Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 10, 1877
This text is also available in PDF
(3 MB) Opens in new window
– 37 –

Art. IV.—Address.

Plate I.

[Read before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, 5th April, 1877.]

It has hitherto been the custom that your newly-elected president, when he takes office, should deliver an address to you, in which either a resume of scientific progress during the year is offered to you, or some subject of local bearing is treated more fully. In taking the presidential chair, I shall

– 38 –

gladly conform to this rule, but first I must thank you most sincerely for the honour conferred upon me, and to assure you that I shall endeavour to advance, to the best of my abilities, the interests of our Society, which now has existed about fifteen years, and at the cradle of which I have stood. It was the intention of the Council to have this address delivered at a conversazione, to be held, if possible, in the new Museum buildings, but as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Canterbury College has intimated to a deputation of your Council that it was the intention to open shortly that building with a similar festival, in which it would be desirable to exhibit for the first time a whole series of objects of artistic and scientific interest, which your Council thought could be made available for our anniversary meeting, we have thought it would be better to unite for such an occasion our efforts with those of the Board of Governors, so that the opening ceremony might be of still greater interest. I have no doubt that you will fully agree with this view of your Council, which was only adopted after careful consideration. Instead of passing in review the scientific progress during the last year, as far as the accounts given of it have reached New Zealand, I have thought it more expedient to speak of a few local subjects, of which the remarkable rock paintings in the Weka Pass Ranges, near the Waikari, and of which Mr. T. S. Cousins has made a conscientious copy for the Canterbury Museum, is, without doubt, of the highest interest. I have much pleasure in exhibiting these drawings to-night, as well as another, copied by the Rev. James W. Stack, in the Opihi country. Description of it will be found in Appendix 2 to my address. But, before doing so, I shall treat of two other topics, to the consideration of which we might well devote some of the time at our disposal.

First, I wish to allude to the intra-Mercurial planet Vulcan, the existence of which is more than hypothetical, although it would be very desirable to have this proved beyond a doubt. You are doubtless aware that the great French astronomer, Le Verrier, when occupied with an investigation into the theory of the orbit of Mercury, found that a certain error in the assumed motion of its perihelion could only be accounted for by supposing that the mass of Venus is at least one-tenth greater than it was assumed from the measurements taken, or that there exists some unknown planet or planets between Mercury and the Sun, by which a disturbing action is produced. Le Verrier, without offering an opinion upon these hypotheses, towards the end of 1859 communicated them to the scientific world.

Shortly after this statement had been made, Lescarbault, a French physician living at Orgeres, announced that, on March 26th of the same year, he had observed the passage across the sun's disc of what he thought might be a new planet, but had not liked to publish this discovery before he

– 39 –

was able to offer further evidence in confirmation. This statement appeared so important, that Le Verrier went himself to Orgères, and, after examining most carefully the somewhat primitive modes of Lescarbault as to fixing his time and of making his calculations, the great Paris astronomer was convinced of the correctness and importance of the discovery made, and he calculated, from the data given, the approximate elements, of which the following are given in George F. Chambers', F.R.A.S., “Descriptive Astronomy:”—“The inclination of the orbit to the ecliptic, 12° 10′; daily heliocentric motion, 18° 6′; distance from sun's centre, taking the earth's as unity, 0.143, or about 13,000,000 miles; period, 19d. 17h.” The application of Kepler's third law, namely—that the squares of the periodic times of the planets are proportional to the cubes of their mean distances, gives a remarkable semblance of truth to Le Verrier's “Elements.” On March 20th, 1862, Lummis, in Manchester, observed also what he thought was a planet passing across the sun's disc, but unfortunately he could only continue his observations for twenty minutes, when other duties compelled him to desist.

There are also several other instances known where astronomers have observed a small but well-defined round spot pass over the sun's disc, as, for instance, Fritch, October 10, 1802; Stark, October 9, 1819; Sidebotham, March 12, 1849; Schmidt, October 11, 1847; Decuppis, October 2, 1839; which all have been connected with Lescarbault's planet, and to which the name Vulcan has been provisionally given. The observations of Lummis offered he material to two French astronomers for new calculations of the elements, the results of which are not contradictory to those published by Le Verrier, but appear to confirm them. From the position of the nodes, or those points where the orbit is cut by the ecliptic, it appears that transits over the sun's disc can only be expected between March 25 and April 10 at the descending node, and between September 27 and October 14 at the ascending node. However, on October 2, 1876, and at a subsequent meeting, the French Academy received further communications from Le Verrier, in which, with great lucidity, all material at his command was most carefully revised, and the elements of the new planet were given, the existence of which the French astronomer believes to have been proved.

Le Verrier shows that many solutions can be given according to the value given to an indeterminate in the formula. Several calculations are then offered which, with a possible indeterminate, range from 27.96 to 51.75 days (large errors included) for the orbit. The great French astronomer also calculated the time of conjunction in the intervals 1853–63, 1869–77, and 1885–92, and showed that the transits are regulated by a period of about seventeen years. The transit may be expected in the middle of each of those periods, but not for a number of years afterwards. After having

– 40 –

determined the possibility of any transit in our autumn of this year, Le Verrier came to the conclusion that a transit may be expected on the 22nd of last month, requesting astronomers all over the world to watch for such an important event. Should (unfortunately as far as Australia and New Zealand is concerned) no transit occur on that day, none can be expected before our autumn of 1885. A transit for the opposite nodes (September and October) cannot take place before 1881.

It was, without doubt, with a view to obtain an observation of this expected planet on and near the day calculated by Le Verrier, that the Astronomer Royal sent me a telegram on February 22 to have the sun's disc closely watched on March 21, 22, and 23. And I was much gratified to learn that both in Wellington and Dunedin a close watch has also been kept, which, however, like the observations taken in Christchurch, had not the desired result. Moreover, the telegraph brought us the news from Sydney that also, there, nothing unusual had been observed on the sun's disc, so that, as far as this portion of the southern hemisphere is concerned, this matter can be considered as being settled. However, before we have any news from Europe and America this negative result does not prove that the planet has not been in conjunction with the sun.

The observations in Australia and New Zealand from sunrise to sunset, taking into consideration the difference in longitude, would range over thirteen hours, having also allowed the loss of half-an-hour each morning and evening. Now as, according to calculations made, the transit of this planet across the sun's disc might take about four hours, we can add even three hours for the morning and evening to our time, as in New Zealand the egress in the morning, and in Australia the ingress in the evening, would have been observed, had the beginning or end of the transit taken place within the hours of observation at any of these countries. This would give us about nineteen hours, and consequently there remain about five hours each night during which Vulcan might have passed over the sun's disc at our antipodes.

The observations in Christchurch were made in the private observatory of our member, Mr. James Townsend. This gentleman was assisted by his brother, Mr. William Townsend, and by Professor Cook, Dr. Powell, and myself. A systematic watch was instituted throughout the days of March 21, 22, and 23, for the purpose of observing the face of the sun to detect the appearance of, and passage across, his disc, and also for the measurement and noting the position of any object which might by any probability be a planet, and not an ordinary sun-spot. Although not possessing a photo-heliograph, the appliances would have sufficed for the purpose should the almost expected stranger have put in an appearance. They consisted of a

– 41 –

telescope of four and a-half feet focal length and three and a-half inch aperture (by Dallmeyer), mounted upon an equatorial stand, not driven by clock-work, but moveable at an even pace by a tangent screw and handle with Hooke's joint, the eye-piece being furnished with cross spider-web lines; the low magnifying power of 75 being used in order to allow of the projection upon a card-board screen, supported by an easel, of the whole image of the sun's disc, on a scale of about 14 inches diameter. The means of measurement were provided by the passage of the sun's image, by the diurnal motion, along and across the said lines, which were set in the proper position by the passage along the equatorial wire of any marking on the sun's disc—facula or spot. Sidereal seconds could be noted in one direction, and in the other angular intervals by means of the declination circle, and the distances from the margin referred to these co-ordinates, and, by an obvious calculation, to the centre of the sun. The nautical almanac would do the rest. A revolving roof over the telescope-shed, and a shutter the opening of which could be reduced to any required aperture by stops, and a screen attached to the object end of the telescope, served to darken the observatory to any required extent. Watch was kept on March 20, 21, 22, and 23, from sunrise to sunset, by relays of watchers prepared to measure and to draw the appearance of any unusual object. The weather was mostly fine and favourable; the exceptions were on the afternoons of March 21 and 22, from one p.m., when clods intervened. Desultory observations were also made at frequent intervals for several days before and after the days above cited. But, as before observed, our patience was not rewarded by any discovery, the sun's face being marked only by the general mottled appearance, and by a group of spots travelling towards the north-west margin, leaving a facula to mark the place of disappearance on the 24th, these spots having been first noted on the 18th, near the middle of the disc. A group of faculæ on the south-east border was also noted on the 24th and 25th. Let us hope that the observations in Europe and America will be more successful, so that Vulcan will no longer remain a phantom, but will have joined his wife Venus in the heavens, and both may at last become, what they were said not to have been in ancient classical times, a steady-going couple. Such a happy state of affairs may still more surely be expected, as Mercury, the witty and lively god, whilst going between them, is certain to keep them in order, and at the same time at a respectful distance from each other.

Another subject of which I wish to speak is a question of physical geology, to the elucidation of which, in years past, I have devoted a great deal of thought. However, when I came to the conclusion that I had found its

– 42 –

solution, and scrutinized closely the merits of my explanation, it failed to stand the test of that examination. The question to be solved was the following: You are, without doubt, all aware that the rivers on the Canterbury Plains have the tendency to undermine their banks, consisting of loose fluviatile deposits, on their left or northern side, and that they have done this already so effectually that, in their lower course and for a considerable distance, their right or southern banks are always low, and possess scarcely any terraced appearance, whilst they continue, generally to the very sea-shore, to be fringed on their left banks by a high terrace or cliff. To give only one instance, I wish to point to the Rangitata, where the railway crosses it, and where we have to descend considerably before we can reach the river-bed, which, on the southern side, is only bounded by low ground. It must strike even the casual observer that, whilst the left bank forms, as far as the eye can reach, a high and conspicuous cliff, the right bank is so very low and ill-defined that the river continually changes its course.

With many geologists who had observed similar phenomena in other countries, I had tried to explain this peculiar tendency of our rivers by assuming a small oscillation of this portion of the South Island, the North gradually sinking and the South rising, by which the waters of all the rivers flowing through it would be thrown towards their northern banks; but when I searched for evidence all round Banks Peninsula, or at Timaru and Double Corner, for this supposed partial sinking and rising of the ground, the evidence before me did not warrant such an assumption. Some time ago I found in Professor von Hochstetter's excellent geological hand-book, “Die Erde,” reference to a theory first set forth by Carl Ernst von Baer, the eminent physiologist and anatomist, but who was equally distinguished as a physical geographer, by which that peculiar feature of our rivers is fully explained. Although von Baer could only base his theory on the rivers of the northern hemisphere, and then principally upon those of Russia and Western Siberia, it will be seen that it is fully borne out by our own rivers. These latter, moreover, prove the universality of the phenomenon, with the exception, as von Baer prognosticated, that the opposite banks of the rivers in the southern, when compared with the northern hemisphere, would be affected.

It is long ago that the observation was made on several rivers in Europe and Northern Asia, which are enclosed in banks of loose material, that they continually and steadily try to advance towards the right, and that consequently they wash away and undermine their right banks. Many explanations were given, principally (as I had tried with our own rivers) by assuming local changes in the level of the earth's crust; but the generality of the phenomenon made such an explanation impossible.

– 43 –

At last, in 1860, von Baer brought forward his hypothesis that such changes in one particular direction could be only caused by the rotation of the earth, and he explained the modus operandi in the following manner:—Any given point at the equator makes, naturally, during the daily rotation of the earth, a quicker movement towards east than one in higher latitudes or at the pole. Now, if a body moves gradually from the equator towards the pole, it will possess a larger velocity of rotation than the ground to which it advances, and will move quicker towards east than the objects which surround it. A river in the northern hemisphere, flowing towards north, thus arrives in latitudes which possess a smaller velocity of rotation than itself. Its banks will, as it were, remain behind in the rotating motion, and consequently its waters will push towards east, or against the right bank. If, on the other hand, a river in the northern hemisphere flows towards south, it is evident, when its waters arrive in latitudes with a higher velocity of rotation, that its banks will, as it were, advance ahead of the water, and consequently the latter will exercise a greater pressure towards west, or towards the right; so that again the right bank will be washed away. Of course this effect will be the more powerful and conspicuous the more the direction of the river coincides with the meridian. It is natural that in the southern hemisphere the direction will be reversed, so that all the rivers will push towards the left. According to von Baer all the large Russian rivers, as for instance the Volga, Ural, Ob, and Jenessei, and, as von Hochstetter states, the Danube between Vienna and Belgrade, show the correctness of the theory; and lately searching through the published accounts of travels in North America and Canada I find that similar observations have been made in those countries.

The application to our own rivers in New Zealand is also easily made, and shows that they conform to this law. Thus, for instance, the river traversing the Canterbury Plains, which flows nearest in a meridional line, is the Rangitata, and there, as previously observed, the difference between the right and left bank is most conspicuous, whilst all the other rivers without exception show in the same way a marked tendency to advance towards their left or northern banks. None of our rivers have been watched so continuously and anxiously as the Waimakariri, and although the tendency of its waters, principally during freshes, to wash its northern or left banks away, was well recognised, no vera causa for such direction could be assigned, except, as I had assumed in my report on the formation of the Canterbury Plains, that a small local rise of Banks Peninsula was probably taking place. However, as this tendency of the Waimakariri to advance with its waters towards the left is the outcome of a general law, and may be considered constant, the southern banks will every year become more

– 44 –

protected by the shingle which is shifted from the left or northern to the opposite side, and by which, as it were, natural dams are thrown up. Thus nature assists the work of man to confine the river in a properly defined channel.

There are very few other New Zealand rivers which for long distances have banks built up of soft incoherent materials, but where they exist they invariably conform to this law; their left banks being always the highest and most conspicuous, with a tendency of their waters to undermine these left banks in whatever direction they may happen to flow. Of the large Australian rivers, I know only the Murray, at Echuca (Victoria), and also there the rule holds good, the left or southern bank being the highest and best defined.

I shall now proceed to offer you a description of the remarkable rock paintings found on a rock-shelter in the Weka Pass ranges. Of the latter, the spirited water-colour sketch of Mr. T. S. Cousins is a faithful representation. I also have much pleasure in exhibiting to you the original copies of the paintings made by Mr. Cousins on a scale of from six inches to one inch to the foot, according to their size, as well as a general view of the whole on the uniform scale of one inch to the foot. About a year ago, Mr. Alexander Lean informed me of the existence of these paintings, which are situated on an educational reserve about one mile on the western side of the Weka Pass road, not far from the last rise from which that picturesque road descends into the Waikari Flat. Shortly afterwards, in company with Mr. H. M'Ilraith, I visited them, and I need scarcely observe that I was very much struck with their peculiar character and their state of partial preservation, from which their great age could be inferred. The so-called cave, which is, however, only a rock-shelter, is washed out of a vertical wall of rock, lining a small valley for about 300 feet on its right or southern side. It has a length of 65 feet, and is situated along the western or upper portion of the rock. The valley itself is now perfectly dry, but must, in post-pliocene times, have had a not inconsiderable volume of water flowing through it. The rock consists of the well-known calcareous Weka Pass sandstone, and the roof of the shelter is formed by the natural dip of the upper bed, having an inclination of about nine degrees to the south. The rock-shelter is, when standing, near the foot of the rock below it, which latter has, for about five to six feet, a backward slope about eight feet high, rising to about twelve feet at the outer edge.

The average depth is twelve feet, and, offering from its aspect a splendid shelter from southerly weather, it forms a most favourable locality for camping. The two sections which I have the honour to submit to you will make you acquainted with the physical features of the locality. The

– 45 –

whole length of the rock below the shelter has been used for painting, and it is evident that some order has been followed in the arrangement of the subjects and figures. The paintings are done with a bold hand; they are well finished, and show clearly that they are the work of an artist of times long gone by, who was no novice in his profession. The paint consists of kokowai (red oxide of iron), of which the present aborigines of New Zealand make still extensive use, and of some fatty substance, such as fishoil, or perhaps some oily bird-fat. It has been well fixed upon the some-what porous rock, and no amount of rubbing will bring it off. It is evident, however, that the existing paintings, which are already partly destroyed by the scaling off of the rock through the influence of frost and other physical agencies causing weathering, are not the first which were delineated on this rock, because in many spots, and sometimes below the paintings under consideration, faint traces of still older ones are visible. These were also painted in red, but I was not able to distinguish any outlines.

Thus we have here another proof, if it were needed, of the vast period of time during which New Zealand has been inhabited by man.

As before observed, the principal paintings are all in red, belonging all to one period, but round and above them appears a mass of others in black, of which some of the best and clearest have also been copied by Mr. Cousins. They are of a more primitive nature, and seem to have been done by a different race of men. That they are not contemporaneous with the red ones could easily be ascertained, by observing that they pass not only indiscriminately over them, but that many of them were only painted after the rock had already scaled off under the red ones, so that they are sometimes painted upon the newly exposed fresh surface. They are all most probably painted with charcoal mixed with some oily animal substance, and are also well fixed upon the rock, but they are generally not so well defined, and, moreover, cross each other constantly, so that it is very difficult to distinguish many of them clearly.

Mr. Cousins has, therefore, only copied a few of the figures which were the most conspicuous and well defined, mostly situate near and on the roof of the rock-shelter.

Before giving a description of these paintings, I wish to refer to the native traditions about them, as this will give us perhaps a clue to their origin. It has generally been supposed that such paintings were the work of the Ngatimamoe;* but the Rev. James W. Stack informs me that even a greater age is assigned to them. From a conversation which that gentleman had with Matiaha Tira Morehu, the Maori chief of Moeraki,

[Footnote] * See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” I., 18, 2 ed., 5, where several paintings, but of a somewhat different character, are figured.

– 46 –

and the best living authority on Maori traditions in the South Island, it appears that these paintings are attributed to the Ngapuhi, the oldest inhabitants of this island of which there are any traditions. In fact, the Ngapuhi are a somewhat mythical people, to whom, besides these drawings, the destruction of the moa, or anything the origin of which is unknown, is always attributed. I may here observe that Matiaha is one of the authorities for the statement that the moa has been extinct in very ancient times, and that there is a total absence of reliable traditions about them amongst the Maoris, which tallies perfectly with the geological evidence lately brought forward. Besides the extinction of the moa and the red paintings, Matiaha also attributes to them the heaps of pipi shells (Mesodesma novœ-zealandiœ) which are found far back in the mountain ranges, and which were carried to such a distance by this people, who, according to the aged Maori chief, were great travellers. I have much pleasure in adding, in Appendix No. 1, a fuller account of their ancient traditions from the pen of Mr. Stack.

In my papers on the Sumner Cave* I have alluded to that question more fully.

It has been ascertained that there are several caves and rock-shelters in this island in which paintings of similar character are preserved on the walls, of which, as before observed, those of the Takiroa rock-shelter near the Waitaki were published in our “Transactions,” but none of the paintings are like those from the Weka Pass, except, perhaps, the sparks rising from the figure in the right-hand corner. Moreover, one of the drawings is a scroll work and thus approaches the designs of the Maoris of the past few centuries. There are others at the Opihi, at the Levels,-Tengawai, and at Pareora, and, as I have just been informed, in some other places in the Weka Pass Ranges, and doubtless in many other localities. It would be of the highest interest to have these carefully copied, as, no doubt, they will throw considerable light upon the history of the ancient inhabitants of this island.

My friend, the Rev. James W. Stack, has given me a copy of a drawing from a rock-shelter near the Opihi River, painted in black, which differs considerably from the Weka Pass paintings, and, as it appears to me, approaches more the designs of the Maoris. I add the same (fig. 3) with Mr. Stack's note as Appendix 2.

In examining the paintings under review, it is evident, at a first glance, that they are quite distinct from those of the Maoris, which always consist of curved lines and scroll-work, although in former days the traveller

[Footnote] * “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” VII., Art. 2.

[Footnote] † Mantell, “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” I., 18, 2 ed., 5.

– 47 –

would occasionally see on posts or smooth rocks, rude representations of men, ships, canoes, and animals drawn by Maori children, but they were always of an ephemeral character—Maori artists confining themselves to the drawing of scrolls, and then always in permanent colours. In looking at the ensemble of these rock-paintings, it is clear that there is some method in the arrangement which at once strikes the eye as remarkable. Some of the principal objects evidently belong to the animal kingdom, and represent animals which either do not occur in New Zealand, or are only of a mythical and fabulous character. Some of them can easily be recognised; the meaning of others can only be conjectured. The group in the centre is of a different character, which is difficult to explain, unless we assume that it represents implements and portions of dress of a semi-civilised people. Only two representations of man can be recognised, but they are full of movement and evidently in the act of running away, whilst the figure of the bird is very suggestive. Below these principal groups we find several smaller figures or signs, the meaning of which for a long time considerably puzzled me. I was inclined to believe that they might be a kind of hieroglyphic writing, but unfortunately there were too few of them we thought worth copying, the greater portion having much faded or broken away. Some of those which were too faint occurred at nine, thirty, and forty-six feet from the left-hand side. They were sometimes close to the floor of the rock-shelter, but did not go below it, which is of some importance to prove that the kitchen middens which had here accumulated were either forming, or had already been formed, when the paintings were executed. The thought struck me at last that these smaller figures resembled the letters of some oriental languages, and that I had seen some-what similar characters published in our “Transactions.” The Tamil inscription round the antique bronze bell, now in the possession of the Rev. W. Colenso, in Napier, at once suggested itself to me; and in comparing the peculiar figures with the writing on that bell, as given in Mr. J. T. Thomson's interesting paper,* I was at once struck by the marked resemblance between both. It would be a most curious coincidence and difficult to imagine, that the ancient inhabitants of this island should adopt similar figures, and place them, as it were, below the representations of animals, some of foreign countries, or scenes of life without any meaning; or should we assume that, as the bell with the Tamil inscription was found in New Zealand, so other objects were secured from the same or another similar wreck, amongst which pictures of animals and adventures of human life, with writing below them, were obtained, and which afterwards were copied

[Footnote] * “Ethnographical Considerations on the Whence of the Maori,” by J. T. Thomson, F.R.G.S., “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” IV., 23.

– 48 –

after a fashion by the autochthones of New Zealand? Or might I even suggest that one or more of the wrecked mariners of Indian origin were saved, and that they accompanied as slaves the ancient inhabitants of this island on their journeys, during which these paintings were executed by them?

These ancient works of primitive art, as of considerable historic value, are therefore invested with still greater interest, and I have no doubt that further research will make us acquainted with more of these remarkable relics of the past. I may here observe that as far back as 1862 I met with paintings of similar character and in a splendid state of preservation, during my geological surveys in the south, but which I then passed over, imagining that they were probably the work of some shepherd who had devoted his leisure hours to the execution of these strange figures and characters with the red paint with which sheep are usually branded. I was then, to speak in colonial language, comparatively a new chum, but I may console myself with the fact that many of our intelligent settlers have looked at them quite in the same light. However, I shall not fail to collect all the material as soon as I can find the time, and hope that the settlers in limestone country will kindly inform me where such paintings are still existing. As before observed, the paintings under review occur over a face of about sixty-five feet, and the upper end of some reaches eight feet above the floor; the average height, however, being four to five feet. They are all of considerable size, most of them measuring several feet, and even one of them having a length of fifteen feet.

Beginning at the eastern end, we find in the left-hand corner the representation (No. 1) of what might be taken for a sperm whale, with its mouth wide open, diving downwards. This figure is three feet long. Five feet from it is another figure (No. 3), which might also represent a whale or some fabulous two-headed marine monster. This painting is three feet four inches long. Below it, a little to the left, in No. 4, we have the representation of a large snake possessing a swollen head and a long protruding tongue. This figure is nearly three feet long, and shows numerous windings. It is difficult to conceive how the natives, in a country without snakes, could not only have traditions about them, but actually be able to picture them, without they had received amongst them immigrants from tropical countries who had landed on the coasts of New Zealand from some cause or another. You are well aware that already on the second visit of Captain Cook, Tawaihura, a native chief of Queen Charlotte Sound, gave an account of enormous snakes and lizards to him, and drew a representation of both animals so distinctly that they could not be mistaken, but hitherto the researches of naturalists for so many years have

– 49 –

failed to reveal their existence in these islands. Between the two fishes, or whales, we have No. 2, which might represent a fishhook, and below the snake, No. 5, a sword with a curved blade, whilst No. 6, in the same line is one of those remarkable signs or letters. Advancing towards the right, we reach a group which is of special interest to us, the figure, No. 9, which is nearly a foot long, having all the appearance of a long-necked bird, carrying the head as the cassowary and emu do, and as the moa has done. If this figure does not represent a moa, it might be a reminiscence by tradition of the cassowary. The figure is, unfortunately, not complete, as only the portion of one leg has been preserved. The forked tail is, however, unnatural, and if this design should represent the moa, I might suggest that it was either a conventional way of drawing that bird, or that it was already extinct when this representation was painted according to tradition; in which latter case No. 11 might represent the taniwha, or gigantic fabulous lizard which is said to have watched the moa. No. 8 is doubtless a quadruped, probably a dog, which, as my researches have shown, was a contemporary of the moa, and was used also as food by the moa-hunters. No. 10 is evidently a weapon, probably an adze or tomahawk, and might, being close to the supposed bird, indicate the manner in which the latter was killed during the chase. The post with the two branches near the top (No. 12) finds a counterpart in the remnant of a similar figure, not numbered, between the figures Nos. 3 and 9. They might represent some of the means by which the moa was caught, or indicate that it existed in open country between the forest. No. 13, under which the rock in the central portion has scaled off, is, like No. 6, one of the designs which resembles ancient oriental writing. Approaching the middle portion of the wall, we find here a well-arranged group of paintings, the centre of which has all the appearance of a hat ornamented on the crown. The rim of this broad-brimmed relic measures two feet across. The expert of ancient customs and habits of the Malayan and South Indian countries might perhaps be able to throw some light upon this and the surrounding figures, Nos. 15 and 18, to which I can offer no palpable suggestion. From No. 17, which is altogether three feet high, evidently issues fire or smoke; it therefore might represent a tree on fire, a lamp, or an altar with incense offering. If we compare this peculiar appearance with one of the figures on the copy of the Takiroa Cave paintings, we find that it has the same characteristic feature. The figure No. 15 is particularly well painted, and the outlines are clearly defined, but I can make no suggestion as to its meaning. In No. 19 we have doubtless the picture of a human being, who is running away from No. 17, the object from the top of which issues fire or smoke, and I need scarcely point out to you that this small figure is full

– 50 –

of life, and that it is entirely different from the conventional representation of the human figure in the paintings and carvings of the Maoris.

I am strengthened in my conviction that it is meant for a man, by observing a similar figure running away from the monster No. 27. No. 16, which has been placed below that group, might be compared to a pair of spectacles, but is probably a letter, or an imitation of such a sign. A little more to the right a figure six feet long is very prominent. It is probably the representation of a right whale in the act of spouting. Above it, in No. 22, the figure of a Mantis is easily recognisable; whilst Nos. 21 and 21a, below the supposed right whale, are again cyphers or letters resembling those of the ancient Tamil inscription. Nos. 23 and 25, although in many respects different, belong, doubtless, to the same group, and represent large lizards or crocodiles. Between them the now empty space of a width of 5 feet 6 inches was evidently also painted over, of which the faint marks on the partially scaled off face of the rock can be distingguished. The left-hand figure is four feet long; it is, unfortunately, deficient in its lower portion, but it is still sufficiently preserved to show that besides four legs it possesses two other lower appendages, of which one is forked and the other has the appearance of a trident. I wish also to draw attention to the unusual form of the head. No. 25 is a similar animal three feet long, but it has eight legs, and head and tail are well defined. The head is well rounded off, and both animals represent, without doubt, some fabulous animal, such as the taniwha, which is generally described as a huge crocodile, of which the ancient legends give so many accounts.

No. 27, a huge snake-like animal fifteen feet long, is probably a representation of the Tuna tuoro—a mythical monster, and of which Mr. Stack gives such an interesting account in his notes, kindly furnished to me, and which I have added as Appendix No. 3. It is evident that the Tuna tuoro is in the act of swallowing a man, No. 29, who tries to save himself by running away from it. Now, if we admit that the characters below the figures denote an Indian origin, the deduction would not be too hazardous that the accounts of huge snakes and crocodiles were brought by the writers of these signs to New Zealand, or if only pictures or books were obtained from a wreck, the ancient inhabitants of these islands founded their legends of such monsters upon them. Thus 23 and 25 might be crocodiles, No. 27 a boa-constrictor. The figure 26 above the large monster may represent, like 8, a quadruped, probably a dog; and finally, No. 28 is a good picture of a seal or dogfish. The paintings in black are altogether of another style, and have been done in a far more recent period when the aborigines were less skilled. But although these designs are all very juvenile, if we except, perhaps, the animals, which can easily be recognised, they have been

– 51 –

painted at various times, because in many places the rock-surface below them has scaled off, and new ones pass over the thus exposed face. The whole interior of the rock-shelter being covered with these paintings, passing first indiscriminately over the red ones as well as over each other, it was found impossible to make copies of the greatest portion of them. Moreover, they nearly all represent the human form, and we selected a few of the most characteristic ones, which will be sufficient to show their peculiar features.

In the left-hand corner, close to a large shark-like animal, which, however, was too much effaced to be properly copied, were two groups of animals in a sitting position, probably dogs, of which I had the best-preserved one copied. They evidently are tearing something eatable between them. In the centre of the wall is a figure which might be taken for a Mantis, whilst close to it the figure of a seal is unmistakeable. The rest, with the exception of a three-pronged (eel?) fork, represent the human figure, of which one has a stick in his hand. When the hands and feet are represented, the former have generally four fingers and the latter five toes. One of these figures has two calabashes hanging from its thigh. It is most remarkable that none of these paintings are indecent, which is so characteristic of all Maori carvings and paintings of the human figure. These black paintings, although of such rude conception, are without doubt the work of full-grown men, as many of them are eight feet above the floor of the cave.

The surface of the floor under this rock-shelter showed on both sides a gentle undulation separated towards the centre by about ten feet of lower ground, and which, as I had occasion to observe, stands under water during heavy rains, quite a streamlet running in from the higher ground to the west. At first sight the nature of the ground indicated that it had doubtless been accumulating during human occupancy. However, as I had not the time to stay in order to have the necessary excavations made under my eyes, I sent towards the end of February one of the museum staff, Mr. W. Sparks, junr., to do this. To test the ground, a trench was first dug from the centre of the cave, beginning at the wall and continuing the same for about thirty feet, and at right angles with it. Afterwards four more trenches were excavated on both sides of the first, running out for about sixteen feet from the interior. This done, the ground between these trenches and along the face of the wall was thoroughly searched. These excavations proved that kitchen middens of three distinct epochs existed below the rock-shelter, having their greatest depth of 1ft. 2in. close to the wall, and gradually thinning out, so that ten feet from the wall they had entirely disappeared, and the bed No. 3 of the annexed sections (fig. 2,) consisting

– 52 –

of vegetable mould mixed with small, mostly angular pieces of rock, over-lapped them and took their place. This latter deposit is about one foot thick. Below both the kitchen middens and the somewhat contemporaneous deposit outside the cave, lies a layer of decomposed rock, a gritty bed enclosing a number of angular pieces of rock, the whole derived from the calcareous sandstone by which the valley is bounded. In this deposit the excavations were carried on to a depth of two feet, but without showing the least sign that it had either been disturbed or that traces of animal or human life had been entombed in it during its formation. The principal deposits accumulated under the rock-shelter may, faute de mieux, best be described as a dirt-bed, which doubtless owes its formation to the occasional presence of an autochthone race in the locality, and whose scanty kitchen middens give us a glance into the wandering life of its members. However, what appeared to me astonishing was the scarcity of the remnants of their food, the whole thickness of the bed (more than a foot) consisting of ashes and refuse, too minute to be recognised. The largest bed on the eastern side was about twenty-five feet long by ten feet broad; amongst it only a few objects were found. Amongst these some few pieces of moa bones were the most interesting, but they showed convincingly that they were portions of remnants of a meal, all the leg bones having been broken for the extraction of the marrow, and resembling in every respect the fragments collected in the Moa Bone Point Cave, and at the Rakaia Encampment. These fragments, as far as I could recognise them, belonged to the two Meionornis species, birds of small size, and some of the swiftest runners of the Dinornithidœ. Besides these bones, the presence of which proves occupation of the moa-hunters during their expeditions, and by which my suggestion that No. 9 may represent a moa gains in probability, there were a number of bones of smaller birds amongst the kitchen middens, of which those of the kiwi (Apteryx oweni) were the most prominent. Other remains belonging to the animal kingdom, and showing that the moa-hunters had come from the sea coast, were a few marine shells, mostly Mesodesma novœ-zealandiœ, the pipi of the Maoris. The presence of phalanges of a large fur seal, probably Arctocephalus cinereus, so far inland in such locality was rather surprising, unless we assume that they perhaps were used for playing some game. Besides these there were a few small pieces of wood, probably firesticks, some fragments of chert and flint, either cores or chips; several pieces of dark sandstone, of which one is a fragment of a polished stone implement. Another large piece of calcareous sandstone had evidently been chipped to a point. In the other somewhat smaller heaps on the western side, which have a length of about sixteen feet, with a greatest breadth of eight feet, also some few fragments of broken moa leg bones

Picture icon

Ancient Rock Paintings

– 53 –

were obtained, but too small for recognition of the species. There were also some phalanges of the fur seal, a number of bones of small birds, and several marine shells, some of them fragmentary, belonging to Mesodesma novœ-zealandiœ, Mactra discors, and Mytilus smaragdinus, the New Zealand mussel. Flakes of chert and flint were, as usual, present, as well as some fragments of a polished stone implement. There were also two large sub-angular boulders of sandstone, doubtless brought up from the river-bed of the Waikari.

Principally towards the centre of the rock-shelter, and where the older deposits were thinnest, occurred above them accumulations of Maori and European origin. Amongst them are, in the collection made, several pieces of Haliotis iris, the pawa shell of the Maoris, which had evidently been worked, but the presence of numerous pieces of Newcastle coal, of ribs and other portions of the sheep, and the iron tip of a man's boot, told clearly its tale. This bed, about six inches thick and about eight feet long and four feet wide, was resting on both sides on the older deposits with broken moa bones. It is in this spot where the water during heavy rain, as experienced by Mr. Cousins and myself, is flowing against the wall of the rock-shelter, and it therefore stands to reason that these remnants of European occupancy could easily be trampled into the ground, and thus reach a deeper position than they otherwise naturally would have possessed. No remains of red or black paint, or of a receptacle for the paint, were amongst the kitchen middens. These excavations revealed another important fact—namely, that the small drawings which were close to the floor of the rock-shelter, and often reached to it, but were too faint to be copied, never went below it. It perhaps would not be too rash to surmise that the people who formed the kitchen middens made the paintings, during their visits, lying on the ground, when the lower ones were executed; on the other hand, they could just reach the top of the shelter when they stood upright to finish the larger figures previously described. I must confess I was rather disappointed not to receive a larger quantity of objects from the kitchen middens, and of more interest. We must, therefore, conclude that the rock-shelter was only seldom visited by man, and then was only inhabited for a very short time.

I hope that, very soon, I shall have another opportunity to communicate to you the results of further researches on this very interesting subject. I trust that some of our members will also take their share in the elucidation of a question which may throw considerable light upon the pre-historic inhabitants of these fair islands, on which so many members of a race different from their present aborigines have found a happy home.

Since the above was written, I had the great advantage of consulting

– 54 –

the Rev. Robert Pargiter, who for many years has been living in Ceylon, and who is thoroughly conversant with the Tamil and some other oriental languages; and although that gentleman was not able to pronounce the figures in question to have the exact form of any single Tamil character, he thinks that there is some resemblance between No. 6 of Waikari rock paintings and the sixth character, T H E of the inscription upon the ancient Tamil bell, and of No. 21A, with the tenth letter, K U, of the same inscription, counting both from the left. Mr. Pargiter makes, however, anothei important suggestion, that the inscriptions, Nos. 6, 21, and 21A, may be the signatures of the artist, as, according to his experience, the Tamil natives have a peculiar way of combining two or more letters in one character, which is very difficult to decipher except by the writer himself and those best acquainted with him. Thus, for instance, in their signatures, the natives combine generally the initials of their names, and in this case, No. 21A, for instance, might be taken for M and S combined, being, in fact, a monogram.

Mr. Pargiter also informs me that No. 21 has some resemblance to one of the Cingalese characters, which are generally formed by the combination of circles.

Note.—During the discussion as to the probable ages of the rock paintings in the Weka Pass Ranges, I observed that the expression applied to them by me, as being of great antiquity, gave rise to misunderstandings. In using such expression I never dreamt to do so in the sense it is used in the northern hemisphere, but only in reference to the short space of time of which we have reliable traditional evidence in New Zealand.

Appendix No. 1.
Extract from a paper on the History of the South Island Natives.

Maori traditions trace the first occupation of this island back to Te Kahui Tipua (the monster herd or ogre band), a purely mythical race. They are described as giants, who could stride from mountain range to mountain range, swallow rivers, and transform themselves into anything animate or inanimate that they chose. They were succeeded by Te Rapuwai or Ngapuhi, who spread themselves over the greater part of the South Island, and who have left traces of their occupation in the shell-heaps both along the coast and far inland. It was in their time that the country around Invercargill is said to have been submerged, the forests of Canterbury and Otago destroyed by fire, and the moa exterminated. The traditions relating to these people are so vague and fragmentary that very little reliance can be placed upon them. It is with the Waitaha that the first reliable

– 55 –

history of the Maoris begins. This tribe sprang from a chief of that name, who came from Hawaiki in the canoe Arawa, commanded by Tama te Kapua. Their first home was on the shores of Lake Taupo, but they were soon driven away southwards by their more powerful neighbours, and eventually crossed the straits about 400 years ago. The Ngatimamoe supplanted the Waitaha, and were in their turn supplanted by Ngatikuri, the present inhabitants.

Appendix No. 2.
Description of an ancient Drawing on a Rock-shelter at Parihaka, near near Gorge of the Opihi, South Canterbury.

Although I had heard for many years from the Maoris of the existence of these drawings, which were popularly attributed to the Ngatimamoe, I was never able to examine them till November, 1875, when I went to see them, accompanied by my friend, Mr. C. M. Wakefield. Owing to the incompetency of our guide, we were not taken to the spot where the best specimens exist, but to a long shallow cave or “rock-shelter,” on the north bank of the river Opihi. The cave is about 200 yards long, 10 feet wide, and 12 feet high, and protected from the weather by a dense growth of shrubs. The entire surface of the rock is covered with drawings, which, however, are unfortunately so defaced by modern scrawls, that it is impossible to distinguish their exact forms. For since the natives have lost their superstitious regard for these relics of antiquity, the eeling parties who frequent the spot make a practice of scratching rude drawings with charcoal all over them. The only perfect specimen I could find was near the eastern end, and at a height of fourteen feet from the ground. It was about five feet long, and had evidently been very carefully drawn. The black paint used by the artist has stood exposure so well, that the lines, from the crumbling away of the rock between them, are now somewhat in relief.

There is a remarkable difference between this drawing and those found at Waikari, so great that I hardly think that they can belong to the same period. The parallel lines on the Parihaka drawings bear a strong resemblance to the patterns on Maori baskets and the battens of ornamented roofs. Although I could not distinguish the shapes drawn, I saw everywhere these parallel lines and curves, but nowhere anything like the Waikari drawings, which are either only outlines or coloured throughout. This fact confirms, in my opinion, the statement made by Matiaha Tira Morehu respecting the far greater antiquity of the Waikari drawings. I showed the copy I made of the Parihaka drawing to the Rev. Koti Rato, Wesleyan Minister at Rapaki, and to Hone Paratene, late M.H.R., and other intelligent natives, who concurred in the opinion that it was the representation of

– 56 –

a Tipua, or fabulous marine monster. My own conjecture was that it was meant to represent a seal. (Fig. 3.)

March 27, 1877.

Appendix No. 3.

Note on the Tuna Tuoro. By the Rev. James W. Stack.

The descriptions given of this eel vary so very much, that it would be hard to believe that anything of the kind ever existed if it were not for the general concurrence of native testimony both in the North and South Islands to its existence.

It seems to have combined some of the characteristics of the frog, the electric eel, and the watersnake. It uttered croaking sounds, rendered senseless anyone it touched, and pursued its prey with such rapidity that it was next to impossible to escape from it.

In 1853 I was told by Hoani Huki, a Waikato chief, and a catechist in the employ of the Church Mission, that when he was a lad (that was about thirty years before) he distinctly heard the tuna tuoro in the swamps in the Upper Waikato, that at that time the older men often described their encounters with it, and that they greatly dreaded it, for when wading about eeling in the shallow waters, which it frequented, there was a danger of its gliding up imperceptibly and touching them, and anyone so touched was instantly paralyzed and destroyed. It would even pursue its prey on to the dry ground, and its progress could only be checked by setting fire to the grass or fern, when the ash adhering to its slimy body rendered it helpless and incapable of moving any further.

Here in the South Island I have frequently heard of the existence of the tuoro within recent times. Tainui and Pita Mutu informed me that they once found on the beach near Greymouth, where they resided, what they believed to be a portion of the body of a tuoro; it was after a heavy fresh in the river, and they supposed it had been carried down from some of the lakes in the interior. The skin they described as scaly, employing a flax plait of four to convey an idea of its appearance. Paora Taki, Native Assessor at Rapaki, also informed me that it was commonly reported fifty years ago that one existed near the source of the Purau stream in Lyttelton harbour.

Though I believe that there must be some foundation for reports so common and so general regarding the recent existence of this strange creature, I am not prepared at present to put forward any theory about it, except that I think that it is highly probable that the Maoris have mixed up the descriptions of two or three different things which existed a short time back but are now extinct.