Art. XLVII.—Are they Old Kumara-pits?
[Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute.]
On Mr. Graham Speedy's property, near Herbertville, Hawke's Bay, are seven right-angled pits, some 18in. or 2 ft. in depth. They are on a small, narrow piece of land mostly surrounded by a sloping incline 16ft. in height. At first I hoped they would prove to be the remains of ancient sunken or pit dwellings, such as those found near Pelorus Sound, and said by some persons to have been occupied by a pre-Maori people; but from the narrow width of my seven pits they must be other than original sites for dwellings. Therefore I conclude that these pits are where the esculent kumara has at one time been stored. The longest pit is 22 ft. in length by 8 ft. across; another is 14 ft. by 6ft., and others are 6 ft. by 10 ft., 10 ft. by 5 ft., 18 ft. by 7 ft., 13 ft. by 6 ft. The excavations are still fairly square in the angles, and have perpendicular sides. The width of those only 6 ft. across would prevent a man from sleeping across the space in Maori fashion; so we may conclude that here was an old-time storage-place of the Maori crops. I remember, many years ago, seeing a row of such pits, near the road-side, between Moteo and Omaha, in a sand-ridge running parallel with the river. But about or near these pits were scattered shells, the remnants of Maori feasting; and I have no certain remembrance
of the length or breadth of the pits. Certainly the remains of former shellfish feasts gave the locality a homelike aspect.