Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 24, 1891
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Answers of Dr. Shortland, formerly Native Secretary.

1. The method of working is described in Shortland's “Southern Districts of New Zealand” (London, Longmans, 1851). Holes are drilled by a drill of native invention, the grinding apparatus being a sharppointed stick of soft wood, sand (fine, and of a biting quality). The patu, axe, implements, &c., were rubbed into form on slabs of sandstone. The supply of water for such operations dripped through a small orifice in some vessel conveniently placed. The hei-tiki was similarly fashioned by rubbing with a pointed stick, sand, and water. [The above work by my correspondent, Edward Shortland, M.A. Cantab. (a physician, who was formerly Native Secretary, and is the author of several works on New Zealand), is an admirable account of the state of the Maoris in the South Island in 1842–43, before there was a single inhabitant where the cities of Dunedin and Christchurch now stand. Visiting Waikouaiti, Dr. Shortland says, “Here I saw for the first time on a large scale the native method of grinding pounamu, or greenstone, from the rough block into the desired shape. The house belonging to the chief Koroko was like a stonecutter's shop. He and another old man were

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constantly to be seen there seated by a large slab of sandstone, on which they by turns rubbed backwards and forwards a misshapen block of pounamu, while it was kept moist by water which dropped on it from a wooden vessel. While one rubbed the other smoked. They made, however, so little progress on it during my stay that it seemed probable that it would be left for some one of the next generation to finish the work. It is not, therefore, to be wondered that what has cost so much labour should be regarded as the greatest treasure of the country.” Elsewhere he says, “When procured it is fashioned and polished by rubbing it on flat blocks of sandstone. This is a work of so much labour that to finish such a weapon as that of Te Heuheu often requires two generations.” Mr. John Richard Jones, who as a boy knew Dr. Shortland at Waikouaiti, tells me that he never saw the Maoris working greenstone or making stone implements, but saw them using stone implements of black trap in building canoes.]

2. No chipping instruments were used—simply sandstone, fine sand, and water, and a stick for drilling or groove-work. Stones were reduced in size by rubbing them with laminæ of sandstone used like a saw. I have specimens of incomplete work done in this way: one where it was intended to make a pair of axes, the faces of two axes being partially complete, and the stone to be divided in twain about one-third completed.

3. They are merely grotesque representations of the human form. The name is derived from hei, which seems to mean a necklace, and Tiki, the progenitor of the human race, the Epimetheus of the Greeks. Any image of a man is known as Tiki. Their value greatly depends on their antiquity. It is the practice to bury such and other valued articles with the dead. After a time they are removed, and then are specially valued. I remember a chief excusing himself from giving me an eardrop because it was a pirau-tupapaku—i.e., a thing with a dead taint.

4. The art is of ancient times, and endured till recently.

5. The wood-macrving skill was in full force when the colony was formed. They came to New Zealand with the art, and practised it continually here.

6. Our grindstone has been used for making patus, and a cross-cut saw and sand and water for sawing blocks into slabs, after the manner of stone-cutters.

7. A celebrated eardrop (Kaukaumatea) is reported to have been brought from Hawaiki by Tama te Kapua, a chief of the Arawa Tribe, and was in the possession of the chief Te Heuheu, with whom I have conversed, but was buried with him and others in a landslip at Taupo, and has never since been recovered.

8. This is answered in No. 2.

9. I have recorded six varieties,—

(a) Kahurangi.—Bright green, translucent, the most prized; used for eardrops and other valued objects.

(b) Pipiwahairoa [Pipiwarauroa: Buller].—White and green. So named from a bird resembling it in plumage [the shining cuckoo— Chrysococcyx lucidus].

(c) Inanga.—Whitish.

(d) Kawakawa.—Bay-green. From resemblance to leaves of a shrub of same name [Piper excelsum].

(e) Kawakawa tangiwai.—Resembles the colour of greenish glass. [This name is probably a mistake for kokotangiwai.—F. R. C.]

(f) Tuapaka.—Inferior stone; green and black intermixed. [A large number of pieces in Mr. White's collection correspond to this. It seems to have been used up for chisels and small tools. See Mr. Stack's answers—kahotea.—F. R. C.]

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10. In the South Island, on the west coast, in several mountain-streams. [Dr. Shortland, in his “Southern Districts of New Zealand,” says, “Specimens of stone are found in detached blocks or pebbles… The places most renowned near which it is sought are Arahura and Ohonu [Taramakau], on the north-west coast; Wakatipu, a lake in the interior, one of the sources of the River Matau (the modern Clutha, or Molyneux); and Piopiotahi, a torrent on the south-west coast.” No white man had then seen Lake Wakatipu. The errors in this statement are elsewhere explained.—F. R. C.]

11. A dirty-yellow colour I have seen, but understood that it resulted from the action of fire. The sort with a silky lustre like asbestos is found on the west coast of the South Island. It is said to be found on the beach after heavy gales—possibly derived from some reef seaward.

12. I do not think the name Wai Pounamu was applied to the whole Island. [See on this subject a reference to Dr. Shortland's memorandum elsewhere.—F. R. C.]

13. Vide Sir George Grey's “Mythology and Traditions.” [Referred to fully ante.—F. R. C.]

14. Vide idem.

15. Made by rubbing on sandstone or otherwise, as described above.

16. Vide Sir George Grey's “Mythology and Traditions.”

17. Vide Shortland's “Traditions and Superstitions of New-Zealanders,” p. 253, ed. 2; the account of the wars being translated from a narrative by his son. The cause was a curse by Rerewaka, a chief of Kaikoura (called the Looker-on Mountains by Captain Cook), as stated to me by his son. The following-up of the war to Kaiapoi was caused by a chief or relative of Rauparahu named Te Pehi going into a large pa there in a peaceable manner with the object of obtaining a patu-pounamu as a present. He and his party were murdered. This led to the continuation of the war, and a great distrust of all natives as far as Taumutu.