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Volume 35, 1902
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Art. XIX.—Chips from an Ancient Maori Workshop.

[Read before the Auckland Institute, 4th August, 1902.]

Plates LI. and LII.

On the shores of Tauranga Harbour, near Katikati, there used to be a long sandy ridge about 40 ft. above sea-level, covered with such plants as love the seaside. This place was known by the name of Waiorooro (the waters of grinding or rubbing). Struck by the singular inappropriateness of this name, I once asked the late chief Hori Tupaea the reason why it was so called. He said the name had come down from prehistoric times; that it had been the home in bygone ages of a numerous tribe, now long forgotten—the Ngamarama.

About ten years ago, owing to the destruction of the vegetation by fire and the trampling of stock, the sandhill began to move seawards before the fierce and prevailing westerly winds, leaving, in a short time, the original surface of clayey soil, and forming a level sort of plateau some chains wide and perhaps 150 yards long, and disclosing the site of an ancient village with numerous middens and workshops. Around the latter cartloads of obsidian, chert, and different kinds of stone knives and flakes could be seen. Heaps of even-sized round stones for net-sinkers and fishing-sinkers, and hundreds of bone implements made from whalebone, human bone, moa, albatros, and native-dog bones could be seen in every stage of manufacture. Barbed points for fish-hooks or bird-spears also strewed the surface. In fact, here were to be found specimens of almost every domestic article used by a primitive people. Here and there were stone platforms or pavements, consisting of flat stones neatly fitted together and set in some kind of cement, apparently made from ashes or burnt shell. These places were circular, about 6 ft. in diameter, and were probably used for roasting or drying food on. The corner posts (of totara) of many of the houses were still standing, but crumbled to brown dust on being touched. None of the huts appeared to have been more than 8 ft. wide and 10 ft. to 12 ft. long. Stone hammers were also very numerous, and so were stone axes, adzes, gouges, wedges, chisels, drill-points, & c. I gathered over two hundred perfect implements, while probably twice that number of broken ones I discarded. There were also several wooden weapons — paddles, spears, & c.—some showing signs of rough carving; but they fell to pieces on being touched, as did most of the bone articles—hooks, & c. — excepting the uhis or tattooing-adzes and beautiful little

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sewing-needles, which, being made from the fine hard bone of the albatros-wing, are in perfect preservation. I also noticed a number of slabs of a kind of sandstone called “hoanga” by the natives, none of which, so far as I know, is to be found in the neighbourhood of Tauranga, and large smooth stones or anvils. The axes, adzes, & c., are also made from a hard kind of stone not found on the mainland, but probably obtained from Tuhua, or Mayor Island, which is just opposite and about fifteen miles off shore. A number of shafts made from bone, stone, or petrified wood were found. They are evidently the haft or stem of some kind of fish-hook, and probably the link is attached as shown in Plate LI., fig. 2.

I found portions of two rare stone pendants or neck ornaments, something like the unique specimen deposited by Miss Morrison in the Auckland Museum. Some years ago I found one exactly similar near Cape Kidnappers, Hawke's Bay.

Only a few greenstone ornaments or greenstone chips were found, and they are probably of much later date. The manner in which the stone weapons are chipped out is really most artistic, and evidences great skill. The class of weapons are evidently the work of a people in a much lower stage of civilisation, and are not highly polished and like those used by the Hawaikians, or ancestors of the present Maoris. Many of the axes and adzes had been fitted with wooden handles, and even the binding of kiekie-roots lay in spirals round the wood and stone, but was quite perished, and the wood crumbled at the lightest touch.

Not the least interesting of my discoveries was finding the tiny model of an ancient pa tiwatawata, or palisaded fort, which had evidently been a plaything of the village children. It had been made by sticking three rows of totara splinters into the ground, forming the three lines of defence known as the Pekerangi, Kaikirikiri, and Kiri tangata. There were two gateways (waharoa), approached by long alleyways. The model was of this shape, and about 6 ft. by 4 ft.:—

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It is evident that these villagers were a tribe of artisans who made weapons and domestic articles for trading purposes. While they were on a prolonged visit to some other place a gale of extraordinary severity must have overwhelmed their kainga, burying it 20 ft. or 30 ft. deep with drifting sand, and now, after a lapse of perhaps hundreds of years, it has been exposed to view. Since I last visited it the sand has again covered the larger portion of the village-site.

Explanation of Plates LI., LII.
Plate LI.
  • 1.

    Haft of fish-hook.

  • 2.

    Fish-hook.

  • 3.

    Fish, hook made of human bone.

  • 4.

    Toothpick made of human bone.

  • 5.

    sewing-needles made of albatross-bone.

  • 6.

    Stone and shell fish-hooks.

  • 7.

    Bone barbs for bird-spear.

  • 8.

    Mother-of pearl ornaments.

  • 9.

    Uhi, or tattooing-adzes.

  • 10.

    Spoon made of mother-of-pearl.

Plate LI.
  • 1.

    Bone toggle for fastening tiki ornaments round the neck.

  • 2.

    Curious stone ornament.

  • 3.

    (side view).

  • 4.

    Bone ornament.

  • 5.

    Stone ornament.

  • 6.

    Portion of jaw of native dog, cut in two.

  • 7.

    Tuatara jaws.

  • 8.

    Shell adze.

  • 9.

    Stone spear-head.

  • 10.

    Moa-bone cut in two.

  • 11.

    Portion of human thigh-bone cut in two.

  • 12.

    Top end of handle, showing carving.

  • 13.

    Poria, or ring for foot of pet kaka.