapid extinction of the birds, without its being necessary that the birds themselves should be actually destroyed. With respect to the probability of still finding a living specimen, Dr. Hector says—“The whole of the Eastern District of the South Island of New Zealand back to the Southern Alps, was completely surveyed and mapped as far back as 1862, and had been thoroughly explored at least ten years before that date, without any of these gigantic birds being met with; but there is a large area of rugged mountainous country, especially in the South-west District of Otago, that even to the present time is only imperfectly known. The mountain sides in this region are covered with open fagus forest, in which Kiwis, Kakapos, and other expiring forms of apterous birds, are still to be found in comparative abundance, but where we could scarcely expect to meet with the larger species. Nevertheless, owing to the peculiar configuration of this country, the mountains afford very extensive areas, above the forest limit, which are covered with alpine shrubs and grasses, where it is not impossible that a remnant of this giant race may have remained to very recent times. The exploration, however, to which the country was subjected during the last few years, by parties of diggers prospecting for gold, forbids the hope that any still exist. I may here mention that on one of the flat-topped mountains, near Jackson's Bay, which I visited in January, 1863, I observed, at an altitude of 4000 feet, numerous well-beaten tracks, about sixteen inches wide, intersecting the dense scrub in all directions, and which, owing to the height of the scrub, could only have been formed in the first instance by the frequent passage of a much larger bird than either the Kiwi or Kakapo, which, judging from their droppings, were the only birds that now resorted to them. On the sides of the tracks, especially near the upper confines of the forest, are shallow excavations, two or three feet in diameter, that have much the appearance of having been scraped for nests. No pigs or any other introduced animal having penetrated to this part of the country, it appears manifest that these are the tracks of some large indigenous animal, but, from the nature of the vegetation, it is probable that such tracks may have been for a very long period in disuse, except by the smaller ground birds, without becoming obliterated.”
“The above facts and arguments in support of the view that the Moa survived to very recent times are similar to those advanced at a very early period after the settlement of the Colony, by Walter Mantell, who had the
advantage of direct information on the subject from a generation of natives that has passed away. As the first explorer of the artificial Moa beds, his opinion is entitled to great weight. Similar conclusions were also drawn by Buller, who is personally familiar with the facts described in the North Island, in an article that appeared in the “Zoologist” for 1864. The fresh discovery, therefore, of well-preserved remains of the Moa, only tends to confirm and establish this view, and it would have been unnecessary to enlarge on the subject by the publication of the foregoing notes, which were long since written, but for the dissimilar conclusions arrived at by Dr. Haast in a recent address to the Canterbury Institute, which, from the large amount of interesting and novel matter it contains, will doubtless have a wide circulation.”
Mr. W. D. Murison, in a paper also read before the Otago Institute, in September, 1871, * after referring to the papers by Dr. Haast, already alluded to, says:—
” It is not my intention, however, to follow Dr. Haast in the interesting investigations he made. I have indicated some of the leading points of his exhaustive address, and I must pass on to my own observation. At the foot of Roughbridge, where the Puke-toi-toi Creek enters the Maniototo Plain, I assisted in forming a station some ten years ago; and although I had had occasion to observe, near the coast and in other parts of the interior, the bones of the Moa, I was at once struck with the frequency of their occurrence at this place, as well as with the excellent state of preservation in which they were found. Scarcely a hole could be dug without some of these remains being exposed, and when the land came to be cultivated, bones and fragments of egg-shells in great number were laid bare by the plough. The bones most frequently picked up under these conditions were those of the feet of the larger species of the Dinornis, and the femur and tibia of the Aptornis—a bird which stood some three feet high, whose remains are rarely met with in other localities. It was not till 1865, however, that any discovery of cooking places was made. These were first observed by my brother, when, in riding along the banks of the creek, he noticed a chain of hollows, which he conjectured were Maori ovens filled up.
“Further investigations showed that they had been used for cooking the Moa, great quantities of bones being discovered in each oven that was examined. The ovens lay from ten to fifteen yards from the creek, and were covered with about six inches of silt. Mixed with the pieces of half-charred bones were innumerable fragments of Moa egg-shells. In some of the cooking places these latter were found in layers, showing that a vast
[Footnote] * “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. IV., p. 120.
number of eggs must have been consumed as food; and scattered through the ovens were rude chert implements, many of which bore signs of having been used. Most of these were fashioned like knives, and had been employed, no doubt, to cut the flesh and sinews of the bird. Some heavier implements were also found;one of these was shaped like a cleaver, and had probably been used to break the large bones. In one oven the jaw of a young dog was discovered, mixed up with the bones and knives; and from the same place were taken out several fragments of polished stone implements. A great deal of importance is to be attached to the discovery of the latter under such conditions, as, if it is conceded that the polished implements and the chert flakes were used by the same people, Dr. Haast's theory of a palæolithic period and a neolithic period for New Zealand will have to be abandoned. The two different kinds of implements have, according to Dr. Haast, been found at the same spot, but he thinks that careful research will prove that they have not been used at the same time, nor by the same people. On the banks of the Little Rakaia, greenstone adzes and other polished Maori implements have been turned up by the plough; but he explains that it is known that the Maoris frequented the locality, on account of it being favourable fishing ground. In the case of the Puke-toi-toi Creek, however, it is unlikely that the natives ever visited the spot with any other object than that of Moa-hunting. There is a small volume of water in the creek, and there being no eels, there is nothing to attract the natives to the locality. Even such a common article of food as the Unio—a fresh water mollusc, which is to be met with in great quantities in the Taieri River, some four miles distant—does not inhabit the creek. It appears tolerably certain, therefore, that the Moa-hunters were the only people who ever visited this encampment, as no known means of subsistence is to be procured nearer than the Taieri River. I think it clearly established, from what I have stated, that the Moa-hunters used both polished and rudely-fashioned stone implements. The latter were easily made, and must have been of greater service in cutting the flesh of the Moa than any of the polished tools we know of. On the terrace above the ovens, and within about twenty yards of them, was found the place where those rude knives had evidently been manufactured. Traces of fire were to be seen, full of innumerable fragments of chert, and all among the fires broken stone knives could be picked up. A further examination of the debris of those fires, which had been kindled on the flat surface of the terrace, showed that numerous fragments of egg-shell were mixed up with the chips. This looked as if those who were watching the stones, which were being heated to be broken up for knives, had passed away the time by cooking omelettes. There can be no doubt that the egg of the Moa formed
a favourite article of food with those hunters, from the frequency of the occurrence of egg-shells in the ovens, and this circumstance very naturally suggested the idea that the extermination of the bird may have been brought about by this cause. The nests would be easily discovered, as the country was generally open and grassy, with patches of low scrub at the foot of the hills. The encampment I have referred to was in the midst of a clump of Rorokio, burnt patches of which were found on the low grounds in many parts of the interior when the first European settlers occupied the country. Chert knives, some of which bore signs of having been used, have been found scattered over a large area of ground in the vicinity of the encampment, and I should add that several polished stone axes have been found on or near the surface of the ground in the immediate neighbourhood. Upon the whole, my observations have led me to different conclusions from those of Dr. Haast, Mr. Colenso, and the Rev. Mr Stack. The former admits, in referring to certain researches of Mr. Mantell in the North Island, that, ‘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 ground as the Moa-hunters did before, the question, so far as the Northern Island is concerned, would soon be settled.’ I contend that, so far as the interior of this Province is concerned, an analysis of the Puke-toi-toi cooking places has proved that the Moa has lived in comparatively recent times, and that the Moa-hunters were, in all probability, the progenitors of the race now inhabiting the island.”
Sir George Grey, in a letter to the Zoological Society of London, in 1870, wrote as follows:—*
“The natives all know the word ‘Moa,’ as describing the extinct bird, and when I came 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 those 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
[Footnote] * Quoted by Dr. Haast, “Trans., N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. IV., p. 100.
destroyed and disappeared, as have several other wingless birds from different parts of New Zealand.”
Mr. Mantell, in a paper read before the Wellington Philosophical Institute, in November, 1872, *says—
“The only other important discovery which I shall have to notice, is the old kaianga at the stream now known as Awamoa, a name given by me instead of its original name of Te Awakokomuka, to prevent confusion with other streams of the latter name in the district. This kaianga, which we found in 1852, afforded further unmistakeable proof of the co-existence of man with the Moa. The bones and egg-shells of Dinornis and its kindred, mixed with remains of every available variety of bird, beast, and fish used as food by the aborigines, being all in and around the umus (or native ovens) in which they had been cooked. Although my collection from this place reached England in 1853, it remained unopened until after my arrival there in 1856, when I caused it to be conveyed to the crypts of the British Museum, and there unpacked it in the presence of the great authority on our gigantic birds, Professor Owen. With the exception of two small collections which were selected for me by Professor Owen, and which I gave, one to the Museum of Yale College, U.S., and the other to that of the Jardin des Plantes, the whole of this collection is now in the British Museum. The fragments of egg-shells from these umus varied in size from less than a quarter of an inch of greatest diameter to three or four inches. These, after careful washing, I had sorted, and having, with some patience, found the fragments which had originally been broken from each other, and fitted them together, I succeeded in restoring at least a dozen eggs to an extent sufficient to shew their size and outline. Six or seven of the best of these I gave to the British Museum after their purchase of the collection; one is in the Museum of the College of Surgeons; the rest, including one very beautiful egg, with a polished ivory-like surface, are still in my ownership somewhere in England. Some idea of the labour entailed by this attempt to rehabilitate eggs may be gathered from the fact that several of those restored consisted of between 200 and 300 fragments. I may add that in the markings, size, and so forth, of the eggs (making allowance for the alteration of the former toward the ends of the eggs) I made out about 24 varieties, of which I have specimens.”
The Rev. R. Taylor, in a paper read before the Wellington Philosophical Institute, also in November, 1872, † says—
“Early in 1843 I removed from the Bay of Islands to Wanganui, and
[Footnote] * “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. V., p. 94.
[Footnote] † “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. V., p. 97.
my first journey was along the coast of Waimate. As we were resting on the shore near the Waingongoro Stream, I noticed the fragment of a bone which reminded me of the one I found at Waiapu. I took it up and asked my natives what it was? They replied, ‘A Moa's bone; what else; look around and you will see plenty of them.' I jumped up, and, to my amazement, I found the sandy plain covered with a number of little mounds, entirely composed of Moa bones; it appeared to me to be a regular necropolis of the race.
“I found the natives of the West Coast were totally ignorant of the name given to the bird on the other side of the Island, the Tarepo. * It was here I first heard the word ‘Moa.’ I was struck with wonder at the sight, but lost no time in selecting some of the most perfect of the bones, and then considered what was to be done with them, and where to bestow them. I had a box in which my supplies for the journey were carried; this I emptied and filled with the bones instead, to the amazement of my followers, who exclaimed ‘What is he doing? What can he possibly want with those old Moa bones?’ One suggested, hei rongoapea (to make into medicine perhaps;) to this the others consented, saying, koia pea (most likely.
“This visit to the Waingongoro was the opening up of one of the most interesting fields of research for the naturalist. My enquiries after the ‘Moa,’ and carrying off some of its bones, caused much talk among the
[Footnote] * In connection with this name, Mr. Taylor says (“Trans. N. Z. Inst.” Vol. IV., p. 97):—“In the beginning of 1839 I took my first journey in New Zealand to Poverty Bay with the Rev. Mr. Williams (the present Bishop of Waiapu). When we reached Waiapu—a large pa near the East Cape—we took up our abode in a native house, and there I noticed the fragment of a large bone stuck in the ceiling. I took it down, supposing at first that it was human; but, when I saw its cancellated structure, I handed it over to my companion, who had been brought up to the medical profession, asking him if he did not think it was a bird's bone. He laughed at the idea, and said, ‘What kind of a bird could there be to have so large a bone?” I pointed out its structure, and when the natives came, requested him to ask them what it belonged to. They said it was a bone of the Tarepo; a very large bird which lived upon the top of Hitaurangi, the highest mountain on the East Coast, and that they made their largest fish-hooks from its bones. I then enquired whether the bird was still to be met with, and was told that there was one of an immense size, which lived in a cave, and was guarded by a large lizard, and that the bird was always standing on one leg.” Mr. Taylor was in error in supposing that the term ‘Tarepo’ was used by the Maoris to designate any species of the Dinornis. This was the name given by them to Cnemiornis Calcitrans—a bird well known to them, but now extinct. I would call special attention to that part of the passage from Mr. Taylor which mentions that the bird was always standing on one leg; a habit which was no doubt possessed by Cnemiornis in common with all other birds of the same family.—W. T. L. Travers.
natives. I was most anxious to obtain a skull of the bird. I was told there was a great one in a swamp some miles inland. I promised a large reward for it, and though they said I should have it, they did not keep their word.
“In reply to my questions about its size, they told me it was quite as large as that of a horse, a sure proof that the bird had never been seen by any of those I spoke to. They, however, told me that these huge birds were formerly very abundant before the Europeans came, but they gradually diminished and finally disappeared. Their nests were made of the refuse of fern root, on which they fed, and they used to conceal themselves in the koromiko (Veronica) thickets, from which they were driven and killed by setting the thickets on fire; hence originated the saying, Te koromiko te rakau i Tunu ai te Moa (the Veronica was the tree which roasted the Moa). The koromiko, when burnt, emits a kind of resin from its bark, which looks like grease, hence the origin of the saying, as all suppose the Moa to have been a very fat bird, which I should think was very questionable. When I next visited Waingongoro, expecting to carry off another load of Moa bones, I found to my surprise that they had disappeared. I afterwards heard that Mr. Mantell had passed that way after me, and had cleared the place of all worth taking.
“The last visit which I paid to Waingongoro was in 1866, in company with Sir George Grey. On our arrival there, he asked me to show him the place where I discovered the great deposit of Moa bones in 1843. I took him at once to the place, and to my astonishment I found the hillocks almost as thickly covered with bones as when I first saw them; the wind had uncovered a lower stratum since my former visit. Several officers stationed at the neighbouring redoubt expressed their surprise when told the bones were those of the Moa. They had seen them times without number, but, supposing them only beef bones, passed them without further notice. Several soldiers volunteered their services, and a great number of these old ovens were opened; all worked in good earnest, and no one more heartily than the Governor. It was quite amusing to see His Excellency grubbing up the old ashes, and carefully selecting what he thought worth carrying away.
“A large cloth was spread on the ground, and the various articles found were piled upon it; these were of a very miscellancous character, consisting not only of bones of the Moa, and fragments of its eggs, but of almost every other bird indigenous to these islands, including those of the Kakapo and Kiwi, with chert flakes, fragments of highly polished axes, and other articles. These ovens seem to have been made in a double line, and to have been used for many years, as each layer of ashes was separated by a thin
stratum of sand from the one immediately below, and the number of them was very great. The natives informed me that when the Moa hunt was to take place, notice was given to the neighbouring places, inviting them all to the battue. The party then spread out to enclose as large a space as possible, and drive the birds from their haunts, then gradually contracting the line as they approached some lake, they at last rushed forward and drove the frightened birds into the water, where they could be easily approached in canoes, and despatched without their being able to make any resistance. These Moa hunts were, doubtless, very destructive, as, from the number of men employed, and the long lines of ovens, the slaughter must have been very great; and, in addition to this, from the large quantity of egg-shells, a clear proof is given that they were eagerly sought for and feasted upon. Thus, the poor birds had little chance of continuing their race. I may also state that the Plain of Waingongoro is called Rangatapu, which may either apply to the hunters (the sacred band) or the ovens (the sacred row), and that the name Moa, like that of the roa, was most probably derived from the bird's cry. The Moa has passed away and its hunters as well, and the proverb is being fulfilled, ‘Kua ngaro a Moa te iwi nei,’ ‘The Maori, like the Moa, has passed away.’” It will be seen in the sequel that Mr. Taylor's interpretation of this proverb is inaccurate.”
I offer no apology for these somewhat lengthy extracts, which have been made for the use of readers elsewhere, who cannot have access to the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” all of which, however, require to be considered in connection with the matter under consideration, and more especially with the communications made to me, as hereafter detailed.
Before referring to these communications, however, I may call your attention to two papers in the recently issued volume of the “Transactions of the Institute,” Vol. 7, one by Dr. Haast, and the other by Mr. Mackay, of the Geological Department of New Zealand, in which the writers arrive at different conclusions, as resulting from discoveries made during the exploration of a cave, near Sumner, on Banks' Peninsula; Dr. Haast, on the one hand, still maintaining his views as to the extinction of the Moa by a race prior to the present one in the occupation of the islands; Mr. Mackay, on the other hand, taking the opposite view.
Dr. Haast, in allusion to the opinions of those who have had the temerity to differ with him, says:—
“But now, as it were at once, the Moa-hunters disappear from the scene, but not without affording an insight into their daily life, by leaving us some of their polished and unpolished stone implements, a few of their
smaller tools, made of bone, a few personal ornaments, as well as of fragments of canoes, whares, and of wooden spears, fire sticks, and other objects too numerous to mention; but by which the fact is established that they had already reached a certain state of civilization, which, in many respects, seems not to have been inferior to that possessed by the Maoris when New Zealand was first visited by Europeans.” * At the same time, if we consider the position of the kitchen middens on the dunes in the vicinity of the cave, and those which I discovered on the lines of inner dunes, in the neighbourhood of Christchurch, even the most ardent defender of the groundless assertions that the Moa only became extinct some 80 or 100 years ago must admit that, at least in this portion of the island, these gigantic birds were exterminated at a period when the physical features in this part of the Canterbury Plains near the sea were different from what they are now; that large lagoon-like lakes have since been filled up, and sand-dunes of considerable width have been added to those existing. In one word, those changes during quarternary times have been of such magnitude that it is impossible to estimate, even approximately, the length of time necessary for the achievement of such important alterations, worked out by the sea and the rivers entering it.
“And, as in other portions of this island, the deposits in which the kitchen middens of the Moa-hunters occur are of similar antiquity, I have no doubt that my views expressed on this subject, some years ago, will gain general acceptance in due time, although I know that erroneous notions to the contrary, when they have once become popular prejudices, are difficult to eradicate; especially when they are supported by one or two scientific men in New Zealand, notwithstanding that their assertions never stood the test of critical examination, and have been refuted over and over again.”
I have thus brought the controversy up to the latest moment, and will now proceed to state the information given to me, and the circumstances under which I obtained it.
in the course of a professional visit to Napier in the latter part of last May, I was introduced to Mr. John White, by the Hon. Mr. Russell, for whom he was then acting as interpreter in connection with some native transactions. At the time of the introduction I was not aware that Mr. White was the gentleman who had, under the auspices of the New Zealand Government, delivered the extremely interesting and valuable “Lectures on
[Footnote] * I have italicised this passage, which, as will be observed, is utterly at variance with the sixth “conclusion” at which Dr. Haast had previously arrived, as extracted from his paper of December, 1871. Driven from his former position, however, he still persists in dissociating the Maoris from the implements discovered in connection with the Moa remains in this cave.
the customs and superstitions of the Maoris,” which were laid on the table of both Houses of the New Zealand Parliament in August, 1861, and are published in the Parliamentary Papers for that year.
After, however, becoming aware of this fact, I asked him, in the course of conversation, whether he possessed any information respecting the Moa, when he told me that he had, at his residence in Auckland, a large mass of manuscript matter on the subject, collected many years ago from perfectly authentic sources, and without reference, of course, to the controversy in question, and containing the fullest details as to the habits of the birds, the mode of hunting them, etc., and promised, at my urgent request, to write to me at an early date as much as he could manage to recollect on the subject in the absence of any opportunity of referring to these manuscripts. He assured me that the Moa was perfectly well known to the old Maoris, and that their histories and songs abounded in allusions to it. Soon after my return to Wellington I received two letters from Mr. White, which I here transcribe.
29th June, 1875.
“My dear Sir,—When I promised to give you as much information as I could respecting the bird ‘Moa,’ I did not think that my memory was so sluggish, therefore I am really afraid to venture on giving you any sort of connected account of that bird, viz., its habits, food, what it lived upon, the season of the year when killed by the Maoris, its appearance, power, and all the hundred and one ceremonies which were enacted by the Maoris before they began the hunt, the mode of hunting, how cut up, how cooked, and what wood was used in the cooking, with an account of its nest, and how the nest was made, where it usually lived, etc. However, I will try and give you as much information under the circumstances as I can, promising to give you, at some future day, all that I cannot trust now to my memory to give, but I shall be able to do so when in Auckland and can consult my MSS. in my library at home.
“The ‘Moa’ lived on the young shoots of the fern (rarauhe) and the grass that grows on the edges of the swamps, and near the edges of the forest; it also ate the young sprouts of the korokia shrub, also a water plant in Waikato and Ngapuhi, called ‘Pukekakeka,’ at the South called ‘Retoreto’ or ‘Returetu.’ The principal-abode of the Moa was near the forests, but it visited the lakes and water pools to eat the Pukekakeka. Though not a timid bird, it did not live near where man took up his abode, hence, when it was to be hunted, the tracks made by it to visit the water were sought, and men waited on those tracks to capture it. The Maoris, as a rule, were afraid of it, as a kick from the foot of one would break the bones of the most powerful brave, hence the people made strong spears of
‘Maire’ or Manuka wood six or eight feet long, and the sharp end of which was cut so that it might break and leave about six or eight inches of the spear in the bird. * With these the men would hide behind the scrnb on the side of the track, and when the birds were escaping from the fear of the noise of those who had driven them from the lakes, those spears were thrown at them, thus sticking in the bird; the scrub on the sides of the track would catch the spears, and break the jagged end off, leaving it in the bird. As it had to pass many men, the broken spear points thus put into the bird caused it to yield in power when it had gained the open fern country, where it was attacked in its feeble condition by the most daring of the tribe. When taken, it was cut up with the stone, Tuhua obsidian (flint). I must digress a little. There are four sorts of Tuhua—Tuhua, which is black; Waiapu, which is of a light colour; Panetao, which is green; and Kahurangi, which is red. The first only is used in cutting up the bird Moa, the second is used by the people to cut themselves when they cry for the dead, the third is used when the dead are chiefs, the fourth is used when the dead are head chiefs or priests; also the third is used when the dead are children, and the same is used to cut the human hair. Again, the Tuhua is not used to cut up the bodies of the killed, but a Manipi Tuatini, or to the South it is called Manipi Huata, is used; this is not used to cut up the Moa; the hunters carry with them a block of Tuhua, and as it is chipped off and used, it is not used again for any other bird or anything else, but left at the spot where used. The Moa did not go in large flocks, but usually a male and female and their young. Hence the proverb. When a battle is as it were a number of single combats, it is called, ‘He Whawhai Tautau a Moa,’ ‘a fight two and two like the Moa.’ Again, the nest of the Moa was made by the bird collecting a heap of Toi-toi and other grass in a large heap and in the centre on the top lay its eggs. Hence, when the Kumera was cultivated and the weeds collected by the sacred men, who took the weeds and laid them all in a heap at the edge of the plantation, this was called a ‘Moa,’ as it resembled the nest of that bird. I cannot trust my memory to give the Karakias, the purport of the one which was said on the evening of the day before the hunt, is in substance this:—“The mists of the hills most celebrated in the locality of the hunt are invoked to make the birds' fat flow as the globules of dew that run down the leaves of the trees at dawn on a summer's day, and the God of Silence is cautioned not to allow fear or dread to come near the Moa.” The
[Footnote] * I may mention that a hill on the East Coast, called Karanga na Hape, is said to derive its name from the circumstance that Hape, a chief of the Arawa, pursued a wounded Moa up the hill-side and attacked it with a Taiaha, when the bird kicked him and broke his thigh, and he rolled down the hill.—W. T. L. Travers.
last Moa hunt known or remembered was on the North Island at or near Whakatane, in the Bay of Plenty; the feathers of the birds killed there were, till a late period, in the possession of a chief called Apanui, an uncle of the half-caste, James Fulloon, who was murdered by the Hauhaus at that place, and it was also at or a little time before killed on the plains near the foot of the Ruahine mountains, north-east of Waipu-kurau at Napier. The wood used in cooking the Moa is the timber of the Koromiko, and hence the juice, when seen in that stump, is called ‘Te ngako o te Moa.’ There is a bird called the Kokako, which is said by the Maoris to have been an attendant on the ‘Moa,’ and was in most instances the informer of the vicinity of the Moa by its cry. I have heard this bird cry, which is a prolonged sound as if it called Mo-o-o-a. The Moa, it is also said, lived on the fern roots (roi), but there are three sorts of good roi; one is found near the edges of the swamps, one on deep black soil, and one at the edge of the forests, which is called ‘Renga;’ this was dug up by the beak of the Moa, and was the food most eaten by them. Again, the bird was known to swallow stones, which the Maori says was only of a certain sort, and hence, when they see a turkey oil-stone, they call it ‘Moa,’ as the stones swallowed by the Moa. This sort of stone was that used in polishing the Pounamu, and called a ‘Hoanga Moa,’ from which (the Moa swallows the stones) also comes the saying when a heap of stones are seen on a plain where no other stones are seen, ‘He tutae Moa’ (Moa excrement.) Again, as the Maori after his arrival here was the cause of the extinction of the Moa, hence, when a tribe has been cut off by war, and not an individual has been saved, the tribe is said to be ‘Ngoro i te ngaro a te Moa,’ “lost as the extinction of the Moa.” You must excuse, me my dear sir, in giving you so little, but I dare not go more into the matter till I am again in communion with my old collection of MSS., which I hope, if the House of Representatives will be good enough to help me, while I sit down and write from these MSS., I shall be able to give a full and, I hope, a perfect account of the Moa in some one of the books I wish to write.
“I am, dear Sir, “Yours very truly,
Napier, July 23rd, 1875.
“My dear Sir,—I forgot to say in my last letter that I have seen many old chiefs who have seen the Moa feathers worn in the heads of the old chiefs when the relators were boys. These men describe them as in some instances about two feet long, some eighteen inches, some twelve inches, some six inches long, with the down from the top of the quill to within the
width of a man's hand at the top, the top being flat like the feather of the tail of a peacock. I think in my MSS. I have the names which these feathers were called.
John White.“W. T. L. Travers, Esq., &c., &c., Wellington.”
In special connection with the valuable information given in the foregoing letters, I would call attention to those passages which bear most materially upon the extracts given from the papers previously cited.
It will be noted that obsidian is always found in the kitchen middens in which the Moa was cooked, and this is strictly in accordance with what Mr. White says respecting the mode in which it was prepared for cooking.
The term “Moa” is said, by Dr. Haast to be translatable into “a bed in a garden”—a fact referred to by Mr. White in connection with the form of its nest, which resembled, as he mentions, the mounds formed of weeds which had been collected from the Kumera grounds by the sacred men.
The proverbs quoted by the Rev. Mr. Taylor, in reference to the use of the Koromiko for cooking the flesh, and the extinction of this bird, are also referred to by Mr. White, but in slightly different language.
The use of the Koromiko for cooking the Moa's flesh, and the beauty of its feathers, and their use as ornaments, are referred to by the Rev. Mr. Stack.
The tracks observed by Dr. Hector on the mountains near Jackson's Bay, are just such as would be made through scrub by such birds, and along the sides of which the hunters could place themselves in ambush to attack the birds in the manner described by Mr. White, although it is probable that this would not be the only mode in which they would be killed.
I need scarcely say a word as to the authority with which Mr. White writes on all subjects affecting the Maoris. He has been engaged for upwards of thirty-five years in collecting materials for the history of the race, and of their habits and customs, and has been initiated by their priesthood into all their mysteries, and is, in effect, in a position to give the most authoritative opinion on all points connected with these matters. Indeed, I am only repeating the opinion of a gentleman well qualified to pronounce on the subject, when I say that Mr. White knows more about the history, habits, and customs of the Maoris than they do themselves.
Whether the foregoing communications will have any effect in inducing Dr. Haast to modify the views propounded in his papers, I cannot say; but I think they completely dispose of the assertion that the present New Zealanders knew nothing of the Moa. I may conclude by expressing a hope that means may be placed at the disposal of Mr. White,
in order to enable him to devote the time necessary for bringing into proper shape the large mass of information he possesses relative to the life-history of the races which occupied these islands before the advent of the European settlers.
Note—It will be observed that I have not noticed, in the foregoing review, the several papers published by Captain Hutton and others in the seventh volume of the “Transactions N. Z. Institute” relative to the Moa, a careful perusal of which, however, goes to strengthen the assumption that the ultimate destruction of this bird is matter of comparatively recent date.