Volume 41 1932 > Volume 41, No. 162 > The material culture of the Moa-hunters in Murihiku, by David Teviotdale, p 81-120
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SINCE the earliest discovery of the bones of the moa in the midden-heaps of ancient camp and village sites, students, both scientific and amateur, have puzzled over the question: “Who were these hunters who exterminated the great wingless birds?” That they were the first inhabitants of New Zealand is unquestionable. There was too little natural food in New Zealand for the first settlers to neglect such a source of supply as the moa. Those who have dug on moa-hunter sites are unanimous that the bird was exterminated a long time ago. The fact that a moa (or moas) has been eaten in a camp therefore marks the site as an ancient one. Do these ancient sites show evidence of a culture different from the Maori culture with which we are familiar? Or is the culture closely similar to that of the Maori, and to be regarded as the culture of the Maori ancestors? Has there ever been in New Zealand a race different from the Maori?

I have no scientific training, but having spent a considerable time excavating on various moa-hunter camps a short statement of my discoveries and a comparison with the discoveries of others engaged in the same work in earlier years may be of interest in this connection.

The artifacts found on these village sites are almost invariably made of bone or stone. Of the wooden implements and weapons, which, no doubt, formed by far the greater part of the hunters' outfit, hardly a single piece is left. I, personally, have found none that was of undoubted moa-hunter date. Owing to the operation of the same factor of decay, textiles and basketry are also wholly lacking.

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Another handicap is presented by the great amount of digging that has been done in the past by energetic collectors who thought of nothing but amassing collections of curios, and therefore kept no record of the position or nature of the deposit in which the articles were found. Such collections have little archaeological value, and the indiscriminate digging that produced them has completely ruined more than one important site. When I first started collecting I thought only of securing curios, but fortunately before much damage had been done I was given sound advice as to the proper way of carrying out the work. Since then my work has been done with two objects in view; first, securing information, secondly, curios. The results will be shown in this paper.

I shall deal only with the country from Banks Peninsula to Foveaux Straits. The Maori name of Southland was Murihiku, but for convenience I shall use it for this larger tract of country.

The sites I have worked over are Waitaki River Mouth, Shag River, Kai Kai Beach, Harrington Point, Onepoto, Little Papanui, Sandfly Bay, Anderson's Bay, Greenhills near the Bluff, and Wakapatu near Orepuke. These sites may be divided into two groups: those which are hunting-sites pure and simple, as for example Waitaki Mouth, and those which appear to have been settlement-sites from the beginning, e.g., Shag River Mouth.

Before discussing these sites and the culture of the men who used them it is desirable to give resumès of the literature relating to classification of the moa and of the literature relating to Maori traditions about the moa. I shall also touch on the date of the extinction of the moa and the method employed by the hunters in killing them. The final part of the paper will be devoted to the material culture of the moa-hunters as shown by my own excavations.


The first discovery of moa-bones in Otago was made on the south side of Karitane peninsula in 1846 by Dr. McKellar; Mr. Percy Earl further explored the find. In 1847, Mr. W. B. D. Mantell excavated the site and secured over 500 bones of moas. Quite recently a local digger - 83 secured some hundreds of bones, but, his interest waning, they were buried in the Karitane rubbish dump.

At various times in swamps at Hamiltons, Enfield, and Kapua, the bones of innumerable moas have been found. At Hamiltons, Booth states, 1 that from a space “forty feet from point to point and eighteen feet across the centre, ” not less than four hundred skeletons were taken.

At Enfield, in 1891, a similar deposit was examined by Mr. H. O. Forbes and from eight hundred to nine hundred moa skeletons were taken out. These were identified by Captain Hutton as chiefly D. robustus, elephantopus, and casuarinus.

In 1929-30 another deposit was excavated at Enfield and a large number of bones were secured by the Auckland Museum and the Otago University Museum.

At Kapua from a space measuring twenty feet wide by thirty feet long, the bones of some eight hundred moas were taken. In this case D. casuarinus was the most numerous.

Many skeletons have been found in caves. One, found in a cave at Earnscleugh, is remarkable in having skin and tendons still around the neck and some of the leg-bones. Skeletons in good preservation have been found at other places, notably Tiger Hill, where a skeleton with skin and flesh adhering and the skeletons of four moa chicks sheltering under it was obtained. Near Queenstown a skeleton of a small species of moa in a remarkable state of preservation was found in 1878.

From fissures in limestone at Castle Rock, many skeletons have been taken. In the limestone districts of South Canterbury the same thing occurs. Near the Pareora River, Mr. Evans showed me the bones of some twenty moas his sons had taken from a fissure in the rock on his farm. With them were bones of Aptornis and Cnemiornis.

Moa-skeletons have also been found on Stewart Island, showing that this island must have been connected with the mainland in bygone ages. Two skeletons, discovered there by F. W. Murdoch, were identified by Dr. W. B. - 84 Benham as Euryapteryx ponderosus, one of the most common species in the South Island.

In the Otago University Museum is a skeleton of Dinornis robustus found at Riverton and presented to the museum by the late Mr. A. Hamilton. There is also a skeleton of a small moa which has been identified by Dr. Benham as Emeus (Meionornis) Huttoni. It was found at Wakapatu by Mr. A. King of Orepuke and the writer. This skeleton is almost complete (one or two toes are missing), for we were fortunate enough to find it in sand and only partially uncovered by the wind. With the bones was a quantity of eggshell, showing the bird was a female. Wakapatu beach is a dreary expanse of windblown sand which is steadily advancing inland, destroying the bush as it advances. Near the tide-level are numerous signs of human occupation, and these signs appear here and there further inland. Mr. King has been an ardent collector of Maori curios for many years and has a large and varied collection, but bone artifacts are not as plentiful as in our Otago collections. In my short visit I was struck with the scarcity of bone of any kind among the middens. As the surrounding country has all been very heavily covered with bush, the absence of bird-bone is puzzling. We found the moa skeleton some distance inland from the camp, about the line where the bush would begin in the years before the sand commenced drifting. Several other skeletons showed at varying distances along the same line, but all were scattered by the wind and weather. From this evidence it seemed probable that the birds frequented the seashore and the outskirts of the bush. While walking along the beach between Riverton Rocks and Colac, I noticed moa-bones in about the same position, but there is little sign of moa-bone in any middens I have excavated at either Greenhills or Wakapatu. Alfred Reynolds records that moa-skeletons were frequently found in the bush near the beaches on Otago Peninsula. Sir Frederick Chapman also states that at Colac 2 “what I noticed here and in many other localities, including the sandy district near Otago Heads, satisfied me that a small moa was a regular denizen of the sea beaches, and that a large one, if not similarly - 85 disposed, often frequented similar country. The small one must have been plentiful at one time upon narrow pieces of country which could not be reached or quitted without passing through miles of bush.”

As may be seen above, my experience is similar to Sir Frederick's, and the bones found about almost every sandy estuary place the matter beyond doubt.

In the storeroom of the Invercargill Museum, a large quantity of moa-bones lies awaiting examination and identification by an expert. These bones were obtained from a cave at Limehills in the Winton district.

Mr. W. R. B. Oliver, in his recent book New Zealand Birds, states that twenty-two distinct species of moa once existed in New Zealand. Of these six species were peculiar to the North Island, four were common to both islands, and twelve species were peculiar to the South Island.

In his classification of species, Oliver differs from Von Haast and other writers, including Rothschild, who recorded thirty-eight species of moa. He claims that Dinornis robustus and D. ingens are different names for the one species.

The sixteen species of the South Island have all been found in Murihiku, distributed as follows:—

Dinornis maximus Enfield, Riverton, Kapua.
Dinornis ingens syn robustus Rakaia, Kapua, Enfield, Hamilton, Shag Valley, Waikouaiti, Highly Hill, Castle Rock, Tiger Hill.
Dinornis novae zealandiae Enfield, Hamilton, Kapua.
Megalapteryx didinus Lake Wakatipu, Kapua.
Megalapteryx hectori Queenstown, Kapua.
Anomalopteryx parvus Waiau, Hamilton.
Anomalopteryx antiquus Timaru.
Anomalopetryx didiformis Rakaia, Kapua, Shag River, Castle Rock.
Emeus crassus Sumner, Rakaia, Kapua, Shag River, Waikouaiti, Hamiltons, Dunedin.
Emeus casuarinus Sumner, Rakaia, Kapua, Enfield, Shag River, Hamiltons, Waikouaiti, Dunedin.
Emeus huttoni Kapua, Enfield, Hamilton.
Euryapteryx elephantopus Rakaia, Kapua, Enfield, Awamoa, Shag River, Waitaki, Hamiltons, Waikouaiti.
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Euryapteryx immanus Enfield, Kapua.
Euryapteryx ponderosus Kapua, Enfield, Shag River, Hamiltons, Riverton, Stewart Island.
Euryapteryx gravipes Kapua, Enfield, Kakanui River, Shag River, Hamilton.
Euryapteryx pygmaeus Oamaru.

Following Oliver's classification, on the assumption that as the latest it is the most reliable, the remains found around moa-hunter camps seem to show that six species of moa were in existence when man appeared to hasten the end of the hapless birds. These species were as follows:—

Dinornis ingens syn robustus.
Emeus crassus.
Emeus casuarinus.
Anomalopteryx didiformis.
Euryapteryx elephantopus.
Euryapteryx gravis.
Of these species the most interesting is ingens, which is by far the largest of them all, attaining a height of ten feet. It is much less common than the others. The problem of whether it was exterminated by man or had died out before his arrival in New Zealand is one of much difficulty.

The first moa-hunters' camp to be excavated in Murihiku was at Awamoa, a few miles south of Oamaru. It was discovered by Mantell in 1852. He recorded the first specimens of Euryapteryx elephantopus. Emeus crassus was also found in the debris. He noted the absence of manufactured objects.

About twenty years later, Von Haast explored the site at the mouth of the Rakaia River and noted the following species:—

Dinornis ingens (three specimens).
Emeus casuarinus.
Emeus crassus.
Anomalopteryx didiformis.
Euryapteryx elephantopus.
- 87 In 1872, Von Haast excavated the Moabone Point Cave at Sumner and recorded the following species:—
Dinornis ingens.
Emeus crassus.
Emeus casuarinus.
Anomalopteryx didiformis.
Euryapteryx gravis.
He also explored some large middens in the sandhills near the cave and found the remains of four species:—
Euryapteryx gravis.
Emeus crassus.
Emeus casuarinus.
Anomalopteryx didiformis.
Later, from the Shag River site he records six species:—
Dinornis ingens.
Emeus crassus.
Emeus casuarinus.
Euryapteryx gravis.
Euryapteryx elephantopus.
Anomalopteryx didiformis.

In 1874, B. S. Booth, acting under instructions from Captain Hutton, explored the Shag River site and four species were recorded:—

Emeus crassus.
Emeus casuarinus.
Euryapteryx elephantopus
Euryapteryx gravis.

My experience supports Booth. So far I have not found any evidence that Dinornis ingens was eaten, and it is worth noting that Von Haast found only a few bones of one bird at the Shag River site, and Booth, after a search of four months, did not find any remains of this species. The evidence that the bird was eaten there is thus far from conclusive. Even if Von Haast was right in his diagnosis of the bones as belonging to ingens, they may belong to a bird that died there long before man occupied the site. There has been a fair-sized kaika (kainga) at Sandfly Bay on Otago Peninsula. Recently I visited the site in company with Mr. R. Kay, who found two pelvic bones of a small species of moa, lying in the clean sand under a shallow deposit of oven refuse. One - 88 pelvis had the femur and tibia lying in position and the other pelvis had the femur in its place. If these birds had been cut up and eaten on the spot the leg-bones would certainly have been detached from the pelvis instead of lying in their natural position. The bones were so soft and chalky that they broke into fragments when lifted. I take these skeletons to represent moas which had died on the spot before man occupied it. This shows how careful we must be in excavating before we can admit that any species of moa whose bones are found was actually hunted. This conclusion can only be reached when bones are found in the middens.

Mr. R. Gilkison records finding the skeleton of a moa of the largest size in an oven near Luggate. This oven had been used for only the one bird.

At Puketoi Creek on the Maniototo plain, Messrs. Murison, in 1865, discovered a moa-hunter's camp, and, like Mantell at Awamoa, commented on the large quantity of moa egg-shell in the debris.

Another moa-hunter's camp was examined by Dr. Hector in 1862, at a place called Moa Flat, from the quantity of moa-bones found there. Forty miles further into the interior of the country, Captain Fraser reported the discovery of a place where fresh implements had been manufactured. The presence of moa-bones showed this to be also a camping-place for the hunters. Captain Fraser also found a moa-hunter's camp on the top of the Carrick Mountain, some five thousand feet above the sea.

Alfred Reynolds comments on the quantity of moa egg-shell in some of the middens at Warrington, and also tells of a moa-hunter's camp at Ross Creek, near Mount. Stoker, but gives no further information about it.

In the early 'nineties the Shag River site was again explored by Mr. A. Hamilton, who, on several occasions, was accompanied by Sir Frederick Chapman, but I have found no record of the species of moa found by them.


Maori traditions regarding the earliest inhabitants of New Zealand are contradictory. It is generally stated that the first discoverers of New Zealand were two Polynesian voyagers, Kupe and Ngahue, who arrived here - 89 about A.D. 900. They explored a large portion of the coast-line of both islands, finding no inhabitants, but discovering greenstone in the Arahura River on the west coast of the South Island. Ngahue also killed a moa. They returned to Hawaiki and reported their discovery and gave sailing directions how to reach this country.

According to a single tradition, written down by T. K. Whatahoro and accepted by the late Elsdon Best and the late Percy Smith, the next visitors to New Zealand were a dark race of low culture. To this group Mr. Best had given the name Maruiwi, and though Mr. Percy Smith strongly protested against this usage, it has now won fairly general acceptance. As these people are claimed by Elsdon Best and Percy Smith to be the first settlers in New Zealand and to be the actual ancestors of the Moriori of the Chatham Islands and the Katimamoe (Ngati-Mamoe), originally of Hawkes Bay and later of Murihiku, it is essential that they should be closely studied by students of the moa-hunters. First as to their bodily characteristics. One authority, quoting Whatahoro material, says, “They were a very dark-skinned folk of repulsive appearance, having flat noses with upturned nostrils. They had flat faces and overhanging eyebrows. They were a big-boned people and they had curious eyes like those of a lizard. An idle folk and a chilly, who felt the cold much and slept anyhow; they were of a treacherous disposition. They did not preserve their traditions as we do. On account of their peculiarities our ancestors called them in contempt Kiriwhakapapa and Pakiwhara.” 3

The Maruiwi are stated to have been attacked and slaughtered by the ancestors of the Maori till the survivors fled to D'Urville Island, where they were again attacked. The last that was seen of them was six canoes, which were observed passing through Cook Strait on their way to Chatham Island.

This account of the first inhabitants of New Zealand is attacked uncompromisingly by Mr. H. D. Skinner, who says, “A comparison of physical characteristics shows that the mythical Maruiwi are the direct antithesis of the Moriori. Maruiwi were tall and thin, while their alleged - 90 descendants are short and bulky. The Maruiwi nose was said to be flat even to non-existence, while the Moriori are distinguished by unusual prominence in that organ. Maruiwi skin colour was like that of ripe tutu berries, while that of the Moriori is the normal Polynesian brown. Maruiwi hair was straight while that of the Moriori was often waved and sometimes frizzy. Maruiwi physical characteristics are not our sole check in this matter for Ngatimamoe are stated to be of Maruiwi stock. Half the natives of Otago and Southland are of Ngatimamoe descent but they adhere more closely to the normal Polynesian type than perhaps any other tribe in New Zealand.” 4

Having thus shown the account of the bodily features of the Maruiwi to be unacceptable, it remains to examine their culture. These people are supposed to have arrived here in three canoes from a much larger and warmer country lying to the north-west of New Zealand. Drifting before a storm, they reached the North Taranaki coast. They increased rapidly after their arrival and spreading over a large portion of the North Island are stated to have been undisturbed for over two hundred years. The account of their low culture does not fit in with their being able to build canoes fit for a long voyage and their being said to have lived in fortified villages or pa. They are stated to have spoken a kindred dialect to the Maori, who, apparently had little difficulty in conversing with them. In Elsdon Best's book “The Maori, ” 5 he suggests two places the Maruiwi may have come from, the New Hebrides or Fiji.

These Whatahoro traditions stand alone. What do all the rest of the historical traditions of the South Island say? In the first place they say nothing about racial characteristics or bodily features and nothing about culture. It is, I think, reasonable to suppose that this means that the Maoris who recounted the traditions were unaware of any racial or cultural differences. In the second place the traditions come from scores of different sources and consequently are of all values from nil to one hundred per cent. There is a fairly strong suspicion that most of them - 91 approach the lower rather than the higher of these two standards. Just to illustrate the difficulties that arise in attempting to reconstruct history from these traditions, it may be mentioned that two accounts of the arrival of the Waitaha tribe differ by five hundred years in the date they gave it.

Although the Waitaha are usually said to have been the first inhabitants of Murihiku, there are some vague traditions of tribes known as the Rapuwai and Hawea, who seem to have been absorbed by the Waitaha. White considered these to be names of different hapus of the Waitaha people. In any case to these early inhabitants, under the name of Waitaha, South Island tradition attributes the extermination of the moa. They are also credited with the rock-paintings so common in the cave shelters of Canterbury and North Otago. One of these shows three large birds, another evidently depicts a moa-hunt and a third seems to be an unfinished figure of a moa.

That these early hunters had communication with the North Island is shown by the presence of obsidian in all moa-hunter middens. Probably their homes were in the northern parts of the South Island and the hunters made yearly excursions, similar to the later mutton-birding trips, to secure their supplies of moa meat. Bishop Selwyn, who visited Murihiku in 1844, states that only three of the Canterbury rivers, Rakaia, Wanganui, and Waitaki, have open mouths. It is worth noting that two of these rivers, Rakaia and Waitaki, have large moa-hunter camps near their mouths where there is facility for sea-borne traffic. I have been unable to get any information about the Wanganui River, which, probably, is the Wakanui River near Ashburton.

Judge McKay states that the Waitaha sent a large present of potted birds and other delicacies to the Katimamoe of North Island 6 who relished the food so much that they decided to seize the country for themselves, which proved a comparatively easy task as the Waitaha were all unused to warfare.

It is possible that a portion of these delicacies consisted of moa meat, and the story points to a rude system of - 92 trading or barter, for Maori custom expected one present to be acknowledged by another, which in this case would probably be in the form of cloaks, kumara, and obsidian. This last substance is not found native in the South Island and kumara did not grow freely south of Banks Peninsula. It was grown, but with difficulty, at Temuka, as the pits from which gravel for the fields was drawn are still to be seen there. These pits, which are probably of a much later date than the moa-hunters, are now being filled in in making improvements to the Temuka domain.

The Katimamoe invasion took place about A.D. 1577 7 and in the fighting that ensued some of the Waitaha-Rapuwai fled to the Chatham Islands. The rest were absorbed by the Katimamoe, and some few genealogies of Southland Maori families ran back to the Waitaha. Katimamoe probably supplies more than half the blood of the Murihiku Maoris.

About A.D. 1650, the South Island was invaded by the Kaitahu (Ngai-Tahu) tribe, who, after years of desultory fighting had driven the Waitaha-Katimamoe southward and established themselves in the ascendancy, and intermarriage was fast blending the three into one tribe when the Europeans arrived. All three of these tribes, Waitaha, Katimamoe, and Kaitahu claim descent from the Takitumu canoe. In other words, they claim to be Polynesians from Tahiti, and all the evidence supports them except Whatahoro's tradition.


There is nothing to be found on the sites of moa-hunter camps to show how the bird was captured and killed, but the fact that the skulls are nearly always intact shows that they were not clubbed to death, Booth, after excavating on the Shag River site, came to the conclusion that the birds were driven in from the surrounding country in small flocks of six or seven birds.

Apart from this we have to rely on the scanty and contradictory traditions that have survived. With these traditions I will not attempt to deal, but I cannot agree - 93 with those writers who would have us believe that the moa was a species of feathered tiger. The heavy skeletons show that the bird was not an active one, and its whole existence had unfitted it either for attack or defence. For ages it roamed the land unmolested and unafraid, no enemy to fly from and no prey to pursue. The arrival of man changed the situation, and the birds were exterminated before they could adjust themselves to the altered conditions. There could have been little danger in the chase as the moa's only method of defence is said to have been in kicking fiercely at its attackers, and an active man skilled in the use of the spear would have had little difficulty in despatching the bird.

It was not only the killing that would thin their numbers. Mantell, Murison, Reynolds, and others comment on the quantity of moa egg-shell in the middens, showing the eggs were a favourite article of diet. This feature was not common at the Shag River site but egg-shell can be found very frequently at the Waitaki mouth, though not in the quantities noted by Mantell and Murison.

When man arrived in New Zealand, he would find the country heavily covered with vegetation. There were no grazing animals to keep it in check. Also there is evidence that many districts, now treeless, were covered by light bush. These thickets would give shelter to the moas in the winter storms, and the dense coating of fern and tussock would keep the ground soft enough for the birds to be able to scratch up the fernroot when all else was withered. With the coming of man all this would be changed. Fires would sweep miles of country bare of vegetable and animal life. The moas would be decimated, and the few survivors would be exposed to all the rigours of winter. Cold and starvation would take a heavy toll, and as the birds were probably slow breeders they had no chance of recovering. So the tale went on till a solitary individual here and there would be hunted and killed by man and the moa disappeared for ever. The number of places named in tradition as the spot where the last moa was killed supports this view.

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The time of the final disappearance of the moa is a much disputed point. Many writers place it in the memory of living Maoris when colonization of New Zealand took place, while others bring forward evidence showing it occurred centuries ago. The evidence for and against either of these views has been fully and fairly stated by Mr. Lindsay Buick in his recent book The Mystery of the Moa. Anyone wishing to study this question cannot do better than read his book.

There can be little doubt that the Waitaki and Shag River camps are very old, and that the time when moa meat was a common article of diet is long distant. My own opinion is that the bird was totally extinct many generations ago.

No information can be gained as to the age of the bones in the middens. Experiments carried out at the King Edward Technical College, Dunedin on pieces of moa-bone from the lowest strata at Little Papanui, show that even at this date moa-bone can be obtained quite strong enough for all the uses the ancient Maori put it to. These experiments are fully described by Mr. R. H. Steele in the Journal of Polynesian Society, vol. 39, page 181.

The earliest notice of the moa in Murihiku is probably to be found in the diary of the first missionary at Waikouaiti, the Rev. James Watkin. He arrived there in 1840, and under date 27th September, 1841, writes: “The New Zealanders have many fables, one of an immense serpent of the water species, and of immense birds which were formerly said to exist, and the bones of which are said to be often met with, but the oldest man never saw one of these gigantic birds, neither his father nor grandfather. Perhaps his grandfather of four generations did. These birds used to destroy men, such is the fable.”

This is rather vague but “the grandfather of four generations” from the oldest man would mean six generations or about one hundred and fifty years. Add seventy years as the age of the oldest man and we have 220 years from 1841, or 1620 as Mr. Watkin's estimate of when the extinction of the moa took place.

This record of Mr. Watkin was written five years before the discovery, by Dr. McKellar, of moa-bones at - 95 Karitane. Mr. Watkin left Waikouaiti in 1844, or two years before Dr. McKellar's find, and his diary must have remained unnoticed until edited and published in the Dunedin Evening Star by the Rev. Rugby Pratt a few months ago. 8

Mr. Herries Beatty was informed by the Maori that the moa was plentiful in Waitaha times, but was scarce and became extinct shortly after the coming of the Katimamoe, while the Kaitahu never saw the moa in Murihiku. As the Katimamoe are stated to have invaded the South Island about A.D. 1577, it is evident that Mr. Watkin made a very shrewd guess as to when the last moa was seen. One would like to know what he based his deductions on.


When Von Haast explored the Rakaia site in the late 'sixties, he held strongly to the view that the moa-hunter had no polished tools and was much inferior to the Maori in culture. Further work at Moabone Point cave, and reports from many other sites, caused him to modify these early views. Several skulls from an ancient burying-ground near the moa-hunters' cave he thought might be those of moa-hunters. He sent them to an expert in Germany; after some delay the skulls were identified as Polynesian. Finally Von Haast abandoned his earlier theories completely.

At the time Von Haast visited the Rakaia site, the ground had been ploughed, and any surface evidence must have been thus destroyed. At the Waitaki mouth a considerable portion of the camp is still unploughed. The shallow depressions marking the hut-sites are still to be seen. Some of these are circular, but most are oblong. Large mounds composed of oven stones, ashes, and moa-bones are there, the largest mound being sixteen yards long, six yards wide, and from two to three feet deep. Earth-ovens of the familiar Polynesian pattern and many of large size are close to these mounds. From the largest mound, out of a pit six feet long by four feet wide, I took eight pelvic - 96 bones of three different sizes and a large number of other bones of moas. The tibiae were invariably broken, but femur and tarsus were usually unbroken. On a hut-site I found over forty pieces of moa tibiae cached in a hollow in the floor, evidently to be taken away to the permanent villages and worked up into fish-hooks, etc., in the owner's leisure moments. A small scraper of greenstone was close by. On an adjacent hut-site I found three pairs of moa fibulae inserted sharp end downwards in the ground in a slanting position. Each pair was about twelve inches apart from the other and all were buried about half their length in the ground. I am quite unable to suggest a reason for this arrangement in the ground. There is almost a total absence of finished objects made of bone. There is also an almost complete absence of the usual midden-heaps with their shells, seal-bones, blackfish-bones and the bones of every kind of local bird. On this site Mr. H. S. McCully of Timaru, an ardent collector, made a very large collection of stone tools which is now in the Otago University Museum. It includes a number of well-finished adzes, but the greater part of it consists of quartzite flakes, many of large size. These, no doubt, were used in cutting up and preparing the moa flesh for the ovens or for preservation in poha as was done with the muttonbirds. Mr. McCully has explored other moa-hunter camps on the upper reaches of the Waitaki River, and suggests that the prepared flesh and very often the bodies of the birds were brought down the river on mogis (mokihis, rafts of flax sticks and raupo) to the depot where the sea-going canoes were waiting for their cargo. No doubt many of the slaughtered birds were brought in this way, but I believe the great majority were driven in from the surrounding country near the camping-place.

The Waitaki site is estimated by Mr. McCully to cover at least 150 acres. It is a bleak, windswept spot, and though some protection was doubtless given by scrub in ancient times, it can never have been an attractive place for settlement. A large portion has been ploughed, and the winds have swept the surface-soil away leaving the bare shingle. It was from this portion of the site that Mr. McCully obtained the greater part of his collection. When he first saw the camp, the ploughed ground was - 97 strewn with thousands of bones, but, from the action of the weather in the few years that have since elapsed, little is left. When we note the lack of manufactured bone and the scarcity of polished stone implements, it is easy to understand why Von Haast thought at first that the moa-hunters had nothing but rude rough tools. All the earlier writers looked on the Rakaia site as being a permanent village where the moa was driven in and eaten as required. But when it is noted that both these sites afforded facilities for sea-traffic and that the moa flesh was probably potted as the muttonbirds now are, it will be realized that these spots were probably not permanent villages but hunting camps occupied for a brief period each year. If this were the case nothing would be taken there that was not absolutely necessary. A few tools to do the necessary repairs to the canoes would be all that was required, and the quartzite flakes would be carried in from the countryside. These flakes are of all shapes and sizes and are very numerous. Many show signs of being deliberately worked into various kinds of cutting and scraping-tools. The few adzes that have been found there are all typically Polynesian. Greenstone has also been found in sufficient quantity to show that the moa-hunter was well acquainted with it.

I spent four days camped on this site in company with Mr. McCully and Mr. Hornsey, also of Timaru, and I owe them grateful thanks for a pleasant time and a great deal of information. The theories of the seaborne traffic and the preserving of the moa flesh are suggestions of Mr. McCully. Anyone wishing to see the site of a moa-hunter's camp cannot do better than visit the Waitaki mouth.

The moa-hunters' camp I am most familiar with is the Shag River site. While living in Palmerston, I spent a great deal of time excavating this camp-site, and about three acres of ground were turned over. This camp is very small compared with the Rakaia and Waitaki sites, which cover fifty acres and one hundred and fifty acres respectively, but is extremely interesting in bearing every evidence of being a permanent settlement.

On the Waitaki site little was noted but moa-bones and the rough flake knives used in cutting up the birds. At the Shag River site there was all manner of debris - 98 from the food used by the Maori—bones of dogs, seals, fish and birds, shells, etc., with articles of moa-bone and stone lying under and among the moa-bones. Von Haast stated that there was a distinct difference between the moa-hunter beds and what he described as the shellfish-eater beds. Hutton could see no difference and no evidence of two areas of habitation. This latter is also my opinion.

Greenstone is not very plentiful, but sufficient was found to show that the inhabitants were acquainted with it. I found a small polished flake under moa-bones, and Mr. A. Hamilton, in company with Sir Frederick Chapman, found a polished greenstone implement under a thick bed of moa-bones. Sir Frederick also found three large well-made adzes of thoroughly Polynesian types lying in such a position under moa-bones that they could have been used only by the earliest inhabitants, in other words, the moa-hunters.

All who have examined this site are agreed that it is a very old one. One artifact that was fairly common here, in comparison with other sites, was the stone shank of a composite fish hook. This shank, which is an adaptation of the Polynesian bonito hook with pearl-shell lure, is found all over New Zealand, and is recognized as belonging to a very old form of hook not used for many generations. Of these I found eight on this site, one of which had the bone point lying in position beside it. I also found two examples in moa-bone. One-piece hooks and fragments of broken ones, bone points of composite hooks of various kinds (particularly the plain curved point commonly known as the barracouta-hook point), and many fragments of bone hooks in various stages of manufacture, with drill-points and all the other stone tools for working bone, were in abundance. I obtained over four hundred hard drill-points made of chalcedony, chert, quartzite, and a few of quartz. Many of these drills are very roughly made, but experiments show that bone can be drilled with any of them. One hundred and sixty adzes and one hundred and seventy-six broken and unfinished adzes of all kinds of stone were obtained. Not one of these adzes in any way differs from the usual Polynesian types. As my work on this site has been fully dealt with elsewhere, I will not enlarge on it here.

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The next camp-site where I have found undoubted evidence of the moa being captured is Onepoto on Otago Peninsula. This beach is better known as Pipikaretu, or, as it is locally called, Pippygarret. Here the moa-remains are not numerous, but I have obtained several pelvic bones from the lowest layers of the debris. This beach is famed for the number and quality of the bone needles found on it. I have found these in the lowest stratum and found no evidence of difference in culture between the earliest inhabitants and the latest people. From the evidence of the artifacts one and the same people have occupied the site from first to last. Here also I found in the lowest stratum a moa-bone fish hook-shank similar to the two from the Shag River site. Also in the same stratum I found a number of large pieces of moa eggshell crushed together in a space that could be covered by the hand. About one third of the total egg was here.

The next site is also situated on Otago Peninsula near Cape Saunders and is called Little Papanui. Moa-bone is very plentiful here, especially in the lower stratum where it is found in larger pieces than is usual in the upper layers. As these pieces are all broken from leg-bones, they cannot be taken as evidence of the moa being eaten here. Recently in the lowest stratum (a six-inch layer of fish-bones and scales, bird-bones and ashes) I found the pelvisbones of a moa of a small species. This is the only time I have found moa-bones unfit for manufacture on this site, and it shows that at least one moa was eaten here. Within a few feet from these bones, and in the same stratum, I obtained three well preserved one-piece hooks of the usual Polynesian type and two bird spear-points. On this site the large quartzite flakes are also more numerous in the bottom layer than in the top layer. This is a feature of the Waitaki and Shag River sites also.

The finding of moa leg-bones on a village-site cannot be taken as proof of the inhabitants being moa-hunters, for until the European fish-hooks came into use, the Maoris eagerly sought and used moa-bone for all manner of purposes, and stout bones, like leg-bones, might be carried to the villages from points many miles distant. The only decisive proof of the moa being killed in the vicinity of the site is the presence in the middens of pelvic bones, - 100 vertebrae, ribs, etc.—bones which could not be used in manufacture and therefore would not be carried any distance. But, admitting the almost total absence of these bones, there is still every reason to assume that Little Papanui was inhabited by moa-hunters, for the items from the lower levels are identical with those from undoubted moa-hunters' camps such as the Shag River.

The site is a sheltered, sunny, picturesque spot, an ideal place for a Maori camp. Wood and water are plentiful, and to expert canoe men, like the ancient Maori, the shelving sandy beach would present no difficulty. It is quite possible that the hunters would kill the moas inland and would preserve the flesh and carry it to this camp for consumption in the winter months. The useful bones would also be brought along to give occupation in winter when all other work was at a standstill. The finding of tabs of moa-bone cached in a hut-site at Waitaki shows that the bone was prepared for this purpose and it is not impossible that some of Little Papanui fragments came from there. More probably the greater part came from a moa-hunter's camp at the mouth of the Kaikorai stream, distant only a few hours' canoeing.

At Little Papanui greenstone is found in the lowest layer, but is more plentiful near the surface. From the bottom layer I obtained six bone-shanks of composite hooks of the type mentioned above. Recently, Mr. S. V. Johnson, of Dunedin, found two similar shanks, also in the bottom layer.

The area of this camp is small, not more than four acres, but the amount of material obtained has been very large. I have been excavating here for several years and have obtained a large number of curios. These are all in the Otago University Museum, and augmented by several collections obtained by purchase or by the generosity of the collectors and a large amount of material obtained by working parties of the Archaeological branch of the Otago Institute would make an imposing show if all laid out together. There are nearly four thousand items in the total, but many of these, of course, are rough tools and flakes and fragments of bone, but there is not a scrap of anything that is not related to Polynesian culture.

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As mentioned above, there is a small camp at Sandfly Bay, also on Otago Peninsula, but the wind has swept most of the midden-heaps away, leaving only the lowest layer. Although so far I have not found decisive proof of the moa being captured there, there is sufficient reason to think the earliest inhabitants were moa-hunters. Moa-bone has been freely used for all purposes and is found in all stages of manufacture, the objects bearing a great resemblance to items from the Shag River site. Here also everything is undoubtedly Polynesian in culture.

At the extreme end of the south-western branch of Anderson Bay, there is evidence of a small camp. Recently I was permitted by the owners to do some excavating there and found undoubted evidence that moas had been eaten on this spot. Unfortunately the greater part of the site has been covered with spoil from the quarry, but a fair number of interesting relics were found. Broken adzes, drill points, quartzite flakes, and a bone shank of a composite hook similar to the shanks mentioned above.

In the Otago University Museum is a small collection of burnt and charred moa-bones uncovered during improvements to the sea-front at St. Clair, showing that a moa-hunter's camp had been there also.

Von Haast records a moa-hunter's camp at the mouth of the Kaikorai stream. This is the most southern of any recorded moa-hunter's camp, but I do not doubt that there were many others all along the coast line. Recently the Otago University Museum obtained a small collection from this site. It also contained nothing but artifacts of Polynesian culture. Mr. J. L. Christie, of Green Island, who very fully examined this site, informed me that worked bone or manufactured articles of bone were very rare. This corresponds with observations on other moa-hunting camps.

In a small cave near the mouth of the Taieri River, I obtained evidence of moa-hunters being encamped there. A bird spear-point of human bone was found in the lowest level along with moa egg-shell and fragments of bone.

I paid two short visits to Greenhills near the Bluff and to Wakapatu and obtained fair finds of artifacts including the complete skeleton of a moa already mentioned. I found no undoubted evidence, however, of the moa being - 102 used for food, and whilst there is some variation between the artifacts from this area and those from Dunedin beaches, the material is still Polynesian.


In the Otago University Museum there are many thousands of pieces—perhaps ten thousand—from sites on which the moa has been hunted. Many of these must be much later in date than moa-hunter times. On the other hand many of them must be of moa-hunter date. The only proof that can be offered that any artifact belongs to the moa-hunter period is the finding of the artifact actually associated with moa-bones which are useless for manufacturing purposes. Thus if an artifact is found bedded in or beneath beds containing ribs, vertabrae, or pelvis, we conclude that the object belongs to the moa-hunter period. Many artifacts which fell to the ground in moa-hunter camps did not become bedded in this way and so cannot be used as evidence to decide whether the culture was Polynesian or not. Fortunately a sufficient number of objects did become bedded in association with non-utilisable moa-bones to make a decision on the point clear and convincing.

Before discussing the objects illustrated in this paper, there are some general features of the camp-sites which should be noted. In the first place the normal Polynesian earth-oven is universal. In the second place the dog is found in all deposits. Finally, it is worth mentioning that obsidian and nephrite are both present, though in small amounts in the lowest deposits, increasing in amount as more recent times are approached. These observations are my own, but they have the full support of all excavators from Augustus Hamilton and Sir Frederick Chapman down to this year's party from the Otago Institute. Fishingline sinkers of all sizes are also found in all layers.

The drawings of the moa which have been preserved in rock-shelters, though of the greatest interest, do not indicate to what culture the hunters belonged. Figure 1 is from the Elworthy run near Timaru. The painting is on a rock face on a tributary creek of the Pareora River. This face would give no shelter to a camping-party, but a short distance away is a small cave. This cave, on walls - 103 and roof, has many drawings of human figures posturing or dancing. The dog and lizard are also shown. These figures are also found in a cleft of the rocks fully thirty feet from the ground. The figures shown are from a photograph taken by Mr. H. S. McCully. The birds are about three feet in height. Figure 2 apparently represents a party of four hunters capturing a moa of small size. This painting is from Blacklers Cave, Hazelburn, near Pleasant Point. Figure 3 seems to represent two of the short legged moas, one feeding, the other ruminating.

Of all objects of Polynesian material culture the adzes are undoubtedly the most characteristic. The difference between a group of Melanesian adzes and a group of adzes from Polynesia can be recognised at a glance. The adzes found in moa-hunter strata can be nothing else than Polynesian. Figures 4, 5 and 7 are adzes found below beds of moa-bones by Chapman and Hamilton in the excavations at Shag River. Figures 4 and 7 are of the characteristic type, rectangular in cross-section. Figure 5 is the narrow-bitted type, triangular in cross-section, which Haast figured (Transactions New Zealand Institute, 7, 1874, Plate 4, 2a, b, c) and described as a moa-hunter implement. Sir Frederick Chapman was informed that this type was used only by the Waitaha tribe. The type is common at the Chatham Islands and at Tahiti and Easter Island, and is found in virtually every other Polynesian group. It is not found in Melanesia, except in the Polynesian colonies there.

Figure 6 represents what is probably the commonest of Polynesian types. Another example is Figure 8. Another of the same type was found at Moabone Point cave—figured by H. D. Skinner, (Records of the Canterbury Museum, vol. 2, part 3, pp. 93-100). Figures 6 and 8 were found by myself associated with moa-bones at the Shag River. Figure 12 is a greenstone adze of the same type as figures 4 and 7. Figure 13 is another variety of the same type but made of basalt.

Figure 9 is a greenstone adze unusually thin. Figures 10 and 11 are greenstone gouges. Figures 9, 10 and 12 were found cached together under midden refuse containing moa-bones. Figure 11 was found alongside a midden which contained a great amount of broken and partly worked moa-bone. All these adzes are in my Shag River collection.

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FIG. 1.
Painting on rock-face of tributary of the Pareora River, near Timaru.
FIG. 3.
Painting, ? representing two moa, one feeding, the other ruminating.
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FIG. 2.
Painting from Blacklers Cave, near Pleasant Point.
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FIGS. 4, 5.
Adzes from Shag River.
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FIGS. 6, 7.
Adzes from Shag River.
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FIGS. 8-11.
Adzes and gouges from Shag River.
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FIGS. 12, 13.
Adzes from Shag River.
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FIG. 14, FIGS. 15, 16, FIG. 17,
Harpoon points from Shag River., Slate scraper from Shag River., Bird-spear point from Shag River.
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FIGS. 18, 19, FIGS. 20-22,
Needles and cases., All from Shag River. Polishers., All from Shag River.
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FIGS. 23-28.
Large bone hooks; 28 from Long Beach, the rest from Shag River.
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FIGS. 29-32.
Hooks; 31 from Shag River, the rest from Little Papanui.
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FIGS. 33, 34.
Stone shanks from Shag River.
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FIGS. 35, 36.
Bone shanks from Little Papanui.
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FIGS. 37-42.
Bone points for fish-hooks; 42 from Little Papanui, the rest from Shag River.
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The adzes and gouges here figured (figures 4-13) are one and all of Polynesian types clearly established in Tahiti and the other groups of Marginal Polynesia and not found in Fiji or the New Hebrides or any part of Melanesia proper.

Figure 14, also found at the Shag River, is a broken slate scraper of a kind not uncommon at the Shag River mouth and Waitaki. Use unknown.

Figure 15 is a harpoon-point found at the Shag River mouth by Mr. McCully.

Figure 16, found at the Shag River by myself, is also a harpoon-point.

The type of harpoon-point represented by these two figures is found also at the Chathams. (H. D. Skinner, Bishop Museum Memoirs, vol. 9, no. 5, plate 52f.) It is also found at the Marquesas (Von den Steinen Die Marquesaner and Ihure Kunst, 3, a P, figs. 3, 4, 5).

Figure 17, bird-spear point of human bone, found in cave near the mouth of the Taieri River. (Teviotdale, Journal of the Polynesian Society, no. 158, June, 1931.)

Figure 18, two small needles and case.

Figure 19, unfinished needle and case.

Figure 20, D27, 1328. Schist polisher.

Figure 21, D27, 1192. Schist polisher.

Figure 22, D Mudstone polisher. All from the Shag River.

Figures 23-28 are large bone hooks; 25 shows the method of manufacture; 27 is from the lowest layer at Little Papanui; 28 is from Long Beach; the rest are from the Shag River mouth.

Figures 29, 30 and 32 are from the lowest strata at Little Papanui; 30 and 32 were in a midden which contained the pelvic bone of a small moa; 31 is from the Shag River mouth and is of a type common at the Chatham Islands.

Figure 33 is a stone shank and bone point found together in a midden at Shag River mouth. Figure 34 is a beautifully made stone shank of a similar kind. As I have fully described these hooks in a former paper (Jour. of the Poly. Soc., vol. 38, no. 4, December, 1929), I need not enlarge on them here beyond pointing out that the form most closely related appears to be one found by - 118 excavation at Fanning Island and now in the Bishop Museum, but not yet published.

Figure 35 is a shank of a composite hook made of moa-bone; it was found in the lowest strata at Little Papanui associated with no. 29. Figure 36 is a similar but much larger shank found in the same strata at Little Papanui by Mr. S. V. Johnson of Dunedin. Figures 37-41 are bone points thought to have been used on these shanks. D27, 1067 and D27, 1069 are from the Shag River mouth. The others are from Little Papanui.

Figure 42 was found on the clay at Little Papanui under about two feet of refuse; it is very similar to the bone-point of figure 33 but differs in the butt being bevelled to fit into a slot in the shank. It may have been used on a wooden shank.

Looking at these hooks as a whole it can be said that they are as clearly Polynesian as the adzes. The fish-hook is wholly absent from those cultures which are typically Melanesian. For instance, there is no fish-hook in any island of the New Hebrides and none in Fiji except where Tongans have settled in the latter group. The large one-piece hooks, figures 23 to 28 seem to stand nearest to the large one-piece bone hooks of Hawaii (Beasley, Fish-hooks, plate 77, etc.). The smaller one-piece hooks with re-curved point, figures 29, 30 and 32 are to be paralleled from most groups in Polynesia, including the Society Islands, Easter Island, and the Hawaiian group. The small one-piece hook, figure 31, occurs widely, e.g., Chatham Islands, Marquesas, and Hawaii. The composite hooks, figures 33-36 have been shown in an earlier paper by the present writer to be thoroughly and distinctively Polynesian.

In conclusion I would draw attention to the following statements in Maori tradition.

That the South Island has been inhabitated for about one thousand years. 9

The earliest tribes were known as Waitaha also as Rapuwai. They were conquered by the Katimamoe, who, according to Percy Smith, were descended from the earliest inhabitants of the North Island.

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The Chatham Islanders are also said to be descendants of these early people.

Some stories point to the Rapuwai being descendants of Toi, the first Polynesian emigrant to this country.

Other stories state that the Waitaha came to Murihiku with Tamatea about A.D. 1350. It is possible that this is correct and that they quickly established their ascendancy over the “uncouth Rapuwai” and in the amalgamation of the tribes the traditions became mixed.

In spite of the contradictory stories the greater part of tradition agrees on the Polynesian origin of the earliest inhabitants and when to this is added the overwhelming evidence of the tools and ornaments from the ancient village sites and the total absence of anything of Melanesian origin, there can be no doubt at all that the inhabitants of Murihiku have always been racially and culturally Polynesian.

My thanks are due to a number of people and institutions for help in the preparation of this paper—to the Council of the University of Otago for permission to figure the pieces from their Museum, to Mr. S. V. Johnson for his pieces, to Dr. W. B. Benham, F.R.S., for advice re the classification of the moas, to Mr. H. D. Skinner for great assistance in compiling the paper, to Mr. H. S. McCully and Mr. A. Hornsey for information and assistance in examining the Waitaki camp, to Mr. J. B. Chapman, the owner, for permission to do so, and to Mr. A. King of Orepuke, who guided me to Wakapatu. It must not be inferred that these gentlemen agree with the opinions expressed by me on this controversial subject. These are my own opinions, arrived at after about fifteen years' of exploration on the camp-sites, and I hope they will be of interest to other inquirers.

While the above was in the printer's hands, I, in company with Mr. Hornsey, explored part of the coastline from The Nuggets to Fortrose. At False Island I found moa-bones embedded in the clay, and at Tokanui the bones of a small species of moa in a similar position. This supports Sir Frederick Chapman's theory of two species of moa inhabiting the shores of sandy estuaries.

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At Cannibal Bay, Tokanui, and at Tautuku Point, we found fragments of moa-bone in the middens but no undoubted evidence of the moa being used for food.

At the mouth of the river at Papatowai, Mr. J. Wilson guided us to an extensive series of middens where he and Mr. R. Findlater had found moa-bones, unsuitable for manufacturing purposes. These middens are covered by a thicket of scrub and have large totara trees growing among them. The roots made excavating a hard and tedious job, and Mr. Hornsey and I were not successful. However, Mr. Findlater gave me a selection of moa vertabra and toe-joints found in the middens, a sure evidence of the moa being used for food. My thanks are due to Mr. Findlater for his kindness and also to Mr. J. Wilson who acted as our guide to many places of interest in the district, and did everything in his power to make our visit a success.

1   Transactions of New Zealand Institute, vol. 7, p. 124, 1874.
2   Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, vol. 17, p. 177, 1884.
3   Transactions of New Zealand Institute, vol. 47, p. 4, 1915.
4   Morioris of the Chatham Islands, H. D. Skinner, p. 18.
5   The Maori, Elsdon Best, vol. 1, pp. 42 and 46.
6   Native Affairs of the South Island, vol. 1, p. 40.
7   South Island Maoris, Stack, p. 14
8   Published in the Evening Star, beginning 13th June, 1931. This important journal which finally disposes of the claim that Maoris living in 1841 had seen the moa was not available when Mr. Lindsay Buick published his book.
9  Herries Beattie.