Aspects of New Zealand
In the beginning Papa and Rangi, the earth and the sky, mother and father of the gods, lay close together with their children huddled between them in the darkness. To hide her nakedness, Rangi covered Papa with plants and trees; shellfish were placed in the sea, reptiles, animals, and birds in the vegetation. All things led a miserable existence in this cramped world, so the gods plotted to drive their father away. After many stratagems had failed, Tane, the god of trees and birds, succeeded in breaking his parents' embrace and pushing the sky away from the earth. The sun, the dew, and the rising mist are the tears of those first parents, who lament their separation even to the present day.
All the gods stayed with their mother except Tawhiri, the god of winds, who went with his father and sent down great storms to the grounds, Tangaroa, the fish-god, fled to the sea; the deities of the plants crept back to their mother's arms. Only Tu, the god of uncreated man, remained erect in that primeval storm. In his anger with his cowardly brothers he turned against their flocks, ever since he has netted the fish, speared the birds, eaten the fern-root and the sweet potato, chopped down trees for houses or canoes. Beneath the earth there lay the underworld of po, darkness, above were the ten skies in which the gods set the sun, the moon and the stars to give light. When the universe was arranged according to their wishes, they decided to create mankind. Out of red soil they shaped the first woman, the Earth-formed maid. Tane gave her life by breathing in her nostrils. He mated with her and the Dawn-maid was born. Tane then took his daughter for a wife and she bore him another daughter. The Dawn-maid asked Tane "Who is my father?" When, from his evasive reply, she guessed that their relations had been incestuous, she fled to the Underworld, where she took the name of the Great-lady-of-darkness, and remained to gather in the souls of her descendants.
Eventually the Maori Adam was born. in those far days men were like gods and the gods like men. One of the first men, the hero Maui, thought that Ra, the sun, moved too hot, so Maui and his brothers snared him when he emerged from his nightly lair. Then, while Ra was held fast, Maui beat him with the jawbone of his grandmother, Murirangawhenua, until, bruised and aching, he had to crawl across the sky ever more. One day Maui went out fishing with his brothers. Though they had little food or water, he induced them to sail far to the south, into unknown waters, until he decided to try his luck. He then hit himself on the nose and smeared blood on the jaw-bone of his grandmother. With this charmed bait, with that prodigious hook, after a long struggle he fished the North Island of new Zealand, Te Ika a Maui - the Fish of Maui - up from the deep seas.
At last Maui met his match when he tried to secure immortality for mankind by killing the goddess of death.
His fish lay forgotten in the mists and storms of the Great ocean of Kiwa, hidden from all men.
According to a Maori tradition widely spread among the tribes, New Zealand was discovered by Kupe, who cut up Maui's fish into our present islands. 'His feat was to divide the land. He saw only two beings, Crow and Fantail. Kupe did not settle. He returned across the sea. He left his mark here, but he himself returned. ...' So relates one version of the legend recorded over a century ago. When he reached Hawaiki, the ancestral home of the Maoris, he allegedly gave directions for reaching Tiritiri o te Moana, the Gift of the Sea, an ancient name for new Zealand. Because of quarrels or hunger, or by accident, others went to the new land. The names of many of these early settlers, like Turi and Toi, are still remembered.
Most of the Maori tribes trace their descent from ancestors who came in great ocean-going canoes, Tainui, Te Arawa, Aotea, Takitimu, Tokomaru and many others. One or two traditions suggest that some of these canoes sailed at about the same time - in the so-called 'Fleet'. They arrived about two dozen generations ago, judging from some genealogies, which led some early European students of Maori lore, as interested in the precise facts as in the marvel of their feat, to date their arrival in A.D. 1350. Some evidence has suggested that the Hawaiki of legend was in the Society Islands (Tahiti); some points to the Marquesas Islands. It was certainly in Eastern Polynesia, but exactly where, if thee was indeed only one point of origin, is unknown. In the even more distant past the Polynesians had come in their sailing canoes across the Pacific, island by island, from the East Indies. Some common vocabulary in the Maori and Malay languages remains to remind us of this prehistoric relationship. The Maori word for death, mate, is mati in Malay; ika (fish) is ikan, rua (two) is dua; rima (five) is lima.
*Earlier still, they probably came from south China. It may be, too, that some ancestors of the Polynesians had sailed from south America on rafts, like the Kon tiki, bringing the sweet potato and other plants.
Most of New Zealand's human history is shrouded in preliterate time. When does legend become fact, tradition change into history? When do the gods and culture heroes become men? The archaeologist's trowel reaches further into the past than genealogical memory, if less far than myth. Excavation and radio-carbon dating have in recent years revealed that by the eleventh or twelfth century A.D. People of East Polynesian origin were living on sites scattered along the thousand-mile length of the country. It is evident from this fact that the original settlement must have occurred long before, certainly by the eighth century. Thus New Zealand has a pre-history of at least a thousand years before the arrival of Europeans and written records, and possibly longer.
It was once thought, because of a Maori tradition, that the aboriginal inhabitants, the tangata whenua or 'men of the land', as the Maoris called their precursors, were darker than the Maori and probably Melanesian. This was not impossible, for Melanesians reached Fiji, but no Melanesian remains have been found in new Zealand. From the design of their stone adzes, fish-hooks and personal ornaments, we know that the first inhabitants to leave any traces (or any as yet discovered) came from East Polynesia. These early New Zealand Polynesians are generally called moa-hunters because of the association in their graves, and on their village or camp sites, of their characteristic implements and the bones and eggs of the moa. Moa was the Polynesian word for the domestic fowl, but these early inhabitants of New Zealand, having, it seems, brought no moa with them, applied the word to the wingless birds which ranged to flocks on the grasslands of both islands. The moa was in new Zealand the equivalent of such grazing animals as the American buffalo, the Australian kangaroo, or the European and Asian sheep, goats and cattle.
the moa-hunters killed enormous numbers of one genus of moa, the Euryapteryx gravis, a squat and massive bird about the height of a man. In some places they also ate the Dinornis, a moa ten feet high. The moa must have been an easy prey and a wonderful food supply for the fortunate men who found them. They had many other uses. Dead chieftains were buried with large reel necklaces inside from sections of moa thighbones, and water bottles made of perforated eggs, as well as stone implements to take on their journey to the spirit land.
'Moa-hunter' is a useful name to distinguish the inhabitants in the archaic phase of New Zealand Polynesian culture from the 'Maori' whom the Europeans met. But in a sense it is misleading, for the moa-hunters outlived their prey. Indeed they helped exterminate it. By the time the Europeans came the Maoris had forgotten or almost forgotten the existence of the moa - almost no references to it can be found in Maori legend. The moa-hunters were a stone-age, fishing and hunting people. An astonishing number of pits of all shapes and sizes have been discovered on a few sites which they occupied. Though some of these may have been sunken dwellings, it seems that most were storage pits for kumara (sweet potato) or possibly for taro. There is also evidence of 'made' soils, fertilized with wood ash and other substances and loosened by adding gravel, on very ancient sites. In other words, agriculture was practised at an early date.
Their villages were unfortified and placed in the open and, although they were hunters, they seem to have possessed no weapons of war, unless they were made of perishable wood. So they do not appear to have been a fighting folk. They manufactured many types of stone adzes, including the beautiful ranged quadrangular, all of East Polynesian origin. Their chevroned amulets and bone necklaces have a strange, remote beauty. In many caves one can still see paintings or etchings which may be their work. Of their culture not much more may be said. Their religion, their genealogies, like most of their customs, are lost in the silences of prehistoric time. But no doubt more evidence of their life will be dug up, while more may be imagined. Anyone who has stood in an archaeologist's trench on a hot summer day and recovered from the shells and stone flakes of a midden a broken fish lure of fossilized wood, or from the fatty burns soil of an oven a bone fish-hook, still embedded in a fish skull where the fisherman carelessly threw it away, knows that life on a New Zealand beach has not altogether changed.
'Classical' Maori culture, as it was seen by Europeans in the eighteenth century, though still Polynesian, was strikingly different from that of the early inhabitants. The varied and useful moa-hunter 'adze kit', for instance, had been discarded in favour of a standardized quadrangular adze with no grip and polished on all surfaces; necklaces had given way to earrings and pendants, notably the greenstone hei-tiki. There had been marked changes in the design of fish-hooks and many other artifacts. Some of these new forms have Polynesian parallels, while others seem to be New Zealand innovations. Warfare had become endemic. There was clubs, mere and patu. The landscape was dominated, especially in the north, by the palisaded, terraced hilltop fortress, the pa. The reasons for these changes, which could have been the result either of local cultural evolution or of alien intrusion, presumably by further Polynesians immigrants, or of both circumstances, are unknown. Archaeologists generally incline to the former view, that moa-hunter culture merged into Maori. But no intermediary phase has been found. Nor is it yet clear in which locality Maori culture evolved. In some places the two cultures co-existed for a time. A radio-carbon dating suggests that in the seventeenth century people using 'moa-hunter' or 'archaic' artifacts lived on an island a few miles away from a great Maori pa on the site of modern Auckland. All that is certain is that moa-hunter culture existed earlier than Maori.
Some scholars still seek to reconcile archaeological evidence with Maori tradition. In their view Maori culture came with the supposed 'Fleet' in the fourteenth century and superseded that of the earlier people. This is an opinion which faces great problems, notably that no one can say where so recent an immigration could have come from, for many elements in Maori culture have no known Polynesian parallels. Certainly i8ts principal material items do not seem to have been assembled elsewhere in a single place. Recently the traditionalists have come under heavy fire. The assumption that new Zealand was settled intentionally presupposes that a Polynesian explorer could have discovered the country, returned home, and instructed his people on the geography of the south Pacific. But this is extremely difficult to believe. The Polynesian seaman could not fix his position if he were blown off course, nor accurately determine his drift in a current or wind. Well-authenticated Polynesian voyages, out of sight of land, of two or three hundred miles are impressive enough, but it seems impossible that the Polynesians could accurately have navigated distances of one or two thousand miles. If they eve knew how to do so, it is hard to explain why they had forgotten the art by the time the European navigators arrived, and knew so little of the geography of the Pacific.
Andrew Sharp who, in Ancient voyagers in Polynesia (1961), advanced the arguments outlined here, believed that the Pacific islands, including new Zealand, were peopled as a result of the unintentional travels of Polynesians who, setting off on short voyages, were blown off course, or lost their way, so that they could not return to their native island. There was a variant form of this one-way voyaging. It is believed that Polynesians sometimes, voluntarily or otherwise, went into exile; sailed off with their families and foodplants and animals in search of the new islands which, their past experience assured them, must still be ahead. If so, though their destinations were accidental, their settlements wee intentional. The traditional view of New Zealand's origins is not entirely altered by this theory. Instead of successive waves of voluntary immigrants we must imagine the occasional arrival of castaways, flotsam and jetsam on the greatest ocean on the globe. The first settlers must have been very few, for no substantial number of people are likely to have been washed up on shores over a thousand miles from the nearest land. Unless the settlers were 'exiles', and probably even then, there can have been few females, for women did not generally put to sea on fishing trips or expeditions of war. Sharp believes that some settlers may have come from the Cook Islands where, some traditions aver, the 'Fleet' put in on its way from Tahiti. Maori traditions may perpetuate the names of some of the canoes and their occupants, though there can have been no 'Fleet'. But the romantic reader may still find consolation in the thought that, after all, it is still not utterly impossible that some Polynesians seafarer, accidentally discovering new Zealand, might have found his way home to tell his tale.
The views of traditionalists are being further undermined by the work of linguists who are studying genuine Maori traditions as recorded a century or more ago. Much that now passes as tradition turns out to be a product of European scholarship of seventy years ago - interpretations, reconciliations of conflicting traditions achieved by omitting the marvellous elements in favour of the barely plausible. In particular there seems to be no traditional warrant for the assertion that Kupe discovered New Zealand in A.D. 925 and that toi arrived in about 1150. Nor do early traditions speak clearly of a 'Fleet'. It is doubtful whether any Maori knew the 'tradition' about the discovery and settlement which is taught to most new Zealand school children until a European wrote it. if we content ourselves with the Maori traditions as thy were first recorded, we find a mixture of unsifted fact and fable which contributes little to firm knowledge. Kupe lives on, but whether man or demigod, discoverer or post0settlement explorer, no one can say.
At present it seems likely that more than one group of Polynesians settled in new Zealand. Their landings may have been early in its human history, or separated by centuries. The unique Maori culture may have resulted from the amalgamation and evolution, over a millennium, of elements from different parts of Eastern Polynesia. But speculation must be cautious in view of the rapid growth of prehistorical studies. Once the moa became extinct the moa-hunters and Maoris must have had a hard time in many parts of Aotearoa, 'the land of the long white cloud', as they came to call their home. It had a good soil, but in comparison with tropical Polynesia little food was to be had for the picking. There were berries. Fern-root, the rhizome of bracken, which could be dried and stored, and its starch made into cakes, became a staple food. Forest birds, shell-fish and fish were exceedingly varied and plentiful. They were the chief source of protein. There were no native land mammals except for a bat. The Maoris ate the dog and the rat, which they had brought with them. In addition, as Sir Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa), the most famous Polynesian scholar, dryly remarked, 'Human flesh was eaten when procurable.'
The Maoris thrived and multiplied partly because they introduced certain food plants to new Zealand, especially the kumara (the sweet potato), the taro, and the yam. They grew their crops beyond the 44 degrees south latitude in Canterbury, nearer to the South Pole than any other people in pre-Columbian times. For several months of the year their life was organized round the planting, weeding and storing of their crops. It was their custom to shift their cultivations from time to time, so the burning and clearing of new ground must have been a laborious and lengthy task. The Maoris knew nothing of working metals, which were, in any case, scarce in New Zealand. They had no artificial source of power, no working animals, no means of transportation except canoes or walking. Yet, with bone and stone implements, and man-power, they evolved an impressive culture, in many respects the most highly developed in Polynesia.
The reader must look in museums, in The Coming of the Maori, by Sir P3ter Buck, or in other books by new Zealand scholars, to learn of the techniques by which the Maoris plaited and wove flax into baskets, cloaks, and skirts, of how they made adzes and axes of stone, fish-hooks and needles of bone; of their musical instruments and their ornaments, their methods of constructing their great wooden meeting-houses and their canoes. Most of these things were less efficient or harder to make than similar articles brought by the Europeans, and have almost ceased to be produced, but in one respect the material culture of the a Maori was not inferior to that of the Europeans. In some of their crafts the Maoris produced objects not yet surpassed in beauty of design or decoration by the works of their successors. They excelled at carving: in wood, on their war-canoes, their ornate meeting-houses, their boxes and tattooing funnels, and in stone. Perhaps their most beautiful products were the short clubs and the personal ornaments they carved from a translucent nephrite, al type of jade known locally as greenstone. To acquire it they even crossed the Southern Alps to reach the west coast of the South Island - the Maori name for which was Te Wai Pounamu, the Water of Jade.
In Maori carving a conventionalized human figure was the chief motif. Their patterns, whether for painting or rafters or tattooing on men's faces, thighs and buttocks and on women's lips and chin, were predominantly curvilinear. They were based on various forms of scroll, curvilinear. They were based on various forms of scroll, crescent and double spiral, quite unlike those in general use in Polynesia. It appears either that the Polynesians brought a rectilinear art to new Zealand, and that their curvilinear patterns survived in New Zealand after they had almost ceased to be used further north. Over the centuries the Maoris multiplied and spread out until the whole island was divided up among a number fo tribes, each tracing its origin to occupants of one of the original canoes: in the far north the Ngapuhi; to the south of present-day Auckland, the Ngatihaua, the Ngatimaniapoto and a group of tribes usually called the Waikato; in Taranaki, the Atiawa, Taranaki and Ngatiruanui; on the east coast the Ngatiporou and the Arawa confederation; and others too numerous to list. The were very few Maori inhabitants of the colder south Island, though the moa-hunters seem to have lived there in numbers.
The tribe was an extended kinship organization made up of hapu, sub-tribes and whanau, family groups larger than the European family. A Maori, belonging to each of these three groups, was a member of a community in a sense in which his individualistic European successor is not. The greater part of life was a communal experience. Most activities were shared and were performed for the sake of the community. Land, by far the most important form of property, belonged to the tribe, though the subtribe, the family and the individual had hereditary rights of usufruct.
Within such tribe the population was further divided into slaves, who wee mostly prisoners of war, tutua or commoners, and the numerous class of chiefs, rangatira. At the head of the tribe there was a paramount chief, the ariki. Chieftainship, with its prerogatives of leadership and power, was hereditary, but a weak chief would find himself superseded, in the effective exercise of authority, by a more able rival. The chiefs were not entirely despotic, for they could not ignore public opinion as expressed at tribal meetings by subordinate chiefs. Nevertheless they possessed considerable power by virtue of the mana (a word meaning something more than 'prestige') which resulted from exalted descent and past achievements. The person of the chief was to some extent tapu (sacred); high chiefs were regarded with considerable awe and even dread.
The Maoris lived in a world dangerous and hostile. To modern New Zealanders it would seem that the gods and demons were close and uncomfortable neighbours. Many of the spirits inhabiting animate and inanimate nature had considerable powers for evil. But man was not defenceless. His priests possessed knowledge of witchcraft and magic which could be turned against invisible foes. Above all he could call the spirits and his ancestors and the gods, who were often identical, to his aid. When the mischievous Maui was stealing the fire of Mahika, the fire goddess, she set the land and the seas and the forest on fire, but he was able to call on his ancestors, the gods Tawhiri and Whatiitiri, who sent down torrential rain to have him. Fortunately, before all her fires were extinguished, the gode3ss threw a few sparks into the kaikomako tree from which mankind was able to make fire by rubbing two sticks together.
It is probable that many aspects of Maori religion have been forgotten by the Maoris and were never accurately written down or even understood by Europeans. Few of the early missionaries, who made a determined onslaught upon heathenism, were concerned to record for posterity what they were so busy destroying. Existing accounts of Maori religious beliefs are full of internal contradiction, but the indications are that these beliefs were not fundamentally different from those familiar in many other parts of the world. Maori religious tradition had its Flood. As in the Mesopotamian theogony, there was the Maori legend of the separation of the earth and sky. In the former case that feat was attributed to Enlil, the god of Winds who, in the popular Maori legend, under the name of Tawhiri, departed with his father, the sky. But such parallels, though innumerable, are of little or no significance except as a prompt to idle speculation.
The Maoris had vast numbers of gods. First here were the sons of Rangi and Papa, the 'departmental' deities. Kike Tane, the god of trees and birds, Tu, the god of war; Rongo, the god of peace and agriculture; or Tangaroa, the sea-god. Then there were gods who belonged exclusively to a tribe. Others were worshipped only by individual families. In addition there were deified ancestors and semi-divine heroes of mythology like Maui. There is no convincing evidence that the Maoris recognized as supreme god. An early missionary, Richard Taylor, who studied Maori mythology, wrote flatly that 'the natives had no knowledge of a Supreme Being'. Io, who has been assigned this role, seems to have been a post-Christian accretion.
The Maoris believed in an after-life, though not one in which reward or punishment was given for conduct in this world. After death, the spirit travelled to the north of New Zealand, where it drank from a stream called the Water-of-the-Underworld and then journeyed to Cape Te Reinga, one of the most northerly points. There it climbed down the roots of an ancient pohutukawa, a tree which in the summer is covered with fine, blood-red flowers, plunged into the great Ocean of Kiwa, and departed to the spirit world which was supposed to lie in the direction of Hawaiki. The ministers of religion were the tohunga, who were usually chiefs, though they did not form a hereditary or distinct cast. The superior kind of priest received an arduous training in a whare wananga, a house of learning. He was not only supposed to possess powers of communicating with the gods and interpreting their will, but he was also the scholar, the living repository of knowledge and tribal history. The Maoris had no written language, but they wee trained from childhood to marvellous feats of memory, especially in connection with the tribal genealogies. At the other end of the scale from the aristocratic priest was the sorcerer, the mere medium, who was allegedly 'possessed' by a god. In between these extremes were several grades of tohunga who wee what we should call experts, whether in carving, tattooing, building canoes, or in other specialized skills.
The higher class of tohunga had many functions. They could recite the karakia (prayers, incantations, spells) with greater efficacy than the layman. In battle the tohunga would pluck the heart from the 'first fish', the first enemy killed, and offer it to the tribal war god - a rite which recalls the Aztec sacrifice. The tohunga conducted all sorts of rituals in connection with war, birth, sickness, burial and other important occasions. Above all the tohunga could make and unmake tapu. 'Tapu', like its anglicized form 'taboo', meant 'holy', 'prohibited', 'consecrated', or 'set apart as accursed'. It was one of the most useful of Maori concepts - and one of the widest application Every chief was to some extent tapu, in which respect tapu served the political function of sustaining tribal authority. Furthermore, this personal tapu extended, in a lesser form, to the personal property of the chiefs, to their clothes, ornaments, or weapons. To steal such property, or to break the law of tapu in other respects, made the offender liable to mysterious but dreadful punishment at the hands of the evil spirits who caused sickness. Thus tapu not only constituted the law of property but also penalized the transgressor. The Maori tribe had no police force, but tapu inspired such terror that voluntary lawbreaking must have been rare. Tapu also protected burial grounds, cultivation grounds, provided a powerful sanction for the observation of etiquette, and served a hundred other social purposes besides its association with holy places and religious rites.
In his book Old New Zealand, Judge F.E. Maning, who in his younger days had been a 'Pakeha-Maori' (that is a white man living with and more or less as the Maoris), in 1863 related how once he became tapu through accidentally touching a skull. He observed that this kind of tapu was like the 'uncleanness' of old Jewish law. His friends and servants fled and no one would come near him. He was not permitted to enter a house or to touch food. The unfortunate who became tapu was expected either to eat off the ground or to be fed by another person, lest his hands contaminate the food. After he began to fear that his excommunication would be indefinite, Maning was rescued by a famous tohunga, 'an old, grave, stolid-looking savage, with one eye, the other having been knocked out long ago in a fight before he turned person'. He came up 'grumbling a perfectly unintelligible karakia or incantation'; fed Maning some sweet potato, made him change his clothes; and proceeded to destroy all the pots, crockery and cutlery in the kitchen in which Maning was discovered. Even then, although he was purified, Maning found that for years the servants kept at a safe distance for fear that he might 'retain some tinge of the dreadful infection'.
Religion pervaded the life of the Maoris; yet they do not seem to have been what we should regard as a religious people. There is something informal about their religious practices. They had no organized priesthood and their rituals were quite simple, lacking the complicated ceremonial found in many other lands. Whereas in some parts of Polynesia, the temples were elaborate buildings, in New Zealand they were mere shrines, secluded spots marked by stones or posts. Among the Maoris the marae, a word which elsewhere in Polynesia meant temple, was the plaza which lay before the meeting-house and was the focus of village life. Most important of all, the marae was the place here men of influence made their speeches.
Debate and war were the great excitement of the Maori public; and the greater of these was war. There was no finer way of acquiring mana than by seeking it, if not yet in the front of a phalanx. The Maoris were a military people and fighting was a highly developed art. It had its rituals, its payers, its dances, its traditions, its seasons. Here can have been few people in the world who took as great delight in fighting or in stories of bloody deeds, treachery and heroism. They went to war for such a catalogue of reasons that at no time was an aggressive tribe or hapu likely to be short of a pretext. Revenge for [past defeat, for injury, even for insult, was a common motive. They fought, too, over land. As the population grew North Island tribal boundaries became clearly defined and caused as much tension as those of European states.
The Maoris gave careful attention to training he young man in the use of weapons, spears, clubs or throwing sticks - they do not seem to have used the bow and arrow. They specialized in hand-to-hand fighting. Their favourite tactics were the ambush and surprise attacks. Their chief defence was the fortified hill-top village, the pa, which was capable of offering effective resistance to weapons much more formidable than those of the Maori. The intricate combinations of buildings, terraces, trenches and scarps, the stockades of tree trunks, lashed together with creepers and crowning either a terrace or the parapet of a ditch, made the pa extremely difficult to storm. Even when the outer wall was breached, the enemy found each inner terrace or house a fortress still to be taken Many of the hills of northern New Zealand, carved with the great encircling terraces of ancient pa, remain as a memorial to forgotten enmities. It does not seem, from the observations of explorers, that the Maoris normally lived in their pa: rather they retired to them in time of danger. Most of them apparently lived in small villages or hamlets. The explorers saw large houses, twenty or so feet long, and numerous huts. The more substantial, finished structures were sometimes taken to be chiefs; houses. He thought that 'in the summer season ... many of them live dispers'd up and down in little temporary hutts'. If so, they had already invented the 'bach', 'crib' or cottage which lines the modern seashore.
In many areas, especially to the south where agriculture was difficult, many Maoris led a more or less nomadic existence in search of food. In 1775 none of the people remained whom cook had encountered in Queen Charlotte Sound three years before and none of the new inhabitants had heard of him. Settled life, the pa, and possibly warfare, were more characteristic of the warmer north. The Maoris can never have been very numerous, though no one knows their numbers before the coming of the white man or for long after. Cook, who saw only coastal regions, supposed that there wee 100,000. A fairer guess might be 200,000, though some estimates are more than twice as high again.
Maori ladies, 1947
In numbers as in other respects, the Maoris were the greatest of Polynesian peoples. Their most notable achievement was to have found a way of living and thriving in a new country in an unaccustomed climate. But their epic lacked a Homer, and though many of their deeds are sketched in chant or song, most are not to be found among the scholar's facts, however vivid they may be to the historical imagination.
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