Volume 69 1960 > Volume 69, No. 3 > An adequate culture nomenclature for the New Zealand area, by G. Leslie Adkin, p 228-238
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Mr. Adkin has published a number of contributions to the culture history of New Zealand, including “Horowhenua,” No. 26 in the Polynesian Society's Memoir series. In this article he summarizes his own position and directly challenges the views of other New Zealand pre-historians, including Duff, Sharp and Golson. We have no doubt that this will be the beginning, not the end, of a vigorous and fruitful debate.

AN URGENT REQUIREMENT in the rapidly expanding advance of archaeological research in New Zealand is the adoption of a precise and appropriate system of nomenclature for the explicit definition and recognition of culture groups of past and present native inhabitants of the area. An eminent poet 1 once wrote, “And truth is this to me and that to thee”, but this dictum should not be permitted to compromise the progress of ethnology and archaeology in New Zealand by the setting up of rival and therefore in part erroneous conceptions of the pattern of occupation, and vague nomenclatures based on faulty premise. Unanimity is desirable and should be established. This can be achieved only on the basis of impartial consideration and a proper assessment of all available data and the evidence furnished by all possible sources of information and knowledge.

It is submitted, therefore, that a clarification and rationalization of our regional prehistory appears well overdue. An examination of the situation is called for before any restrictive or inadequate scheme of culture sequence and classification and associated population movements and patterns becomes established. The position is the more pressing by reason of the current need in archaeological investigation, for culture names for the differentiable groups of slightly but distinctly variant early local peoples, of whom some have not yet received due recognition. The problem here is simplified by the general acceptance of now ample evidence that the New Zealand area, as a marginal sector of Oceania, had been limited to accessions of native population from that region only, and for several reasons the only racial type involved is consequently predominantly Polynesian.

The allotment of distinctive and suitable culture names can be appropriate and successful only if governed and regulated by some rather rigid principles, such as: (a) the use of adaptations of associated proper names (of places, peoples, or significant events) as culture names should, where possible, take precedence over makeshift descrip- - 229 tive terms; (b) a local indigenous designation should preferably be used to bestow a geographical or regional connection, with freedom from any discordant or alien suggestion; (c) culture names with a Polynesian form or quality would carry, for use in the region concerned here, special value; (d) names applicable to only part, or to some localized development of any particular culture, should not be employed as a general or comprehensive designation for that culture. The employment of commonly used descriptive terms, capitalized to form a devised culture name, is inadvisable unless there is no available alternative—such a name is usually of loose and limited application, and through its specialized usage forfeits its value for normal literary utility.

The accepted time-span of the human occupation of New Zealand has been steadily increased and its beginning pushed back by European research to ever remoter times. However, at one stage Polynesian and Maori tradition outdid the then highest European estimate of the antiquity of man in this country by asserting an incoming of their ancestors and even of predecessors many hundreds of years earlier. In its contribution to the deciphering of our prehistory and the culture succession and interactions within the New Zealand area, the part played by tradition (and which it must continue to play), cannot be ignored. Tradition has provided a revealing light on many obscure matters already laid bare by archaeological activities, and should therefore take a respected place among the sources of relevant information in such research. Archaeological and anthropological investigation in themselves can do no more than augment, check, confirm, modify, or correct, in detail and chronological succession, the lead given by the principal and fundamental tenets of tradition, which despite stricture of minor aspects and small discrepancies tends to maintain its overall validity. Polynesian and Maori tradition down to European times reached a high plane of primitive integrity and continuity, and was probably unsurpassed in any other part of the non-literate world. The standard of accuracy was ensured by the threat of dire penalties under a rigid system of precise memorization by a selected rank of priestly experts—the tohunga of the whare-kura and whare-maire, houses of instruction and learning of the past history and genealogies of the race. Under these circumstances the value of tradition as a factor in local archaeology can hardly be gainsaid, and its importance in proper and accurate archaeological interpretation, is inestimable.

The earliest people known to tradition and since confirmed by archaeology, were originally supposed to have been confined to the South Island. Tradition names Rakaihautu and the company of the Uruao canoe as the earliest immigrants of the South Island. The material culture of this incursion, after many years of doubt, is now well differentiated and its distinctive features established. On this basis of culture differentiation, its distribution has been shown to have extended throughout both islands, from northernmost New Zealand to Southland.

The Canterbury representatives of this people left abundant traces in burials and cave-deposits in the Christchurch-Sumner district, where their remains were first observed and investigated by Julius Haast in - 230 1872. In 1875 he published 2 accounts of this culture, recognized its antiquity, and referred to the people by the descriptive name “moahunters”. This was locally appropriate, for indeed they were, the Canterbury-North Otago territory being the most prolific moa habitat within the entire country. But this descriptive name was not applicable to the same inhabitants in all parts of New Zealand; the incidence of the moa was variable, and over large tracts of unfavourable terrain it was rare and often absent, but everywhere the material culture of the earliest contemporary people remained to prove the same human occupation. Numerous criteria distinguishing the material culture of this people have been formulated and set out by Adkin; 3 and these criteria are more conclusive and universal than the evidence furnished (especially in the North Island) of the localized moa-hunting activities of this people, though such undoubtedly had some cultural meaning in the South Island.

Nearly seventy years after Haast and following on the discovery of the Wairau Bar site, Dr. R. Duff of the Canterbury Museum, undertook a comprehensive study of the earliest human culture contemporary with the moa. To give a definite culture name, Duff adopted a capitalized form of von Haast's originally descriptive term, and “for want of a better” 4 decided on the name Moa-hunter. As a culture designation this name is not satisfactory, for with the more precise requirements of advancing knowledge and methodology it has too localized an application to define sufficiently comprehensively the people in question. Further, this name with its descriptive flavour is ambiguous, being equally applicable to the Ngatimamoe people and their culture, and perhaps to a lesser degree even to the post-Fleet Ngai-Tahu. The deficiency of the term ‘Moa-hunter’ as the name for a culture extending spacially over many different environments in the New Zealand region, is demonstrated and emphasized by the quite possible necessary use of such a contradictory phrase as “the non-moa-hunting Moa-hunters” for numerous groups of this people in the North Island. Some of these objections to this name were raised briefly by Adkin three years back, 5 and more recently Golson 6 gave tacit support to this view by pointing out still other grounds for censure, and he also advocated “dropping Moa-hunter as a cultural term altogether”.

The proposal for the rejection of ‘Moa-hunter’ as a culture name for the earliest inhabitants was coupled by Golson 7 with the suggestion that the term ‘Archaic’ should be elevated to the status of a culture name and be substituted for the other. This seems an unfortunately retrograde step, the word ‘archaic’ being commonly associated with too vague and broad a period of antiquity, and it is decidedly incongruous and ambiguous as a culture designation in the Polynesian New Zealand - 231 setting. Furthermore, it offends the Rule of Priority by ignoring, without comment, discussion, or criticism, the distinctive Polynesian proper name ‘Waitaha’ formally adopted by Adkin in 1950 8 as a specific culture designation for the earliest people included in his comprehensive scheme of culture nomenclature for the whole New Zealand region. In its descriptive usage the word ‘archaic’ is a useful one to tentatively refer to artifacts and objects of material culture of conjectured ancient times, the exact provenance or category of which may not be immediately determinable.

Also, the use of ‘Archaic’ as a New Zealand area culture name is unncessarily vague and ill-chosen, since in this country we have the advantage of the often sufficiently precise information of tradition. The position here is quite different from that in the British Isles for example, where archaeological research may and has revealed ancient and forgotten cultures for which no historical or even traditional clue has survived. Hence there, such vague and in many ways unsatisfactory culture names as ‘Beaker Folk’, ‘Urn (or Urnfield) People’, and even such cumbrous makeshifts as ‘Battle-axe People’, 9 have perforce had to be adopted. In such circumstances the most meagre traditional clue can be of particular value in the avoidance of such makeshift names. A Northern Hemisphere example of this is the right name for the once-powerful Hittite Empire, c. 1660-1200 B.C. This important and highly developed civilization had completely vanished and had become entirely forgotten for many centuries until revealed by archaeological excavation. On the exhumed evidence it might have been christened the ‘bull dog-headed lion culture’ or some such capricious epithet, but unexpectedly the Biblical record saved what might have been a regrettable contretemps. The Old Testament traditional history was found to contain what proved to be a certain and sufficiently direct reference to a former aggressive people in the Asia Minor region, north of Palestine. This provided the clue and supplied the true name for the people of this ancient monuments complex, variously spelled Hittim, Hatti, and Hittite, and the last of these, the English version, was universally adopted. 10 In New Zealand and Polynesia generally, tradition has similarly supplied, in most cases where separate culture groups have been isolated and defined, some suitable and distinctive name. The help that traditional lore has to offer to New Zealand archaeology, it is contended, can be indispensable in many ways and not least in furnishing a sufficient choice of valid names for culture designations—names of indigenous and local character in harmony with the setting.

This environmental unity was one of the primary considerations in the drawing up and presentation by Adkin in 1952 11 of a scheme of culture nomenclature designed to cover fittingly the entire New Zealand area. An endeavour was made to consider, weigh, and assess all relevant evidence and information, giving due regard to other theories and - 232 systems of culture accession and growth; and by eliminating an embarrassment of subsidiary tribal names and secondary components, reduce the whole to a workable succession of culture groups for whose past and present existence or occupation evidence could be found.

Earlier attempts to discern possible differences in the native inhabitants of New Zealand and to divide them into separate groups or diverse racial types, were limited to broad generalizations. The first step seems to have been the recognition of Maori and pre-Maori, until, in 1907, Wilson 12 suggested the more precise terms, Maui-Maori and Hawaiki-Maori. These names were based on the circumstance that some of the tribes claimed descent from the ancestor, Maui, whereas others referred their origin to the land or islands known to them as Hawaiki. Despite some opinion to the contrary this two-fold classification has prevailed in a general way against evidence of a much more complex population structure. This has even been carried to the length of an assumption of the evolution of the material culture and the lineal consanguinity of the modern Maori, within this country, from the earliest inhabitants. The scheme formulated by Adkin, 13 on the other hand, postulated three more or less related but distinct cultures (or subcultures) brought in by four separate migrations from Polynesia to the islands of New Zealand (exclusive of the Chathams). He has since recognized the special importance of a fifth migration which led to the development within the country of still another culture variation.

There is therefore a tendency at the present time for the advocacy of at least two directly opposed concepts of population and culture origin and pattern. Since this disagreement has a fundamental bearing on the course, progress, and elucidation of local archaeological discovery, co-operation for the elimination of error in either of the opposed views is imperative. This can be effected only by unbiassed consideration of all available evidence and a sound interpretation therefrom, as similarly should be appied to the concurrent question of a judicious selection of culture names.

The corner stone in the interpretation of New Zealand archaeology and in the identification of successive cultures (or sub-cultures) which archaeological research has since revealed, was information received by F. R. (later Sir Frederick) Chapman in the last century. During excavations with Augustus Hamilton at the Shag River mouth site, in the early 'nineties, 14 adzes of a type originally found by Haast in the Christchurch-Sumner area in 1872, 15 were again exposed. From old people of the North Otago native population, Chapman obtained the revealing disclosure that this distinctive adze-type—of triangular cross-section, hogbacked and tanged form—was the work and an artifact of the ancient Waitaha people, and that the type was exclusive to them and was not used by the later tribes. 16 This crucial clue undoubtedly forms - 233 the starting point for all subsequent research, and makes a prima facie case for the use of ‘Waitaha’ as a culture name.

The traditional advent of the Waitaha culture in the South Island was the arrival of Rakaihautu and his company in the Uruao canoe—this was Waitaha II. The earlier Waitaha incoming and the prior occupation of the North Island by people of identical material culture—Waitaha I—has been demonstrated by unassailable archaeological evidence, which also indicates their Eastern Polynesian origin. The date of this the first human occupation of New Zealand was much earlier than commonly supposed, and on as yet unrefuted geological evidence may have been as remote as in the third century B.C.; on archaeological evidence the typology is manifestly the most archaic within the New Zealand area. The North Island advent of Waitaha I practically transcends tradition but not quite, since Elsdon Best, 17 S. Percy Smith, 18 and Augustus Hamilton, 19 all early authorities, have each recorded very slight references to the Waitaha of the North Island or to the Matiti canoe in which they are said to have arrived. The material culture definitely indicates a common origin in some part of Eastern Polynesia for both Waitaha I and Waitaha II.

The next people with a distinctive and differentiable culture to enter the country was Te Tini-o-Mamoe, later to be known here as Ngati-Mamoe, but the name of the ancestral forbears of this stock, in their homeland, is as yet uncertain. The present writer has gathered new evidence, adding to that given in the literature by numerous previous observers, which, though often challenged and rejected, 20 still persists and cannot be carelessly dismissed. He is now prepared to contend that the ancestral Ngati-Mamoe stock came from Western Polynesia and that by reason of a considerable infusion there of Melanesian blood plus the acquisition of certain elements of Melanesian culture, they introduced into New Zealand the controversial Melanesoid element. 21 This element was manifest in those extra-Polynesian and non-Polynesian customs, aspects of material culture, and physiological characters, not previously present in the population of New Zealand, nor subsequently added to it. This hypothesis (the subtlety of which is intended to contrast with previous crude conceptions of an immigration of full-blooded Melanesians, for which there is no evidence whatever), certainly fits all known facts and provides a solution to the long-standing problem of such non-Polynesian phenomena and culture elements within the New Zealand area as: (1) the Maori fighting pa; (2) the curvilinear style of wood-carving; (3) a non-Polynesian ubiquity of and - 234 emphasis on representation in carving of the human figure and facial features; (4) such innovations as the pahu gong; 22 and (5) the occurrence in the later epoch of local prehistory of other objects and artifacts having Melanesian analogues.

The incoming of the proto-Ngati-Mamoe long antedated the arrival of the forebears of the tribes of the Fleet (or, on a current alternative view, a supposed gradual “culture change” that serves to distinguish the latter), and this earlier cultural group therefore effectively cuts across and nullifies any hypothesis of a simple undisturbed process of evolution within this country of the modern Maori from the earliest population. Furthermore, the inclusion by Duff 23 of the later generations of Ngati-Mamoe of the South Island within the tribes of The Fleet is a demonstrable error, but this easy means of disposal of them was probably unavoidable within the extremely questionable hypothesis of an internal evolutionary corporeal and cultural development apparently favoured by him.

The Toi-Whatonga immigration, which is now recognized by Adkin as a more significant ingredient in his scheme (cf. Adkin 1952, p. 45) of settlement and culture sequence in the New Zealand area than was originally assessed, is here introduced. The advent of the Toi-Whatonga group, which has been fixed on a genealogical basis at about A.D. 1150, found the still earlier proto-Ngati-Mamoe in occupation of the Whakatane-East Cape district, and a very numerous people. Amalgamation by intermarriage took place and when the newcomers had thereby built up a sufficient strength in numbers to form the Tini-o-Toi, warfare ensued. The Eastern Polynesian origin of Toi and Whatonga and their crews can be presumed to have given them substantial advantages in fighting strategy over the Western Polynesian proto-Ngati-Mamoe and they would therefore be prompt to take over any defensive or offensive innovations known to their potential enemies. The fighting or refuge pa, introduced into New Zealand by the proto-Ngati-Mamoe who had adopted it from their earlier Melanesian contact and had retained it by reason of their inclination towards Melanesian culture traits because of a strong infusion of that blood, would certainly be appropriated (and improved) by the augmented Tini-o-Toi. This revolutionary step in itself should be sufficient to give the Tini-o-Toi population a definite culture status and allotted a culture name adapted to conform with the culture name Ngatimamoe, by a similar reduction to a simple word, Tiniotoi. Later, when still another immigration from Central Polynesia—the Fleet-Maori—reached the North Island, the fighting pa was still further developed and elaborated, producing for the New Zealand area this dominant cultural phenomenon, unique and abnormal in the Polynesian world. The Tiniotoi variant-culture horde prevailed over the unassimilated portion of the Ngati-Mamoe population (who, however, persisted as a large secondary component right through to modern times), and flourished exceedingly, forming the dominating people of - 235 the North Island, until the Fleet-Maori arrived to dispute their supremacy.

The final Polynesian migrants to reach New Zealand (unless it can be shown that, in their own place, they “changed” their culture and their cephalic index, but retained a postulated descent from the ‘Moahunters’, thus so-called whether they pursued that way of living or not), have been variously named Hawaiki-Maori, Fleet-Maori, or Classic Maori. The name Maori is rightly theirs and they are the only group properly so called either in this country or in other parts of Polynesia. In the designations Hawaiki-Maori and Fleet-Maori the qualifying prefix is compatible in giving greater definition and delimitation, but Fleet-Maori 24 is more acceptable because of its better known purport and long-term use. Any implication of a Pakeha concept of The Fleet as a squadron of vessels in regular and close formation proceeding strictly together can be summarily dismissed. All that needs to be conceded is a succession of craft travelling at irregular intervals within a limited period of time, perhaps of the duration of the order of a year or two, with a common objective, Aotearoa, and reaching the North Island at separate (or in some cases identical) landfalls according to the influence of fortuitous sea conditions or other chance ill or favouring circumstances.

The third name for the Maori people, Classic Maori, 25 which has only recently been introduced, is rejected by the writer for several reasons: its use makes a jarring note when used in the New Zealand environment; the incongruity of the term ‘Classic’ when linked with ‘Maori’ brings in unnecessary possible complications; the original significance of the term Classic is inextricably linked to the Mediterranean area of Europe and is therefore far too harshly exotic for a New Zealand setting ; the subsequent secondary meaning for this term 26 is inapplicable for a correct comparative assessment of the Fleet-Maori culture standard, the Waitaha culture attainment reaching an equally high or, possibly, even higher plane of technical excellence, and quite possibly, judged on the more limited surviving evidence, as full or an even fuller development.

The foregoing abridged outline of a sequence of population and settlement, each distinguished by a differing culture (or sub-culture) and given to show the necessity for distinctive culture names, will be seen to involve and require a long-term series of deliberate and independent trans-oceanic migrations. In view of the findings in this connection of Harold Gatty, acceptance of the certainty of such migrations now presents no difficulty. Gatty, by a lifetime of professional

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FIG. 1
Diagrammatic Scheme of Successive Migrations, Peoples, and Cultures—from Polynesia to New Zealand.
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aviation experience of navigation over large tracts of the Pacific Ocean, gathered and published in 1943 27 complete and convincing proof that the early Polynesians were in actual fact what they have always been credited to be, 28 namely, the greatest seafarers and the most skilled, capable, and successful primitive ocean navigators the world has known. The Phoenicians, the early Arabians, and the Vikings all performed remarkable feats of extended ocean exploration and travel, but the Polynesians were superior to them all. Over hundreds of leagues of the vast Pacific Ocean, from island to island and across the immense blank spaces between, even to Easter Island and New Zealand, such deliberate and planned journeys by the Polynesians are shown by Gatty to have been not only practicable but accomplished. The means for such feats of endurance and ability was an acquired knowledge of all the manifestations of nature—astronomical, atmospheric, oceanographic, also bird flight and behaviour, and possibly also other (to us little understood) natural phenomena. Consult Gatty and all will be made clear and intelligible.

The evidence for the postulated succession of immigrations, peoples, and cultures in the New Zealand area, furnishes confirmation of Gatty's data, and vice versa, and the prehistory of New Zealand cannot, it is contended, adequately be explained on any other basis. The validity of deliberately planned, nature-guided primitive oceanic navigation and migration should therefore receive unqualified acceptance. Some expeditions were undoubtedly lost through storm and misadventure, but the majority prevailed and were successful in making their objective. 29

In conclusion a diagrammatic arrangement of locations, peoples, and signs is submitted to illustrate the migration-based scheme of the populating and settlement of the New Zealand area, with the preferred culture names shown in capital lettering, the migrations by full-lined arrows, and population linkages with broken-lined arrows (Fig. 1).

  • ADKIN, G. Leslie, 1950. “Supplementary Data Relating to the Ancient Waitaha in the Horowhenua—Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara Area, North Island, New Zealand.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 59:1-34.
  • — — 1952. “Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man in the New Zealand Area.” N.Z. Science Review, 10(4) :41-45.
  • — — 1957. “A Rare Lunate Pendant from New Zealand.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 66:192-198.
  • ALLAN, R. S., 1958. The Canterbury Museum: an Accounting on Re-opening. Christchurch, Caxton Press.
  • BEAGLEHOLE, J. C., 1939. The Discovery of New Zealand. Wellington, Department of Internal Affairs.
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  • BEST, Elsdon, 1901. “Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara: Wellington in Pre-Pakeha Days.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, 10:107-165.
  • — — 1924. The Maori, Vols. 1 and 2. Wellington, H. H. Tombs Ltd.
  • BUCK, Sir Peter (Te Rangi Hiroa), 1954. Vikings of the Sunrise. Wellington, Department of Internal Affairs.
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  • CHAPMAN, F. R., 1892. “On the Working of Greenstone or Nephrite by the Maoris.” Transactions of the N.Z. Institute, 24:495.
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  • DUFF, R. S., 1949. “Moas and Man (Part 1).” Antiquity, 23 (92) :172-179.
  • — — 1950. The Moa-hunter Period of Maori Culture. Wellington, Department of Internal Affairs.
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  • — — 1921. Hawaiki. 4th edit. Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd.
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1   Tennyson 1899:315.
2   Haast 1875.
3   Adkin 1950:15-16.
4   Duff 1949:177.
5   Adkin 1957:197.
6   Golson 1959:36.
7   Golson 1959:36.
8   Adkin 1950:8.
9   Hawkes 1943:51, 68.
10   Ceram 1956:4, 21-22, 25, 45, etc.
11   Adkin 1952:44-45.
12   Wilson 1907:125-158, 159-185.
13   Adkin 1952.
14   Teviotdale 1932:103; Chapman 1892:495.
15   Haast 1875:89, Pl. 4, fig. 2, a, b, c.
16   Skinner 1924:16, Fig. 1c; Teviotdale 1932:103, Fig. 5.
17   Best 1901:109, 120.
18   Smith 1921:22-23.
19   Hamilton 1896:33. Both Hamilton and S. Percy Smith inadvertently refer the barely known Matiti canoe to the South Island Waitaha, but it is believed to have been the vessel of the earlier North Island immigration of this people.
20   Williams 1937; Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter H. Buck) 1949:11, 65; Duff 1950:7-8.
21   See Rutland 1898:30; Hutton 1898:133; Best 1924:vol. 1:2 (fig.), 3, 7; Duff 1950:165; Adkin 1952:44.
22   Best 1924:vol. 2:169.
23   Allan 1958:34; Duff (pers. comm.).
24   The generally accepted number of canoes for The Fleet is six or seven: Te Arawa, Tainui, Tokomaru, Aotea, Mata-atua, Kurahaupo, Takitimu, but others are sometimes included, cf. Hamilton 1896; Smith 1910; Cowan 1910; Best 1924; Beaglehole 1939.
25   Golson 1959:47; Duff (pers. comm.) ; Allan 1958:34; Lockerbie 1959:75.
26   Golson 1959:47. Golson defines ‘Classic’ in this context as: “the phase that represents the fullest development of pre-historic culture in New Zealand”.
27   Gatty 1943.
28   See Best 1901:113; Wilson 1907:170; Cowan 1910:9; Smith 1910:57-58; Van Loon 1940:90-93, 98; Buck 1954:13.
29   Such an objective was not in the first instance necessarily known in any detail to the adventurous voyagers; its presence and its direction was inferred from long-studied signs provided by the natural phenomena observed, which had been proved accurate and reliable by prior lesser tests and experiments.