Volume 19 1910 > Volume 19, No. 4 > Notes and queries, p 222-225
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[210] Occurrence of Moa Bones in Forests.

Occasional discoveries of bones of several species of Moas by bushmen engaged bushfelling in different localities in the North and South Islands generally raises the question as to whether some species of that vanished race of struthious birds did not at times feed in the primeval forests. Twenty years ago Mr. Watters, of Peel Forest, South Canterbury, presented me with some well-preserved bones of a small species of Moa which he had found near the base of a very old totara tree when felling it in Peel Forest. They were submitted to the late Professor Parker of the Otago University for identification, but the deceased professor was unable to state definitely to what species they belonged. In addition to those he gave me, Mr. Watters possessed a small boxful, and probably now possesses them, of similar bones which he had collected in the forest ten years before I saw them. Bones of similar size and structure were also discovered about the same time by bushmen when tree-felling in the Waimate bush on the Studholme Estate, South Canterbury. Four years ago Moa bones were discovered in two caves located in the Native bush, near the source of the Motu River flowing into the Bay of Plenty. When visiting the Makapua Native Reserve on August 20th, 1905, near the junction of the Makapua with the Rangitikei River, nine miles from Mangaweka, Mr. Totman, who resides near the junction of the two rivers, showed me some small Moa bones which he had collected when felling and burning the Native bush on his farm a few years before my visit. Mr. Totman also possesses a tahere kereru, or pigeon-spear, and other Maori tools, which he found on his property when felling the bush. The district was, in pre-pakeha times, a famous Native bird reserve and one of the last haunts of the beautiful and Maori time-honoured, but, alas, fast vanishing huia. Recently, Mr. R. Davis of New Plymouth showed some well-preserved bones of a small species of Moa which he had discovered when plant collecting in the bush last year on the Marokopa River, south of Kawhia. Although there are probably many more unrecorded instances of the occurrence of Moa bones in forests overlooked in the past, and others to be recorded in the future, it seems to me highly probable that those smaller species whose bones occur in forests were regular denizens thereof, though, apparently, they were fewer in number than several of the larger contemporaneous species then inhabiting the open country. These five records of the occurrence of Moa bones in the primeval forests of both islands, in addition to those recorded by Mr. J. Rutland from Pelorus Sounds in J.P.S., Vol. II., and referred to by Mr. Percy Smith in the J.P.S. (“Taranaki Coast,” Chapter I.), should tend to prove that the remains of these extinct birds occurring in forests are not of such rare occurrence as they are generally supposed to be.

W. W. Smith.
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[211] The Moa.

In a footnote to “Sketches of Ancient Maori Life,” page 127, new edition, Mr. J. A. Wilson says:—“The ancient inhabitants hunted the Moa until it became extinct. The last bird was killed with a taiaha by a man at Tarawera. The habits of the Moa are described as solitary, living in pairs in secluded valleys in the depths of the forest, near a running stream. It fed on shoots, roots, and ferns, and was particularly fond of nikau and tree-ferns. It was supposed to feed at night, for it was never seen to eat in the daytime, hence the proverb “Moa kai hau,” as it always seemed to have its head in the air eating wind. The Moa had a plume of feathers on its head. In the depths of the Motu forest there is a mountain called Moa-nui, where, no doubt, the Moa was killed by the people of Roto-nui-a-wai, for their descendants knew fifty years ago that their forefathers had slain the Moa.” I remember a Urewera chief telling me (G.H.D.) the story of Te Takanga-a-Apa, how a man named Apa saw a Moa standing on one leg, like a goose does, so he said, and thinking it was asleep, crept quietly up with his taiaha, meaning to disable it by a blow on the leg it was standing on, when the wide-awake Moa let out first with the leg that was tucked up and with a kick sent him over a cliff, breaking his leg, hence Te Takanga-a-Apa.

G. H. Davies.

[212] Ancient Inhabitants of New Guinea.

In Colonel Kenneth Mackay's “Across Papua,” 1909, page 113, we find the following:—The Yodda River rises in the main range north-east of Port Moresby, and falls into the southern coast of Huon Gulf, close to the English-German boundary. Colonel Mackay says, “Though they have not in the Yodda unearthed all the gold one wishes them, they (the gold-diggers) have brought to light evidence of the existence of an earlier and more developed race, for twelve feet down in the wash, stone bowls, round, shallow, and with a simple but clearly defined pattern cut on the rim, have been discovered. In other parts the stone heads of Cassowaries have been found, used by the present Natives as charms to protect their gardens from harm, but about which these people really know nothing. In these also the workmanship evidences a higher skill than is displayed by the Papuans, while in digging into some mounds in the midst of a village in Collingwood Bay, broken pottery was unearthed, redder in colour, harder in texture, and bearing a design totally superior to any made by the Natives to-day. All this points to finds of a deep historic value, being not only possible but inevitable in this most interesting yet little known island.”


[213] The Poe, a Name for the Tui.

In the “Narrative of the U.S. Exploring Expedition,” by Charles Wilkes, describing their stay at the Bay of Islands in 1840, the author says, “Among the birds are the native nightingale and the tui, also known under the sobriquet of the parson-bird. The latter is a great favourite with the Natives. I saw it only in a cage and its note did not strike me as pleasing: but several of our gentlemen saw and heard it in the woods. They describe its note as rather louder than that of the bird called by the Samoans poe, and it is at times said to utter a cry like the sound of a trumpet.”

Elsdon Best.

The word poe is not, however, to be found in the Samoan Dictionary.

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[214] The Pump Drill: Was it known to the Maori?

We are all conversant with the form of stone-pointed drill used by the neolithic Maori for drilling holes in stone, the straight spindle weighted with two stones lashed to it, and two cords fastened by one end to the upper part of the spindle or shaft. This is the “cord drill” of ethnographical writers; see Shortland's “Southern Districts of New Zealand,” p. 110, for illustration and description thereof.

A southern form described by Mr. Wohlers (Transactions New Zealand Institute, Vol. XIV., p. 519) has a small fly-wheel.

Mr. John White describes a form of this cord drill provided with a wooden cap of some sort. This is, so far as I know, not elsewhere described as a New Zealand form.

Mr. Chapman speaks of the “bird-cage drill” as having been introduced into Taranaki by a European. I am not acquainted with this form of drill, at least, under that name; but a member of the Tuhoe tribe, on being asked to make a Native stone-drill, made a “pump-drill.” This has no stone weights attached to it, but is provided with a fly-wheel. Instead, however, of the instrument being worked by means of pulling, alternately, on two loose-end cords, a kurupae is worked up and down the shaft. This is a piece of wood pierced with a hole in the centre, through which hole the shaft passes. A cord is secured by the middle to the upper part of the shaft, or spindle, and the ends of that cord are attached to either end of the crosspiece, or kurupae. Turning the crosspiece round the shaft causes the two cords to twine round the shaft, and the operator begins work by pressing the crosspiece downwards, thus causing the shaft to revolve. Releasing his grip causes the cords to twine round the shaft again in the opposite way, when the crosspiece is again forced down, and so on. See “Maori Art,” pp. 199 and 267.

The advantages of this “pump-drill” over the primitive “cord-drill” are so apparent that it is astonishing that its use among the Maoris was not universal, if it was a Maori form.

I am very doubtful on this point, and think it probable that this “pump-drill” was introduced by early voyagers. It does not seem to have been noted by early writers on New Zealand.

Can any of our members give any information on this point? It is well to correct errors ere it be too late.

The “pump-drill” was used for generating fire among the Tchukchis of Siberia and the Iroquois Indians of America, but does not seem to have been known to the Polynesians in pre-European times.

Elsdon Best.

The Samoans used a form of “pump-drill” for boring holes, just as the Maoris did.—Editor.

[215] Did the Maoris permanently occupy Lake Wanaka?

In Vol. XIX., No. 3, p. 120, occurs the following sentence: “Here (at Lake Wanaka) the expedition first came in contact with the East Coast Ngai-Tahu, for at this place a few families were then living, probably engaged in fowling, for I think no Maoris ever lived there permanently.” Mr. F. F. C. Huddleston, who occupied the Makarore Valley in the 'sixties, tells me that there were then numerous signs of permanent Maori occupation. Patches had been cleared in the bush, apparently for cultivation, and there were traces of the foundations of whares. Stone tools and weapons were frequently found.

H. D. Skinner.
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[216] Possible Origin of the Lizard in Maori Carvings.

Journal Anthropological Institution, Vol. XXI., p. 29, Miss Buckland, in a note says, “In my paper on ‘Traces of Pre-Historic Intercourse between East and West,’ published in this Journal for February, 1885, I called special attention to some remarks of Mr. William Dall in his extremely interesting and instructive article upon ‘Marks, Labrets, and certain aboriginal customs,’ published in the Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology.” The point to which I particularly referred was the existence, as pointed out by Mr. Dall, of a certain group of figures so distinctive as to render it almost impossible that they could have had an independent origin in every place in which they are found. These figures represent a man holding a frog, a lizard, or a snake; but generally one of the two first named, with both hands, the tongue of the reptile being attached to that of the man as though the latter were receiving inspiration or some special endowment from his totem. Mr. Dall has traced these peculiar figures among the ancient sculptures of Central America and Mexico, among the Haidas (of the Caroline Islands, off Alaska) and the Tlinkits of to-day, and among the extraordinary painted objects, fetishes, or dancing sticks of New Ireland, which appear to have their nearest affinities in the Sharman sticks of the Haidas. These figures, which Mr. Dall supposes to be of Melanesian origin, appear very plainly in the elaborate wood carvings of New Zealand, as also in the Solomon Islands … ” and much more to the same effect.

There is an opportunity here for some one with sufficient interest in such matters to further follow out the indication given by Miss Buckland as to whether the lizard (or other Saurian) depicted in so many Maori carvings as apparently eating or biting the neck of a man is really, or not, intended to represent some belief in a communication between man and the lizard, and a former belief in totemism, remains of which custom appear still to be current in Samoa. In New Zealand the lizard depicted on the carvings is called a manaia, which is the Samoan word for one species of lizard.


[217] Possible Origin of the “Lizard” in Maori Carvings.

In Vol. XXXI., 1901 (of Man, p. 68) of the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, Prof. A. C. Haddon, M.A., ScD., F.R.S., has a note “On the Origin of the Maori Scroll Designs.” He says, “It looks as if Mr. Edge-Partington's efforts to get at the origin of the Maori scroll design are likely to be crowned with success. In the last number of the Journal of the Anthropological Institute (Vol. XXX., Plate E), he figures two old Maori carvings with the manaia design. He speaks of this as a ‘mythical monster;’ but the manaias which he figures appear to me as if they might very well be degraded and conventionalised representations of birds. If this should prove to be the case, we have not far to seek for the origin of the bird, for the sacred bird of the West Pacific, that which possesses måna (spiritual or magical power) in an eminent degree, is the frigate bird (Fregetta aquila). Assuming this identification to be correct, we have a further argument in favour of a Melanesian element in the population of New Zealand.”

W. H. Skinner.