Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 48, 1915
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The PA Maori, or Native Fort.

There is one matter in connection with the Maruiwi aborigines that seems to show that in one direction at least they may have exhibited intelligence of a fairly high order. Tradition states that they constructed hill forts, and mentions those of Okoki, Pohokura, and Urenui, in northern Taranaki, as having been occupied by them. The writer has carefully examined those forts, and found them to be of a type common on the Taranaki coast—small hills of which the sides have been excavated into terraces. Those terraces were protected by lines of stockading along their outer edges. Fosses and ramparts formed only a small part of the defences of this type of fort. As these places have been occupied by the Maori for centuries, down to the nineteenth century, they may not now present the same features that they did when occupied by Maruiwi: the style of defence may have been altered since that time.

This brings us to the question of the origin of the pa maori, or native fort. In the North Island are the remains of thousands of old-time fortified places, mostly hill forts, exhibiting an advanced knowledge of the science of fortification on the part of those who formed them. Some are of great size, and must have accommodated thousands of persons; some are very small; the greater number are of medium size. The terraced hills, the fosses and ramparts (presenting scarps in some cases of 20 ft.), the double and treble systems of circumvallation, the ingeniously contrived earthwork defences for weak places and entrance passages—all these are of much interest, and well worthy of study. Where or how did they originate?

We know that the Maori who settled in New Zealand came from the eastern Pacific area; we know that no such remains of fortified places are found in that area. A few stone-walled refuges exist on the lone isle of Rapa. The Tongan fortified places were based on those of Fiji, but the Polynesian was not a fort-builder. Apparently the only place outside the North Island of New Zealand where hill forts, the defensive works of which were fosses, ramparts, stockades, and fighting-stages, were numerous is the Island of Viti Levu, in the Fiji Group.

Did the local type of forts originate here? If so, was it Maruiwi or Maori who was responsible for them? We know that the Maori was a fighter before he came to these isles; that he fought in the open in Polynesia, as he always preferred to do here down to our own time. The first Polynesian that brought a party of settlers to this island was Toi, who lived at the Ka-pu-te-rangi Fort, at Whakatane, according to all traditions. Did the Polynesian become a fort-builder as soon as he stepped ashore here? Did he evolve the idea of an earthwork fort out of his inner consciousness, or did he adopt a Maruiwi custom? The origin of the pa maori is a field for inquiry.