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Volume 34, 1901
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Art. VIII.—On some Relics of the Moriori Race..

[Read before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, 2nd October, 1901.]

Plates V. and VI.

The Moriori race is already on the verge of extinction, and at the time of my visit to Chatham Island, in January, 1901, there were only about a dozen pure-blooded individuals remaining, some of whom were of great age, while the youngest was a lad of about sixteen. Under these circumstances it must be considered as extremely fortunate that any reliable record of this interesting people has been preserved. That such is the case is due chiefly to the energy and enthusiasm of Mr. Alexander Shand, who for more than thirty years has lived amongst the Morioris, and has made a special study not only of that race, but likewise of their Maori conquerors. Mr. Shand, whose acquaintance I first had the pleasure of making at his home on the island, has published a series of very valuable papers on the subject in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, from which, as well as from my personal intercourse with the author, much of my information has been derived.

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It appears from their language, customs, and traditions, as well as from their physical characteristics, that the Morioris were closely related to the New Zealand Maoris, from whom, indeed, none but an expert could distinguish them, though Mr. Shand considers that they are, if anything, a shade darker and perhaps even more of a Jewish cast. Mr. Travers, in his extremely interesting paper on the “Traditions and Customs of the Morioris,”** gives good reasons for believing that they are of mixed origin.

The discovery of the island, known to the Morioris themselves as RĕOkŏKhu, in 1790 by the brig “Chatham” may be said to have sealed the fate of these unfortunate people, though it is doubtful whether any serious injury ensued until the advent of the whaling and sealing vessels in 1828. These vessels took many undesirable visitors to the island, and probably introduced a disease which soon played havoc with the native race. On board some of these vessels were Maoris from New Zealand, who, on their return, painted such a glowing picture of the land of plenty that a large number of their fellow-countrymen determined to emigrate to Chatham Island—or, as they called it, Wharekauri—en masse. In order to effect this purpose they took possession of the brig “Rodney” at Port Nicholson about the beginning of November, 1835, seizing the crew and by fair means or foul compelling the captain to take them to the island, whither, in two trips, about nine hundred Maoris were transported and let loose upon the unfortunate inhabitants, already decimated by some virulent disease.

Those who are fond of extolling the virtues of the Maori race would do well to study the history of their occupation of Chatham Island. At the time of the invasion the Morioris are said to have numbered some two thousand, and had they attacked the new-comers on their first arrival, when they were too weak from the effects of their voyage to resist, they might have exterminated them with little trouble. Unfortunately for themselves, however, the Morioris had lost the noble art of self-defence; killing was forbidden by their laws, and, like the wingless birds of New Zealand, they fell an easy prey to the first enemy. The invaders proceeded to parcel out the country amongst themselves, claiming not only the land but also the inhabitants thereof, who were speedily reduced to the condition of slaves and put to hard labour for their brutal masters. Mr. Shand tells us how “Te Wharekura, of Te Raki, with his hapu, killed and roasted fifty Morioris in one—it might have been more than one—for no reason what-ever that could be assigned”; while at Waitangi one Tikaokao

[Footnote] ** Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. ix., p. 15.

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and others massacred men, women, and children of the conquered race, and laid them out on the sandy beach touching one another, some of the women being left to die with stakes thrust into them.

It may be of interest to compare with this account the brief remarks on the Moriori race made by the Bishop of New Zealand, who visited Chatham Island in 1848: “In appearance they are not very different from the New-Zealanders, and their language at the time of the invasion (about ten years ago) was perfectly intelligible to the Ngatiawa Tribe, who usurped their territory. Their name, as spoken by themselves, is ‘tangata Maoriori,’ differing from the name of the New Zealand people only in the reduplication of the last syllables; but the conquerors have given them the title of ‘Paraiwhara,’ the meaning of which I could not ascertain. Their number at the time of my visit, by a careful census which I took of the names of men, women, and children, was 268; but the very small number of children and the unmarried state in which they seemed for the most part to be living would lead me to fear that they were rapidly decreasing. The relation in which they stand to the New-Zealanders is not satisfactory. They have been reduced to the condition of serfs, and are obliged to obey the orders of every little child of the invading race. The common expression of ‘Ngare Paraiwhara’ (Send a Paraiwhara) shows that a ‘fagging’ system has been established, more injurious, perhaps, to the masters than to the servants, as there is no appearance of harshness or severity, but a great decrease of personal activity in the dominant race. A long residence on the island would be necessary to do away entirely with this evil; but I did what I could in a short visit by paying personal attention to the poor Paraiwhara, and explaining how they were descended from the elder branch of the family of Noah, by which they obtained the name of the ‘tuakana o te Pihopa’ (the elder brother of the Bishop). They are a cheerful and willing people, and, like many persons in a subordinate station, more obliging than their masters. Amusing stories are told of the first invasion of the island, at which time the chief food of the Paraiwhara was the supply of eels from the numerous lakes which cover perhaps half the surface. When potatoes were first given to them they impaled them upon skewers, after the manner of cooking eels, and sat watching till the oil should drop from them. Their canoes are ingeniously made of small sticks carefully tied together, as there is no wood on the island suitable for a solid canoe.”*

[Footnote] * “Church in the Colonies (No. xx., New Zealand, part v.): A Journal of the Bishop's Visitation Tour through his Diocese, including a.

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Considering how comparatively soon his visit followed upon the atrocities recorded by Mr. Shand, it is difficult to understand how the good Bishop could have been kept so much in the dark as to the true history of the Maori usurpation as his remarks would lead one to suppose. It is not difficult to believe that whoever invented the title “elder brother of the Bishop” for the unfortunate Moriori was gifted with a certain sense of humour, but the “amusing stories” of the first invasion were probably very carefully selected before they were allowed to come to the ears of the distinguished visitor.

With the advent of European settlers the condition of the Morioris was doubtless greatly improved. As, however, the Maori occupation of the island took place prior to the Treaty of Waitangi, their ownership of the land by right of conquest has been admitted, with the exception of 2,000 acres, which they have been obliged to set apart as a reserve for their former slaves, of whom the remnant appear now to be very well treated, and to live on terms of equality with both Maoris and Europeans. The younger ones, at any rate, dress like Europeans and follow the same occupations—in fact, they are so completely “civilised” as to be no longer of much scientific interest.

The extent of the Moriori population in former years is still attested by the immense quantity of human remains with which the shores of the island are littered, and by the abundant evidence of native handiwork. At intervals along the low sandhills which fringe the greater part of the shore old burying-places and huge shell-mounds or “kitchen-middens” are met with. It was the custom of the race to bury some, at any rate, of their dead in the sand by the sea-shore, in a sitting posture, facing the west, with the elbows down and the knees up. In many places the remains have been exposed by the wind, and the shore is strewn with skulls and bones in various stages of dismemberment. Owing doubtless to the ease with which graves are scooped out in the loose sand, the Maoris chose (at any rate, at first) similar situations on the island for their cemeteries, so that it is now by no means easy to say whether any particular skull or other bone picked up on the shore belonged to one of the conquered or one of the conquering race. The only safe plan for those who wish to obtain specimens for scientific investigation is to dig out the entire skeleton, when the sitting posture may be regarded as sufficient proof of Moriori origin, for the Maoris appear to have buried their dead in a horizontal position.


[Footnote] ** Visit to the Chatham Islands in the Year 1848.” London. Printed for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and sold by the Sooiety for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1851.

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When out riding on the shore close to the chief centre of population (Waitangi) I came upon a place where the sand-cliff was crumbling away, and old coffins were tumbling out in fragments and discharging their contents in ghastly medley—in one lay the remains of a man, with an old toothbrush, numerous buttons, and clay pipes close by; in another the remains of a child with the bones of the feet still in the boots, for the corpses appear to have been buried in their clothes, together with their personal effects. On at least one occasion the Maoris are said to have removed the bones from one of these burial-places to a more suitable locality.

Although human remains are left to be kicked about on the beach by the hoofs of the horses in the most promiscuous manner, yet the Maoris and half-castes have a strong objection to any one interfering with the bones. One of them tried to persuade me that any such interference was punishable by fine, though I believe there is no power on the island authorised to inflict such a penalty. The Maoris, however, still own much of the land, and, with the half-castes, are about equal in number to the Europeans, with whom they are quite on terms of equality. Hence they can make things uncomfortable in many ways if they choose to do so, and it is desirable for the sake of peace to observe their prejudices as far as possible, though it certainly seems a little strange, in view of their treatment of the Morioris, that they should feel so strongly with regard to the removal of the bones of their victims. Possibly there is some superstitious feeling about it, perhaps some lingering idea of tapu, or perhaps they fear lest the remains of their own people might also be disturbed. I had the pleasure of being hospitably entertained by one half-caste who had fenced in an old Moriori burying-place on his own property in order to keep the stock away from it, with the unexpected and very pleasing result that the great forget-me-not (Myosotidium nobile, the so-called “Chatham Island lily,” with its huge rhubarb-like leaves and bunches of blue flowers, elsewhere almost exterminated by the sheep, has begun to spread again vigorously in this locality.

At Wharekauri, Mr. Chudleigh's estate in the northern part of the island, I saw many bones lying beneath the trees in a dense thicket near the shore, and was informed that the Morioris sometimes tied their dead to trees in erect postures with a stick in hand pointing upwards to represent a pigeon-spear, the bodies being tied with the stems of that curious climbing plant, the supplejack of the settlers (Rhipogonum scandens. Mr. Gilbert Mair, in a paper read before the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1870,* also refers to this

[Footnote] * Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. iii., 1870, p. 311.

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mode of burial. He says, “In some instances the corpses were placed upright between young trees and then firmly bound round with vines, and in course of time they became embedded in the wood itself. Sometimes they were placed in hollow trees. Several skeletons have lately been discovered by Europeans in trees which they were cutting up for firewood, &c. In other cases the corpses were placed on small rafts constructed of the dry flower-stems of the flax. Water, food, fishing-lines, &c., were then placed by them, and they were set adrift and carried out to sea by the land breeze. Not long ago an American whaler discovered one of these rafts with a corpse seated in the stern many miles from land. Not knowing that it had been set adrift purposely, the captain had a rope attached to it and towed it into Whangaroa Harbour, much to the annoyance of the natives.” Mr. Mair makes no mention of burial as a mode of disposing of the dead.

In considering the funeral customs of the Morioris we must certainly take into account the extraordinary tree-carvings so abundant in some parts of the island. It is remarkable how little attention these carvings have hitherto excited. A good painting of some of them, by Miss Stoddart, may, however, be seen in the Canterbury Museum, which has also, since my visit to the island, acquired three actual specimens. Mr. Travers also, in his extremely interesting paper on the “Traditions and Customs of the Morioris,”* gives illustrations of some of these figures, which he explains as follows: “Their quarrels appear to have arisen chiefly out of conflicting claims to the possession of valuable karaka-trees, the fruit of which was a staple and much-liked article of food, and my son informs me that nearly all the older karaka-trees on the island are marked with devices indicating their special ownership—a fact of very great interest. He made drawings of many of these figures, which are very rude, but were evidently sufficient for the purposes of the owners.”

I myself took the opportunity when on the island of making a number of sketches of these tree-carvings, which are reproduced in the accompanying plate (Plate V., figs. 1—4). They are commonly about 3 ft. in total height, and those which I saw, as well as those in the Canterbury Museum, those drawn by Miss Stoddart, and some of those figured by Mr. Travers, are evidently intended to represent the human skeleton in the sitting attitude. The elbows are represented pointing downwards and the knees upwards, and some of them have unmistakable ribs (figs. 3, 4). The head is commonly represented with a curious cleft on top (figs. 1—3),

[Footnote] * Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. ix., p. 25.

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so that the outline becomes somewhat heart-shaped. In one case (fig. 4) the head was replaced by what appears to be the figure of a hand with an eye on each side of it. This had possibly some symbolical significance. The hands and feet show a varying number of digits up to five, and the backbone is represented by a straight line.

The figures in question appear always to have been carved in the bark of the kopi-tree or karaka (Corynocarpus lavigata,) whose large succulent drupes formed one of the principal articles of food amongst the Moriori, and whose smooth bark is particularly suited for the purpose. The outlines are generally incised, but in two of the specimens in the Canterbury Museum they are left in relief. These figures may, as indicated by Mr. Travers, have been marks of ownership, or they may have been intended to represent tutelary deities. The Maoris on the island appear, from what I learnt from a half-caste, to have a curious idea that the carvings were a sign that the Moriori race was doomed.

For my own part, I am inclined to believe that the human figures on the kopi-trees were connected with there burial customs, for in no other way does it seem possible to explain the peculiar attitude of all and the prominent ribs of some of the figures. “When dead,” says Mr. Travers, “the arms were forced back against the chest and securely bound there with plaited green-flax ropes, the hands were bound together and drawn over the knees, and a stick was then inserted between the arms and knees. This was the orthodox method of trussing a body, and it was sometimes a work of great difficulty, for when the body became rigid the efforts of many men were required to bring it into a proper position. This being done, the dead was enveloped in plaited flax matting and interred as far as the knees, the upper portion of the body being invariably above the soil.”

It seems tolerably certain that another method of disposing of the dead was by placing them in or against trees in the manner described by Mr. Mair. The particular mode of dealing with any dead body was probably determined by the character of the individual to whom it had belonged, and probably great importance was attached to the proper performance of the ceremony. The earlier methods of disposal may very likely have been given up for sanitary reasons on the advent of Europeans, a possibility which had struck me even before I came across the following significant passage from Mr. John Amery's work on the Chatham Islands, quoted by Mr. Travers: “In my rambles through the bush I have frequently observed a time–and weather-bleached skeleton grinning at me from some old tree. Walking one day with an ancient native woman, she suddenly stopped and

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commenced an affectionate and whining korero with a skull suspended from a branch. I said, ‘What old friend is that?’ ‘Oh,’ said she, ‘it is my first husband; he was atame pai (a good husband). My wife and I used both entreaties and arguments to break them from such indecent and unholy customs. One day, during my absence from home, a person was about to be interred in the usual manner. My wife, however, hastened to the spot and insisted upon having a deep grave dug. She was instantly obeyed, upon which she read an appropriate prayer, and the body was interred with decency. From that time the old custom was never revived.”

If for any reason the Morioris really did abandon their ancient custom of tree-burial, it is not difficult to believe that they might, in place of the actual bodies, carve upon the bark of the trees those remarkable figures which are so clearly intended to represent skeletons. Such carvings would serve as a memento mori almost as well as the corpse itself, without the obvious disadvantages of the latter. There are several reasons why the kopi-trees should always have been selected for the carving. It is almost the only tree large enough, and, on account of the smooth nature of the bark, quite the most suitable; while, if there was any right of individual ownership in the trees, it is not unnatural to suppose that the effigy of the departed would be placed on his own property. This view of the case may also in some measure explain the Maori idea that the carvings indicated the doom of the Moriori race, for the abandonment of the ancient burial custom would probably be regarded as a most serious infringement of tapu and as such would be expected to entail disastrous consequences. In this connection it is interesting to note Mr. Shand's statement that “the Morioris began to die very rapidly after the arrival of the Maoris, the cause of which they attribute to the transgression of their own tapu, for the Morioris were an exceedingly tapu race”

There are also rude rock-carvings on the island, but these are of quite a different type from those which I observed on the trees. At the entrance of a shallow cave at Mororoa the soft limestone rock is scored with bird-like figures in endless repetition (Plate V., fig. 5). These may possibly represent shags. Mr. Shand told me that a Moriori showed him two figures on the rock at Moutapu, which they say were the models from which all the bird-figures were taken; but they seem, according to the same authority, to have called the figures on the trees birds, so that there is doubtless some confusion here. I was also told by a lady on the island that she had found the figure of a shag carved on hard wood in a Moriori grave. Possibly the shag was regarded as a sacred bird.

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Whatever they may have intended to represent, the Moriori idea of carving appears to have been extremely crude. The figures certainly were to a large extent conventionalised, but the inferiority to the workmanship of the New Zealand Maori, both in conception and execution, is, considering the undoubtedly close relationship of the two races, very remarkable. Taken in conjunction with their apparently complete ignorance of the art of tattooing, it certainly appears to indicate that the two races must have branched off from one another at a very remote period in their history, although the language appears to have undergone very little alteration.

As manufacturers of stone implements of various kinds the Morioris appear to have more nearly approached, if they did not equal, the Maori standard of excellence. Stone chisels of two very distinct types are met with. I give photographs of two specimens which were given to me on the island. Plate VI., fig. 10, represents a small chisel of yellowish chert, almost cylindrical in form, and with a narrow cutting-edge. This is probably one of those which Mr. Shand says were termed “whao,” and which were used for making holes. Fig. 11 is a broad, flat chisel or adze of a hard grey stone, well polished; one side is quite flat, the other gradually bevelled to the cutting-edge, while the side edges have been ground flat. Rudely flaked chert “blubber-knives,” such as are represented in figs. 8 and 9, are still common on the shore, but I was not fortunate enough to obtain any of the well-known stone clubs described and figured by Sir Julius von Haast.* Bone fish-hooks may be found amongst the sandhills. Figs. 6 and 7 represent a couple which I picked up in the neighbourhood of an old kitchen-midden, or shell-mound, at Maturakau; and sharpened pieces of birds' bones, used, as I was told, for extracting shell-fish from their shells, may be met with in similar situations (fig. 13). Sharks' teeth bored for stringing as ornaments (figs. 14 and 15) are also not uncommon.

One evening, whilst staying with Mr. Chudleigh at Wharekauri, I received an invitation from Mr. Abner Clough, who is employed on the estate, to visit him in his own quarters. Amongst the miscellaneous collection of articles which littered his table a remarkable-looking piece of whalebone at once arrested my attention. I found on inquiry that Mr. Clough had picked this specimen up in an old Moriori burial-ground amongst the sand-

[Footnote] * Haast, “On the Stone Weapons of the Moriori and the Maori” (Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xviii., p. 24). For further information concerning Moriori stone implements, see Shand (Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. iii., p. 84 and Smith (Op. cit., vol. i., p. 80).

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hills on the shore near a place called Okawa, near Kainga-roa. The bone, which is represented in Plate VI., fig. 12, had evidently been carefully shaped and carved, and I had no difficulty in recognising in it a very typical example of that extremely interesting instrument of primitive races known to ethnologists as the “bull-roarer.” Probably this bull-roarer is of ancient date, for the whalebone of which it is made is honeycombed with decay. Moreover, Mr. Shand had never heard of such an instrument existing amongst the Moriori; though this might readily be accounted for if, as in other races, the bull-roarer was a sacred article—probably, indeed, in the case of the Moriori highly tapu, for these people “possessed the tapu in all its forms and terrors” (Shand). The specimen is broad and flat, elliptical in cross-section, and remarkably short, with one end much broader than the other. The side edges are approximately straight, except for the notching to be mentioned directly, the broad end slightly excavated or curved inwards. The narrow end is a good deal worn with age, and has a deep notch in the middle, which may possibly be the remains of a hole through which a string may have been passed. The side edges are also deeply notched near the narrow end, evidently to allow of secure tying. Beyond these “fastening-notches” the edges are beset with smaller notches all along, and this notching is continued along the broad end. The broad, flat surfaces are also grooved. On the best-preserved side there is a pair of longitudinal grooves extending from end to end, one on each side of the middle line. In the region of the fastening-notches, which are a good deal broken away, these longitudinal grooves are crossed at right angles by two others. On the opposite surface, which has apparently been more exposed to the weather, only the two longitudinal grooves can be distinguished. The total length of the specimen is exactly 6in., the breadth at the narrow end about 11/2in., and at the broad end about 25/8in. (6 by 11/2 to 25/8).

Much has been written of late years about the bull-roarer, which, as a toy, is familiar to many an English schoolboy. It is essentially a noise-making instrument. The schoolboy takes a thin wooden lath, notches the edges, ties a string to one end and whirls it round rapidly in the air. A peculiar humming noise is produced which is very suggestive of wind-In a specimen which I made recently I find that when humming, or “buzzing,” the instrument also rotates rapidly about its long axis, and that unless it does so no noise is produced. Whether this rotation about its own axis is necessary in all cases I cannot say.

In a more or less typical form the bull-roarer is distributed amongst native races over perhaps the greater part of the

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inhabited world. Professor Haddon has written an extremely interesting chapter on the subject in his work on the “Study of Man,” and has there tabulated the uses and distribution of this remarkable instrument. It appears to have been used (1) as a sacred instrument in the mysteries in ancient Greece, on the west coast of Africa, amongst the Kaffirs, in North America, in the Solomon Islands, in Banks Island, in New Guinea, and in Australia; (2) in initiation ceremonies amongst the Kaffirs and in New Guinea and Australia; (3) as a summons to ceremonies amongst the Kaffirs and in North America and Australia; (4) to summon spirits in South America; (5) to frighten away spirits in North America and Banks Island; (6) as a god on the west coast of Africa and in Australia; (7) associated with judiciary powers, &c., on the west coast of Africa and in the Solomon Islands; (8) for producing wind amongst the Kaffirs, in North and South America, and in Torres Strait; (9) for producing rain amongst the Kaffirs and African Bushmans, in North and South America, in Torres Strait, and in Australia; (10) for producing thunder and lightning in North and South America; (11) as a charm in hunting or fishing by the African Bushmans a, in Torres Strait, and in Australia; (12) for driving cattle by the African Bushmans and the Malays; (13) as a toy in the British Isles, Central Europe, amongst the Eskimo, in South America, amongst the Malays, in the Solomon Islands, in Banks Island, and in Torres Strait.

The bull-roarer was tabooed to women by the Kaffirs, the South Americans, the Solomon-Islanders, the Papuans, and the Australians.

In New Zealand it appears to have existed in a modified form, consisting of an oval flattened piece of wood without notches, but the use which the Maoris made of the instrument is not known. Professor Haddon observes, “It is also entirely wanting, so far as we know, from Polynesia, with the exception of New Zealand. It is worth bearing in mind that these islands were almost certainly inhabited by Melanesians before the Maori invasion,* and the bull-roarer may belong to the older population. A highly decorated specimen occurs in the British Museum; it was first figured and noted by Lang. We have no information as to its use.” I may add to this that there is in the Canterbury Museum, at Christchurch, a bull-roarer made to order by a Maori from the Urewera country. This specimen is a flat ovoid piece of wood with smooth surface and smooth edges, quite unornamented, and

[Footnote] * Captain Hutton informs me that there is no sufficient ground for believing in a Melanesian occupation of New Zealand before the advent of the Maoris.—A. D.

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with a hole through the narrower end for the attachment of the string. It is intended to be swung by means of a stick attached to the other end of the string.

It must be observed that the Maori bull-roarer is of a very different form from the Chatham Island specimen, so much so that one would hardly suppose the two to have been made by closely related races.

I also learnt from a European boy on Chatham Island that the bull-roarer is there known to the Maori schoolchildren, presumably as a toy. This being the case, it might be suspected that my specimen is of recent origin, and not of Moriori workmanship; but its evident antiquity, its peculiar form, sculpture, and material, as well as the locality where it was found, afford pretty conclusive evidence that it is not of modern manufacture. The great difference between the Chatham Island and New Zealand bull-roarers perhaps affords another indication that the Maori and Moriori races branched off from one another at a very remote period.

Explanation of Plates V. and VI.
Plate V.

Fig. 1. Human figure cut in the bark of an old kopi-tree at Mororoa, Chatham Island.

Fig. 2. Similar figure at Wharekauri, Chatham Island.

Figs. 3, 4. Figures on two kopi-trees close together at Mairangi, near Wharekauri, Chatham Island.

Fig. 5. Figure of shag (?) carved in soft rock forming the entrance to a shallow cave or rock-shelter at Mororoa, Chatham Island.

(Figs. 1 to 5 from sketches by the author.)

Plate VI.

Figs. 6, 7. Bone fish-books.

Figs. 8, 9. Chert “blubber-knives” or scrapers (?).

Fig. 10. Cylindrical chert chisel.

Fig. 11. Flat chisel or adze of hard grey stone.

Fig. 12. “Bull-roarer” of whalebone.

Fig. 13. Bird's bone sharpened, and probably used for extracting shell-fish.

Figs. 14, 15. Sharks' teeth bored for stringing.

(Figs. 6 to 15 from photographs of specimens brought by the author from Chatham Island.)