The smooth walls of limestone outcrops in South Canterbury and North Otago
provided an ideal canvas for early Maori
Rock art - Rock paintings - Rock drawings - Cave paintings - Petroglyphs - Pictographs
An ancient pathway from the mountains to the sea.
When? Who drew them? And why? Limestone consists mainly of the skeletons of marine microorganisms and coral made of lime (calcium carbonate). Rocks with more than 50% calcium carbonate are considered to be limestone. The hardened rocks were eventually uplifted to form the area of limestone terrain we see today. Drive along Cleland Rd, Totara Valley and look across the valley and picture the downs of South Canterbury covered by a shallow sea with arms of turbulent ocean water stretching inland up the Opihi, Pareora and Waitaki river valleys and The Brothers, the Hunter Hills and Four Peaks visible as land masses. The sea retreated leaving the coastline we see today and the beautiful green hills and pleasant limestone valleys. Further back the alps were formed from sandstone and mudstone now harden into rock and the lakes Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau are the relics of an ice age. Fossils are rare but have been found in stream beds. Walking about the snowline fence on the Two Thumb Range I have found old totara logs, at level about 3,500 feet, charred by fire and at 1,800 feet, a waterfall has channelled down a stream, a layer about two feet deep of deep brown roots, both are signs that this land was covered in a huge forest and that the climate was warmer. Before the pakeha (white man) came the Maoris travelled up the Opihi River and the Waitaki valleys to the Mackenzie Country on moa hunting expeditions and looking for stone to make tools from. They probably floated the captive moa on rafts down the Waitaki River to a settlement at the mouth, to keep it fresh. The Maoris camped in these limestone shelters along the way but lived on the coast. Drawings from a limestone shelter, Elworthy property, Craigmore, Pareora clearly depict the moa. No other rock drawing has such undoubted claims to represent moas. Remember this was Schoon's work from 1947. The actual cave drawing today, sixty years later, is very faint. Lore
The limestone rock shelter's in South Canterbury are 'nature's finest art galleries' said Schoon
Maori rock art was discovered by Europeans and for many years these fading drawings, "time-filling scribbles of storm-stayed travellers", wrote ethnologist Roger Duff (1912-1978) (for many years director of Canterbury Museum) were dismissed as ‘‘doodles’’, difficult to understand, and a less interesting manifestation of Maori culture than artefacts like tools or sites such as pa. Schoon said in an interview in 1982 that the Maoris "never did such a thing as doodling for no purpose. But we cannot interpret these symbols. When the knowledge is gone ... The danger comes in when we start to interpret these drawings."
Very few people showed interest. The majority of New Zealand’s remaining prehistoric Maori rock art sites (approximately 300 sites) lie within a 70km radius of Timaru. The Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust established in December 2002 and worked on establishing a rock art centre in bay one of the historic the Landing Services Building, next to the Timaru i-SITE, near the railway station and George St. Timaru, the $2.7 million project open 10th Dec. 2010. The centre tells the story of the rock art within the history of South Canterbury as well as other practices in the area such as eeling and collecting kai. Visitors learn about taonga and resources. Information will be presented through short documentary-style films, life-size and 3D animations and holograms, research and low-impact guided tours. Much of that work was being undertaken by Wellington company Story Inc., which creates exhibitions and experiences for museums and tourist sites worldwide. The Trust's project the South Island Maori Rock Art Project or SIMRAP was established to find and record as much rock art as possible within the South Island and Dr Montelle is doing the field work. Dr Montelle will contribute to a couple of books being produced by the trust over the next few years, one of which he expects will be a photographic work accessible to non-academic readers.
ODT by Guy Williams 19 Jun 2008
For the past three years, a French anthropologist and
behavioural archaeologist, Dr Yann-Pierre Montelle, (44), has been methodically
mapping, describing and photographing the South Island's Maori rock art. He is a
specialist in human behaviour in caves, he lectures on cave art archaeology and
human evolution at the University of Canterbury, as well as spending about three
months a year researching rock and cave art in Australia and Europe. Rock art
drawings in South Canterbury range from a single faded symbol on a weather
beaten rock to murals up to 20m long, drawn under the overhangs of limestone
outcrops. Although fieldworkers had collected pieces since the late 19th
century, they were not considered beautiful enough to be prominently displayed
in museums. Maori rock art had suffered from public ignorance and a lack of
scientific inquiry. Using a GPS receiver and laser distance metre, he fixes the
location of each site, then collects distance and angle data, all of which is
transmitted to a wireless handheld computer. At the end of each trip, back in
the office, he uploads the data on to a computer to create a map that shows the
position of each drawing within a site, then plots the sites on a Google Earth
map. This is complemented by high-resolution photographs and detailed written
descriptions of each drawing. Some drawings were made using dry pigments, which
had made them especially prone to disintegration and fading. Other drawings were
made with oil binders mixed into the pigments to make them longer lasting,
suggesting a desire on the part of the image makers to pass on their stories to
their descendants. Rock art is universal. It is the first form of language that
was purposely placed to be read. If you don't protect it, it's gone.
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington - Maori rock drawings photographed by Theo Schoon in 1948 - images with record No. are online. Keyword - Schoon
Carters rockpool, Opihi River, South Canterbury record 6.
in public domain
On Ford's Hanging Rock, Opihi River record 22
Kakahu Church, South Canterbury. record 23
Hazelburn high shelter, South Canterbury. record 24 P
Carters rockpool, Opihi River, South Canterbury. record 25
View of cliffs and cave on Carter's boundary, Opihi River. record 26 The cave contains the `giant dog' composition.
Detail of a large composition, Ohipi riverbed near Raincliff Bridge, Carters rockpool, record 27
View of Black Jack's Point on the Waitaki River, S. Canterbury. record 28. This photograph was taken from a ridge above the point looking south west in the direction of Omarama. Today Black Jack's Point lies in the join of lakes Benmore and Aviemore which fill all the low lying land seen in this photograph.
Drawing by Theo Schoon that is a reconstruction of a Maori rock drawing. record 40
Record 12: Schoon, Theo, Maori rock drawings. Hart's property, Waitohi. [Copied 1947 or 1948] Watercolour Gouache on board, 518 x 649 mm. Copy in purple-blue and red on dark green background of schematised figures of people, a bird and a canoe. The original drawing was on a large boulder, at the border fence on Reece Hart's property, "Palm Hills" near Temuka. The original dated from some time between the 16th and 19th centuries.
Canon James West Stack (1835-1919).
The greatest authority on the history of the South Island
Maori. He divided their history into four periods.
The third period: The Ngati-mamoe occupation: 1577 to 1677
The fourth period: The Ngati-tahi occupation: 1677 onwards.
Stack was born in a tent in a Maori pa in the Thames district, proficient in the Maori language, made a significant contribution to the preservation of Maori place names. He was a friend of Sir Julius von Haast a founder of Canterbury Museum. Artefacts collected by Rev. Stack, now in the Canterbury Museum, are of very great value. Rock drawings were copied by the Rev. James W. Stack, in the Opihi country. These were painted in black, which differs considerably from the Weka Pass paintings, and, it appears to Haast, approaches more the designs of the Maoris.
Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New
Description of an ancient Drawing on a Rock-shelter at Parihaka, near near Gorge of the Opihi, South Canterbury. Appendix 2 1877 By the Rev. J. W. Stack.
Although I had heard for many years from the Maoris of the
existence of these drawings, which were popularly attributed to the Ngatimamoe,
I was never able to examine them till November, 1875, when I went to see them,
accompanied by my friend, Mr. C. M. Wakefield. Owing to the incompetency of our
guide, we were not taken to the spot where the best specimens exist, but to a
long shallow cave or “rock-shelter,” on the north bank of the river Opihi. The
cave is about 200 yards long, 10 feet wide, and 12 feet high, and protected from
the weather by a dense growth of shrubs. The entire surface of the rock is
covered with drawings, which, however, are unfortunately so defaced by modern
scrawls, that it is impossible to distinguish their exact forms. For since the
natives have lost their superstitious regard for these relics of antiquity, the
eeling parties who frequent the spot make a practice of scratching rude drawings
with charcoal all over them. The only perfect specimen I could find was near the
eastern end, and at a height of fourteen feet from the ground. It was about five
feet long, and had evidently been very carefully drawn. The black paint used by
the artist has stood exposure so well, that the lines, from the crumbling away
of the rock between them, are now somewhat in relief.
There is a remarkable difference between this drawing and those found at Waikari, so great that I hardly think that they can belong to the same period. The parallel lines on the Parihaka drawings bear a strong resemblance to the patterns on Maori baskets and the battens of ornamented roofs. Although I could not distinguish the shapes drawn, I saw everywhere these parallel lines and curves, but nowhere anything like the Waikari drawings, which are either only outlines or coloured throughout. This fact confirms, in my opinion, the statement made by Matiaha Tira Morehu respecting the far greater antiquity of the Waikari drawings. I showed the copy I made of the Parihaka drawing to the Rev. Koti Rato, Wesleyan Minister at Rapaki, and to Hone Paratene, late M.H.R., and other intelligent natives, who concurred in the opinion that it was the representation of a Tipua, or fabulous marine monster. My own conjecture was that it was meant to represent a seal. (Fig. 3.)
1 Rock Pictographs. Opihi River & Howell's Creek, Opihi River.
2. Rock Pictographs. Totara Creek, Opihi River.
3. Rock Pictographs. Totara Creek, Opihi River.
4. Rock Pictographs. Howell's Creek, Opihi River.
5. Rock Pictographs. Howell's Creek, Opihi River.
6. Rock Pictographs. Noah's Ark, Opihi River.
7. Rock Pictographs. Howell's Creek, & Noah's Ark, Opihi River.
8. Rock Pictographs. Right Bank of Opihi River and Section of Cave Shelter
Exposure: Did Schoon retouch some of the cave drawings with black and red crayon?
Maori rock drawings on Ford's Hanging Rock, Opihi River. Photographed by Theo Schoon in 1948. ATL
Theo Schoon took hundreds of photographs of Maori drawings and the sites in which he found them. In 1949 130 images were purchased from the artist by the Department of Internal Affairs. These are now held by the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.
While Schoon was probably one of the first persons to truly appreciate the artistic value of these drawings he was also guilty of vandalism, tracing over the existing drawings to make them clearer. (Thompson, 1989).
Schoon, Theodorus Johannes (1915- 1985), was born in Java,
Indonesia to Dutch parents. Theo attended art school in Europe and returned to
Java in 1936 and in 1939 he immigrated to New Zealand. He attended Canterbury School of Art
and became an influential artist in New Zealand. He was very interested in Maori
art. In 1945
Maori rock drawings in the Otago Museum collection first caught Schoon's
eye. Schoon was able to see these drawings as art because European modernists
opened his eyes. From the mid 1940s he studied the early Maori rock drawings in
Canterbury caves and was employed by the Department of Internal Affairs to
record the drawings from 1945 to 1948. He used the scout camp at Raincliff
as a base while he was working for the Internal Affairs Department copying the
Maori rock drawings in the vicinity of the Opihi River in 1947 -1948. This work
became his obsession and he had a habit of “touching them up" and leaving
his own mark.
He was also selective in the images he chose to copy. However it did bring attention to preservation of these artworks and had the
unfortunate side effect of popularising them. Items such as scarves, tea towels,
peanut butter jars, Weet-Bix cards were
printed with rock art images appeared in souvenir shops and the like. Before
Lake Benmore was raised
rock drawings on a cliff face were seen at the
junction of the Ahuriri and Waitaki Rivers and at Goose Neck Bend Cave. The
Canterbury Museum Collection, Christchurch has the Ahuriri Group, Hunting Men and Dogs was
copied from the from the greywacke roof of a cave near the Ahuriri River by
Schoon in May 1941. The cave has since been submerged the hydro development in
the area - Lake Benmore.
portrait. Schoon suggested that the Department could consider purchasing
future copies of his newly discovered drawings, at 3 guineas each, which would
help him to cover costs. Mr William
Vance, of Timaru was very supportive of this
Thompson, Paul, 35mm colour slides of Theo Schoon's signature drawn on wall at Craigmore in South Canterbury and exterior of Craigmore cave.
Fomison, Tony, 'Rock Art Retouching' "Theo Schoon, unpublished manuscript transcribed by Tony Martin, Palmerton north, Manawatu Art Gallery, 3 August 1987
Fomison, Tony South Canterbury rock drawings: final report on the survey
for the regional committee of the National Historic Places Trust. - 1960.
He was meticulous.
Fomison, Anthony Leslie (1939-1990) Maori rock drawings. Publisher: Harry R. Tombs (Wellington (NZ)). Published in 1962.
Fomison, Tony Early Rock Art, Frenchman's Gully, South Canterbury, Canterbury Museum, card 300
Fomison, Tony Early Rock Art, Ngapara, North Otago, Canterbury Museum, card 318
Hamilton, Augustus On Rock Pictographs in South Canterbury 1897
Irvine, J.R. New Zealand's Early Artists - Drawings Near Albury, Timaru Herald, December 22, 1936
McCulloch, Beverley & Michael Trotter The Prehistoric Rock Art of New Zealand. 1971 A. H. & A. W. Reed, Wellington. (87 pages.)
McCulloch, Bev. (1934-2006) Maori Rock Drawings: A Matter of Interpretation. In Maori Rock Drawings. Theo Schoon Interpretations. Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch City Council. 1985. Trotter was the director of the Canterbury Museum in 1985.
Preston, Rev. James (1834-1898), sketch books contains a number of pencil sketches of Maori rock drawings at Opihi.
Thompson, Paul David, 1951 Maori Rock Art-An Ink That Will Stand Forever. GP Books. (1989)
Wedde, Ian Making ends meet: essays and talks, 1992-2004
Bibliography of New Zealand Rock Art References MS Word doc
Tony Fomison with Owen Wilkes on behalf of the NZ Historic Places Trust and the Canterbury Museum began a survey of Maori rock shelter drawings in numerous sites in South Canterbury. This territory had been transversed in 1947 by Theo Schoon. The Canterbury Museum now stores a number of Fomison's chinagraph pencil tracings on plastic sheeting together with his meticulous field books and card index of 462 entries with descriptive sketches. While still attached to the Canterbury Museum, Fomison curated an exhibition in 1962 of Theo Schoon's copies of rock shelter drawings. Approximately 120 of these copies were made by Schoon in 1947 for the Department of Internal Affairs and stored at the Canterbury Museum. The Hocken Library, in Dunedin have some papers of Tony Fomison [ARC 0375] relating to his interest in Maori rock art – these include photocopies of field books from his period as assistant ethnologist at the Canterbury Museum. They contain his sketches and descriptions of rock art in Otago and Canterbury.
NZ Historic Places Trust. Search under property name - type in Rock Art. Article
New Zealand Historic Places Magazine
Number 47, May 1994 Contents:
1/ Timaru's Theatre Royal
2/ Timaru's Landing Services pre Harbour Construction
3/ Building the Timaru Harbour
4/ Timaru's Victorian and Edwardian Buildings
5/ South Canterbury's Rock Art Heritage
A. Hamilton wrote in 1897:
"We crossed over the river by direction of our new guide, and visited the large rock-shelter on the north bank of the river, known locally as “Noah's Ark.” It is about 200 yards long, and partly protected by a dense growth of the small shrub common on river-beds. As Canon Stack says, the entire surface of the rock is covered with pictographs, unfortunately much perished and defaced. Much of the damage to those within reach has been done by picnic parties, and the modern parties of Maoris when camped there eeling; but far above, out of reach, there still remain several fine specimens.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Race against clock to record art on rock By GUY WILLIAMS
In the limestone valleys of South Canterbury, a race against time is taking place to record a fading art form. In charcoal and ochre pigments of red, pink orange, yellow and brown, the drawings of Maori rock art depict human figures, moa and bird like figures, fish, taniwha, the extinct pouakai (Haast’s Eagle), canoes, mythological figures and mysterious recurring motifs. Because of the natural exfoliation of limestone, most of the drawings are in an advanced state of degradation. Unlike the cave drawings of Australia and Europe, they are exposed to the weather and will slowly continue to fade away. Working to permanently record this link with the past are Brian Allingham and Julie Brown, field workers for the South Island Maori Rock Art Project (Simrap). Simrap is a survey project run by the Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust, a non profit organisation established to protect and manage the sites on behalf of the tribe. Last Friday, I joined the pair as they studied the dozens of drawings on a huge limestone boulder in a paddock on a private property by the Tengawai River, near Albury. A Dunedin based archaeologist, Mr Allingham first studied the rock art sites here in the late 1980s, and has spent many days in this valley, which is overlooked by a dramatic limestone escarpment. He helped found Simrap, along with prehistorian Atholl Anderson, after completing a pilot study of rock drawings in North Otago in 1990. The research highlighted the need for a long term, well funded and systematic project of study of the drawings. He has been involved with the project off and on ever since, but since March has been actively carrying out field work with Ms Brown. Mr Allingham said the pair’s job was to visit rock art sites in South Canterbury and update a digital database — consisting mostly of photographs and maps — that formed the basis of protection and conservation measures and a resource for ongoing research.
They take digital photographs of every drawing and record measurements with an electronic distance meter and a GPS. Geraldine based Ms Brown, who comes from a background in fine arts, said the new technology — particularly digital cameras — meant the data collection process was more accurate and less time consuming than before. For every day in the field they spend about two days at a computer, analysing and organising the newly collected data. Mr Allingham said Simrap’s initial phase of finding and recording all known rock art sites in the South Island is largely complete. The current phase of work, which will take another one to two years, is effectively a ‘‘10 year followup’’ to monitor the condition of sites in South Canterbury. Their work will enable a comparison with earlier Simrap data that itself can be compared with the photos, sketches and descriptions by European enthusiasts dating back to the 1890s. The monitoring work will improve the trust’s understanding of the rate at which the drawings are being degraded by natural limestone erosion, weather and livestock. Found at more than 550 sites in the South Island, the drawings are most prolific in South Canterbury and North Otago. More than 95% of the sites are on private land and rarely visited. Mr Allingham said although the drawings were usually found on limestone, more were being discovered on schist and greywacke outcrops in other regions such as Central Otago. The collection of more data on these sites, which so far have received less attention than those in South Canterbury and North Otago, will be the next phase of Simrap. The tenure review process on high country land, which allowed for the protection of land with ‘‘significant inherent values’’ — including Ngai Tahu rock art — had provided the opportunity for specialists like him to study the rock art on that land and discover new sites, he said. However, discoveries come in familiar territory as well, and last month Mr Allingham and Ms Brown made one in a cave in the same valley by the Tengawai River. Mr Allingham said that for more than a decade, he had been frustrated by being unable to find a drawing of a taniwha on the cave’s roof — a drawing that had been sketched and described by earlier researchers. Ms Brown had systematically photographed sections of the cave roof, which to the naked eye showed only random fragments of faded lines and shading. Examining the images later that night, Mr Allingham said one nearly made him fall off his chair. ‘‘The whole taniwha was beautifully captured in one frame. The [camera] flash broke through the calcium veneer — the camera was seeing stuff we weren’t. ‘‘When you photograph it, it’s stunning.’’ The rock drawings might have started with the first wave of people into the South Island between 700 and 1000 years ago. Mr Allingham said no one knew why they were made or what they meant. ‘‘We can make theories, but that’s all they’ll ever be.’’ He and Ms Brown were ‘‘lucky and privileged’’ to be doing the work. ‘‘Irrespective of why it was done, this is art that has survived in the landscape. When you are standing in front of a drawing, you are in effect communicating with the person who made it. ‘‘It’s an insight into those people that you don’t get through any other means.’’
Timaru Courier Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012 Stories in
Stone by Amanda Symon, manager of the Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre in Timaru.
Rock paint recipe
The majority of the drawings in the South Island appear to have been applied as pigment in solution. One of the few pieces of traditional information that remains is a recipe for black paint recorded in the early 1900s by Waimate based ethnographer Herries Beattie from local Maori informants. First, the branches of a particular type of wood — the highly resinous manoao, or silver pine — were burnt and the soot caught on flax matting. Tarata trees would be ‘‘chipped’’ and the gum collected. The berries or seeds of the rautawhiri plant were crushed and squeezed, placed in a flax bag by a fire, and the juice or ‘‘oil’’ would slowly drip out. Finally, these ingredients were mixed with weka oil to form a mixture ‘‘not too thick, nor too thin’’, with the resulting paint referred to as ‘‘an ink that would stand forever’’. Black was not the only colour to feature in the rock art. Red colouring was made using kokowai, or iron oxide, as a base pigment providing a full spectrum of hues, from pink through to violet and brown. Paua shells containing a residue of red paint have been found in several rock shelters, together with wadded plant fibres, possibly used to apply the mixture to the shelter walls. Other colours used included yellow (from clay) and white, (from limestone). As well as being painted or drawn, rock art could be carved, scratched or incised. In the case of incised artworks the limestone ‘‘canvas’’ would often be abraded before incising. A combination of techniques and colours could be used in a single composition, with images painted and then incised, or different colours used in combination, or superimposed on top of each other. The favoured canvas was limestone, with its smooth pale surfaces and porous texture, which absorbed the paint well. Images have also been found on schist, grey wacke, marble and sandstone.
‘‘Our job is to visually record the rock art before it falls off. I feel I have to get every scrap of detail because it’s disappearing so fast.’’
The Goldie Room - Maori art on canvas
Charles Frederick Goldie (1870-1947) New Zealand Artist
While in Timaru view the Goldie
Room at the
Aigantighe, a public art museum since 1956 bringing the best in regional,
national and international art, just up Wai-iti Rd on the right.
They have five Goldie paintings, paintings of tattooed Maori chiefs and women with mokos, at Aigantighe as part of their permanent collection. Four are on display.
(1913) Last of the Cannibals, Tumai Tawhiti (Ngati Raukawa, Te Arawa) b. 1812 in the Bay of Plenty. As a warrior he was fully tattooed by the age of twenty-four. Given by the South Canterbury Arts Society in 1956. oil on canvas 27.3 x 22.3 cm. (10¾ x 8¾ in.)
(1913) Memories, the Last of her Tribe, a portrait of Pani a Ngatiawa widow. Given in 1956 from the collection of James Craigie. It is among the last of Goldie's large works and was painted as a companion piece to Tumai Tawhiti
(1938) Maori Girl Maori Girl and Ngahene were gifted by Lorna Grant.
(1938) Ngahene – The Last Match
(1903) An Untitled charcoal sketch.
All, except the charcoal sketch, are currently on display.
One left town: In 1951, at an auction at Timaru, the Dunedin Art Gallery paid 800 guineas for ‘Memories’, a portrait of an old wahine by Goldie.
Evening Post, 5 October 1910, Page 2 Sales of Pictures
The red disk indicating a sale is affixed to quite a large number of the pictures. Up to last evening the following sales had been made: —
"The Gum Trees" (water colour) , M. O. Stoddart, £8 8s;
"The Skylark" (water colour), "After Rain" (oil colour), W. F. Barrand, £5 5s ;
"Memories," a Maori portrait (oil colour), C. F. Goldie, £15 15s ;
"Sophia" (oil colour), same artist, £15 15s ;
"Gorse and Tussock" (oil colour), C. H. Howarth, £6 6s ;
"Ahinata" and "A Ngatiraukawa Joke" (both oils), C. F. Goldie, £12 12s each.
Evening Post, 27 September 1909, Page 5
Some smaller Maori heads of Mr. Goldie's, too, possess equal pictorial, and scientific value ; but others, again, are suitable rather for the gallery than for the home. For several years now Mr. Goldie has devoted his whole time to painting the Maori. He seems to be fully seized of the fact that the old, tattooed Maori is passing, and that with great rapidity. Pictorially considered, the new Maori is not so interesting. His fondness for yellow boots and the love of his women kind for store-clothes disqualify the new Maori for any studio but that of the photographer. It is impossible to estimate the money value of Mr. Goldie's work : time alone will set the price. But posterity should become grateful to the artist who has done so much to put on record in these times what may be called the Last of the Maoris. Mr. Goldie's picture in this year show, "A Centenarian", is a wonderful piece of work. The original is Apirahama, and his age is given as 104 years.
"From fine wools to fine wines, fossils to gliders, rock art to turbines – history, like the mighty Waitaki River, just keeps rolling along." M.C. Feb. 2007.
Maori rock art can be found on private property on the bluffs, caves, and shelters of the limestone downs and hills in the Albury Park, Raincliff, Hanging Rock, Upper Totara Valley, Waitohi, Cave, Gordon's Valley, and Craigmore areas. These are fading and can be difficult to decipher. Done with charcoal or red ochre from around the early missionary period. Some drawings have disappeared forever due to lichen, sheep rubbing, fading or vandalism.
Rock art is still an enigma.
Frenchman's Gully, Maungiti, South Canterbury
A copy of a
drawing from the Frenchman's Gully, Gordon Valley
limestone shelter depicting a birdman, maybe a local mythology ceremony to increase the
supply of birds and fish. The image was copied by Theo Schoon during
October, 1946. Although the age of the art cannot be determined it is
expected to be around 500 years. There are between 200 and 300 Maori rock art
sites in South Canterbury. Frenchman's Gully rock art site is
administered by NZHPT and is on a historic reserve,
right beside a public road, and a relatively easy distance from Timaru, about
25km. In 2009
work planned included upgrading the steps from the road, installing a gate to
replace the existing stile, upgrading tracks, replacing the protective mesh and
installing a timber seat. New interpretation signage is in place. To get to
Frenchman's Gully, head south out of Timaru on State Highway 1, south of Pareora
river and head inland onto the Pareora River Road, then left onto Craigmore Valley Road, then left
again onto Frenchman’s Gully Road. There is a small roadside sign by a stile.
Open daylight hours only. Visible at this site are birdmen and fish drawings. There
is also a site at Craigmore which is located in a QE II Trust area, a covenant.
A covenant attach to a land title and place conditions or restrictions on its
use. There were at least 580 similar sites around the South Island but very few
were accessible to the public. More than 95% of the art is located on
private land. Most sites are rarely visited.
"Valley of the Moa”, Craigmore
"Valley of the Moa”, Craigmore rock art site administered by NZHPT is on the Elworthy’s Station, Craigmore Downs, and is accessed via a farm road from Craigmore Hill (turn left at the top). This is on private land. Please obtain permission from the Craigmore manager (03) 612-9822. The site itself is situated up a short but steep slope requiring a moderate degree of fitness. The largest area, the eighty five hectare (210 acres) Valley of the Moa, containing the Moa and Dog Caves, was registered in 1988. Theo Schoon copied the moa image during July, 1946. These pre-historic charcoal drawings are unique. There are drawings of canoe-shaped dogs, black figures, lizards and faint moa (the only definite figure of this extinct bird). Archeologists from Canterbury Museum excavated moa eggshell, bones of extinct birds and haematite, used as a red colouring. In 1960 both of these two caves were fenced off by the Historic Places Trust. From Timaru, travel south to the Pareora River. On the south side of the river take the first turn-off to the west (the Pareora Gorge Rd) past Holme Station. Turn southwest onto the Craigmore Valley Road, public road through property on the right to the car park, and at the top of the hill you will find the rock drawings. 4W Sink holes. Craigmore Cave of the Eagle.
Raincliff - Not worth stopping. A better spot to view Maori rock art is along the Kurow-Duntroon Rd.
When in South Canterbury if you do visit the limestone shelters with rock art you will be disappointed. The images are not clear and graphic. A few rock drawings in the gully have survived the elements. The drawings are now barely visible, faded, vandalized, fenced off, some retouched, weathered, rubbed by sheep but to go but not for the drawings but to get off the usual tourist route and enjoy the beautiful countryside, the fresh air, the incredible visibility, the sheep, the bird life, the cabbage trees, the views, the blue skies, the wonderful photographic opportunities and the unique country churchyards.
You will be disappointed. In order that people fully
appreciate what they are seeing there the Raincliff Historical Reserve on Middle
Valley Rd site needs to be upgraded with informational signature of what you are
looking at. Again, this
limestone cliff overhang is right bedside the road has a figure of people
propelling a watercraft. The drawings barley visible in Nov. 2009, due to
vandalism, weathering, time and natural processes of lichen growth and flaking,
the natural ‘‘exfoliation'' of limestone and have been fenced off. Note but note the
totara tree, broadleaf trees and cabbage trees. There are at least six rock art
sites within a 5 kilometre radius of the Raincliff Bridge. The best known of the
Opihi (pronounced o pa he) Maori rock art is the Taniwha, situated on
the old Gould property near Hanging Rock. The taniwha is a mythical monster of
Maori tradition, which was described as a gigantic reptile lurking in deep
pools. There is a cluster of 48 sites in a 2sq km zone near Raincliff. Virtually
every limestone outcrop has drawings. The drive through the Totara Valley is
invigorating. Pick up Cleland Rd just south of Cave to Raincliff Rd. Take a
map. Another way - on the SH 79 between Geraldine and Fairlie, turn at
Gudex Rd, go to Middle Valley Rd and make a left. The Timaru Borough
Council during January 1943, in conjunction with the South Canterbury Chamber of
Commerce paid a visit of inspection to the rock paintings at Raincliff, which
are situated on a rock bay 30 feet long. Rock paintings are supposed to be
protected by Act of Parliament, and any appearance of vandalism requires prompt
checking. The paintings at
Hazelburn are nine miles north-east of Cave. Hazelburn has many limestone escarpments parallel to the Raincliff Road. At Leys
the paintings are on the south bank of the Opihi River half a mile above Hanging
Rock. The paintings at Hanging Rock (Noah's Ark) are at the north end of the
bridge over the Opihi River. The rock paintings at the Te Ngawai Gorge are
situated on the Albury Park property four miles from old Albury railway station.
The painting at Cave are on Dog's Head Rock half a mile from the old Cave
railway station. The Timaru Information Center at the old landing service
building centre provides phone numbers of farms with art sites. Another
limestone Fairlie -must be between Point and Fairlie, but looking towards
the coast. Where is it?
Totara Valley with limestone outcrops and boulders, Two Thumb Range, Raincliff Reserve and Raincliff Road deer - Nov. 14 2009
Takiroa, on SH 83 between Kurow and Duntroon, North Otago
The site is closed until further notice.
Takiroa Maori art site to reopen Timaru
The future of the site was in doubt after part of the popular tourist spot collapsed during heavy rain last May. The rock art was undamaged but the site was deemed unsafe and has been closed to the public ever since. But two geotechnical reports and some ingenious options later, and Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust curator is confident the site will open again in the spring. Also becoming more accessible later in the year will be Maori rock art sites at Craigmore and Totara Valley. Te Ana, the Ngai Tahu Rock Art Centre in Timaru, plans to start scheduled tours to the two areas later this year. It has leased an eight-hectare site in Totara Valley to gain access to one of the most significant rock drawings, the giant taniwha. The area will be placed under a QEII covenant that protects vulnerable natural features or habitats.
Nov. 2009. The Takiroa site. I am not surprised the limestone gave way. Look how soft and porous this limestone is with a water seepage line. The cliff face had hundreds of nesting sparrows. There has been previous rock falls in this area.
Schoon wrote an article for the Listener in September 1947 "New Zealand 's Oldest Galleries." It was an attempt to enlist greater understanding of rock drawings as major works of New Zealand art.
Schoon, Theo, Dominion's Oldest Art gallery- Pictures in Limestone Caves, The Weekly News, January 7, 1948. Article illustrated with taniwha
Exposure: Overnight on 25th May 2010 after a prolonged rain part of the limestone rock face gave way, 35 m³, about 60 tonns, fortunately the historic and culturally important rock paintings in the shelter were spared. The rock face at Takiroa, 3km west of Duntroon has a number of drawings which date to the 19th century and appear to depict European style sailing vessels, people riding horses as well as taniwha, birds and other animals. The paintings may represent people and a taniwha (water spirit). The limestone provided an ideal surface for painting with red ochre and bird fat. I found these drawings at Takiroa better than those at Raincliff and there is interpretation signage here. At the the Takiroa Maori rock art site after some specimens were removed and put into museums years ago. The early recordings here by Walter Mantell, a earlier surveyor and Hamilton are important as many of the figures were later removed from the shelter by a visiting American scholar, Dr J. L. Elmore in 1917. The Hocken library in Dunedin has the papers of J.L. Elmore [ARC-0516] include photographs and drawings of Maori cave drawings in North Otago, and representations of tukutuku patterns. Theo. Schoon used Elmore's original drawings with him, loaned by Otago Museum. On The Maerewhenua site is on the Duntroon-Livingston Road approximately 1km from the turn off from SH83 while the Takiroa site is located on SH83, about 3km west of Duntroon. Augustus Hamilton (later to become Director of the Colonial Museum in Wellington) was the first person to record rock drawings by extensive photography and more laborious and painstaking photographic processes of last century, which included large negatives and better control of contrast, proved an admirable vehicle and Hamilton has left some splendid records of drawings especially those from the Waitaki River shelters, never the less he was selective.
I see a naive drawing of a boat with three sails and a prowl with a head of a moa.
Here it looks like two drawings on top of each other. An active volcano in the background and a four legged animal, maybe a horse with reins with a person riding. Another snapshot.
There's ancient art here alongside contact period art.
Dr J.L. Elmore of Kansas, U.S.A. - exposed. He
called himself an American archaeologist.
Auckland Museum's Maori gallery displays four blocks of rock art chopped out of a limestone outcrop in the South Island's Waitaki Valley in 1917 by a visiting American, J.L. Elmore.
Ashburton Guardian, 2 May
1918, Page 3 Rock paintings Looking Backwards.
The president (Mr W. H. Skinner) delivered an address to the members of the Philosophical institute on "The Rock Shelters of Canterbury," he touched a subject of absorbing interest. After returning to the lecture of Dr. Elmore on the shelters and the drawings found in them, and the efforts made to protect those drawings, Mr Skinner said:—"I do not for one moment suggest that the crude paintings on the rock shelters of Canterbury and North Otago can claim to have the archaeological value of those mentioned by the president of the British Association in South-west Europe, but in so far as they are the only examples known to us of figure drawing done by the New Zealand branch of the Polynesian race, it is the plain duty of this and kindred societies to take immediate action to preserve them from damage, either by stock or by ignorant and destructive individuals." .. In conclusion, the speaker expressed the hope that the society would continue to press upon the Government the urgent necessity of having the decorated cave shelters throughout Canterbury and North Otago permanently protected and preserved from injury, so that future investigators might have every opportunity of following up the work started by the early members of the Canterbury Philosophical Society in the endeavour to unravel the riddle of the ancient cave paintings of New Zealand, and which it was now known helped to make up and form the links of the great prehistoric picture paintings which encircled the globe.
Elmore, Dr. J.D., Prehistoric Art, Timaru Herald, October 1916
Exposed - 13 rock drawings removed from sites in South Canterbury nearly a century ago were returned to Timaru in 2010 and are on temporary loan from the Auckland, Otago and Wanganui regional museums.
September 3 2010 Timaru Herald.
The Wanganui Museum has agreed to the pieces of rock art in their collection being repatriated to South Canterbury and being displayed in the Te Ana Whakairo, the Timaru rock art centre. The rock art trust was also discussing the return of other pieces held in museum collections around New Zealand. The pieces were cut out of the surrounding rock back in the 1940s. One of the pieces being returned by the Wanganui Museum weighed around 100 kilograms.
Thursday, December 22, 2011 Timaru Courier
American scholar’s skulduggery all part of rock art history
The records left by early observers are invaluable, as many of the sites have since been damaged or destroyed. However, the attention of academics has not always been entirely positive for the rock art. This was certainly the case with one James Lee Elmore, an American scholar who visited New Zealand in 1916.
Elmore was described as an ‘‘expert enthusiast on native pictographs’’. Originally from Kansas City, he visited New Zealand as part of a world tour in which he studied the rock art of the countries on his itinerary. While in New Zealand he visited many of the key rock art sites in the South Island, including the well-known caves at Opihi, Waitohi, Hazelburn and Albury. Keen to record the rock art for his studies, Elmore photographed the sites and made detailed tracings of the figures as he went. These tracings were used to illustrate a series of public lectures given to Philosophical Societies and Scientific Institutes in Wellington, Otago and Canterbury. Initially focused on the rock art of the ‘‘South African Bushmen and Australian natives’’, the lectures later included Elmore’s investigations of Maori rock art sites. It is clear from the records of the Dominion Museum (now Te Papa Tongarewa) that Elmore’s interests extended beyond rock art to other antiquities. Not long after his arrival in New Zealand he contacted the director of the museum in Wellington offering a small set of tracings of Australian rock carvings. It later transpired that Elmore was willing to give a ‘‘much better set’’ in exchange for Maori artefacts. A few months later, Elmore was given ‘‘one piece of Maori carving, seven fish hooks and 25 stone implements’’ in exchange for tracings of Australian and South African bushmen rock art, and a set from the Weka Pass rock art site in North Canterbury. A permit for Elmore to export the artefacts was sought and obtained from the Minister of Internal Affairs at the time.
At his public lectures, Elmore repeatedly stated his concerns around the preservation of the rock art. Among other things, vandalism was a serious issue at many sites and Elmore suggested that a number of pieces be removed for their own protection. The members of the Otago Institute agreed and, along with their Auckland counterparts, gave Elmore £12.10 each towards the cost of removing more than 30 pieces of rock art from four sites in the Aoraki district. As it turned out, Elmore’s motivations for removing the pieces of rock art were not as well intentioned as they seemed, and his attempts to ‘‘preserve’’ the rock art not entirely successful. A number of pieces removed from the Takiroa rock art site were destroyed in the process — much to the disgust of local residents whose criticism of Elmore’s methods was recorded in the Oamaru Mail at the time. Later, a ‘‘violent altercation at the Timaru Railway Station’’ between Elmore and local property owners was reported, and an attempt to smuggle a number of smaller pieces of rock art out of the country and sell them had to be halted by the Government. Despite this, Elmore managed to leave the country with at least two pieces, which were sold to the Burke Museum in Washington in 1953 (these pieces were subsequently repatriated to the Auckland Museum in 1974). Of the 33 pieces removed by Elmore, 24 have been located in the collections of the Otago, Whanganui, and Auckland Museums. Eleven of these pieces were returned to the Aoraki District late last year — 95 years after their removal — and are now on display at the Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre in Timaru. By Amanda Symon curator of the Te Ana Ngai Tahu Rock Art Centre in Timaru.
Thames Star, 3 August 1916, Page 2
Dr. J. L. Elmora, of Kansas City, U.S.A., has-returned to Christchurch from an inspection of the ancient rock paintings at Weka Pass, North. Canterbury. He reports that the paintings at Weka Pass are in a rock shelter rather than a cave, on an educational lease not far from the railway line. The are protected from the weather and from cattle, but, unfortunately, not from thoughtless and ignorant people some of whom have broken off pieces of the painted rock to take away as curios, a practice which, he says, seems to be tolerated in all countries where these expressions of the artistic sense of barbarous men are found. Some of the paintings at Weka Pass are in red, some in black. Dr. Elmore believes that both are early, and that the red is earlier than the black, as in some places the black pigment overlies the red. He spent a good deal of time in the shelter, and, apparently, has made a more exhaustive examination of the paintings than was made previously, noting several important features that had been overlooked. One of the paintings seems to represent a snake, 15ft long. This, like most of the principal paintings, is in red. The red colour is oxide of iron, which the Maoris used for wood paintings long after Europeans came to New Zealand. It was mixed with some fatty substance, thought to be fish oil or the oil from bird-flesh. No rubbing will erase it from the rock. The black characters seem to have been drawn with charcoal, mixed with animal oil and they, also, are well fixed on to the rock. The work has been done with a bold hand and it is evident that, although nearly all the characters are grotesque, some order has been followed in the arrangement of the subjects and the figures. One of the characters might represent a whale, one a fish, another a gigantic insect, another a great long-necked bird, another a dog. One has been taken as the picture of a human being, running away from an object, out of the top of which fire and smoke are issuing, this is a small figure, and, according to Sir Julius von Haast, who visited the pass in 1877, is full of life, but is very different from the conventional representation of the human figure in the paintings and carvings of the Maori. Sir Julius von Haast concluded that the black paintings are much more, recent than the red ones, but, although crude in conception, are the work of grown-up men, as many of them are 8ft above the level of the floor of the cave. Dr. Elmore has made arrangements to visit the rock paintings near Timaru and Oamaru, and to make tracings or drawings of them to place with his other records. He has several miles of tracings of the work of Australian natives.
Poverty Bay Herald, 2 December 1916, Page 2
Of all the rook paintings inspected by Dr J. R. Elmore in New Zealand, the best is in a cave near Pleasant Point, in the Timaru district (says the Lyttelton Times). This painting is seventy-five feet long. A line about two inches broad has been drawn on the wall of the cave, and on this line there are many figures, all in black pigment. At one end, but not attached to the line, there are several figures of birds. On the line itself there are circles and other figures, and a fairly large number of fish-tails, and finally, the figures of men, apparently performing the haka. Dr Elmore stated in Christchurch that this painting; easily took first prize amongst rock paintings in New Zealand. Most of them were very crude, and were not nearly as good as the spirited rock paintings of the pigmy tribes of Africa. Dr Elmore has inspected all the rock paintings recorded in New Zealand. All are in the South Island.
Otago Witness 26 March 1902, Page 71
THE MAORI CAVES OF CANTERBURY
By Jessie Mackay.
Half a mile above the juncture of the Opuha and the Opihi stands the Raincliff
Maori cave; perhaps the smallest, but certainly one of the most accessible and
best preserved, of those Canterbury rock shelters that bear the forgotten
symbols of this ancient people. It is no cave at all, indeed — a mere scoop-out
of limestone, just high enough for a man to stand upright, and bulwarked in
front by a bank of earth and a slap of stone. Thus simply, but sufficiently,
protected from wind and weather, the pictured art of lost Ngatimamoe and
perished Waitaha has been hidden in the quiet valley for centuries past. Then,
as now, the frail native woodbine festooned the rocks with its misty blossom :
on the other side that blank, grey facing still bare that giant sabre-cut across
it; a little further on, that "sunny spot of greenery " was still walled in by
stone and wreathed -with mock ivy -a spot almost within touch, yet
inaccessible, so offering -a true type of the unattainable ideal. The blue swamp
hen stalked then in the creek bed between the Maori cave and the lion-headed
rock opposite. Birds came down from the Totara Bush, dark at the bead of the
valley ; across the ridge the seagulls still made their nest in the beetling
cliffs above the Opuha. Yes, all these things were the same when the old
tohungas of Ngatimamoe outlined with indelible red and black these snaky symbols
of primeval legend. Did the old priests who limned them die in peace, or was
fierce Ngai Tahu from the north even then hot on their track down by Arowhenua?
Who now can tell? Only there was probably long peace again in the valley after
doomed Ngathnamoe had been driven southward step by step, the last unconquered
remnant disappearing at last for ever into the wild fiord country. There would
be long peace then broken only by the yearly visit of summer eelers and bird
hunters from the coast. Something over 40 years ago the white man came, and the
pakeha homestead grew and grew till it filled the valley. Some shepherd came
upon the Maori cave and looked at the strange rude etchings with all a Briton's
stolid contempt for savage effort. Too poor a thing to be noticed by the busy
pioneers, the pictured facing remained, protected by its very insignificance.
Three times, perhaps, in that 40 years learned men snatched time to come and
look at it and its fellow caves down the river; — to compare and prove many of
these reptilian figures identical with some of the oldest totems on earth — the
world-wide mysterious heritage of savage man. Poor enough and, no doubt, it is
that covers this square three yards or so of hollow limestone — nothing to charm
a painter's eye — no human interest for the mere sentimentalist. And yet the dim
bizarre figures were no childish groping after pictured form ; a glance can tell
that they were traced by a firm practiced hand. Had the brain that guided that
hand any remembrance of the primal meaning of these hieroglyphics? That was
scarcely possible. Yet hieroglyphics they were, and no chance scribbling, for
again and again the same symbols appear in all the pictured facings from Weka
Pass to Waitiki. Here lie precious links with the unknown past — rock-graven
pages of prehistoric lore which if preserved, may yet enrich incalculably air
knowledge of the origin of the Maori people. Something these rocks may yet tell
of that Polynesian mirage of countries. Hawaiki; something of that other land
of legend, Great Atia-Abounding-Wilth Rice, the early home which, Mr Percy Smith
tells us, is yet named in the Rarotongan's annuals though long forgotten by his
brother and fellow wanderer, the Maori. Great Atia, which the scholars tell us
But these pictures are at the mercy of the elements and of any vandal who may choose to chip, deface, or blast them. Time was when our struggling settlements could plead ignorance, poverty, want of leisure as excuses for such carelessness. That time has passed; tardily, but not all too late, the country has wakened to the necessity of preserving Maori antiquities. And if the bill which is to be reintroduced this session does not empower the newly constituted museum authorities to protect the rock paintings of Canterbury, it will he a standing reproach to the people of New Zealand.
So far as we know at present Canterbury contains all these rock paintings, except a few just over the Waitaki at Duntroon. The best known are, of course, those of Weka Pass, between 40 and 50 miles north of Christchurch. Copies of them are to be seen in the Maori House in Christchurch Museum; the originals on the exposed rock facing the pass having been sadly defaced since their discovery. No other Maori paintings are known to exist in North Canterbury, and very little has been seen of the Duntroon pictures as yet. All the rest are found in one district of Smith Canterbury — an area of about 20 miles of hilly country on the Albury and Opihi Rivers. Mr A. Hamilton, the well-known specialist on Maori art, explored this area in 1897 and gave the result of his observations- in an article for the Otago Institute that year. From that article and the beautiful plates that accompany it is obtained the best and fullest description of the paintings yet to hand. He recognises some of the pictures as representing living creatures — seals, king penguins, sharks, etc. One at Albury is taken to be a human figure escaping from a taniwha. Another symbol widely repeated is identical with the signature (evidently a totem) of a chief of Easter Island in 1770. The similarity between most of the figures at Weka Pass and those in the Raincliff cave is very striking. Those in the latter are both better preserved and more free from doubtful or spurious touches than most of the Opihi facings, many of which have crumbled away or been destroyed during the last 30 years or so. The largest and most remarkable collection on the Opihi however is that in Ley's cave, where the figures are very large, very intricate and very difficult to reproduce, being drawn on the low roof. They must have been executed with extraordinary pains on this account, and the artist, one imagines, must have been possessed by some very strong motive to carry out his work under such irksome physical conditions. These paintings were visited by Sir Julius von Haast in 1878 and also by Canon Stack, the historian of the South Island Maoris. Cannon Stack's theory of their origin is so far undisputed. He believes them to have been executed by Ngatimamoe at least 200 years ago and probably during the early period of their long retreat southward before Ngai Tahu. It does not appear that Ngai Tahu ever possessed the art at all. On the other hand, it is highly probable that the priests of Ngatimamoa had derived superior knowledge from the Waitaha, whom they had conquered and absorbed or exterminated about the end of the Tudor period. According to the scanty records now available, the ancestor of the tribe, Waitaha, crossed to New Zealand in the Arawa with the great migration. Having early crossed the straits and peacefully .possessed the South Inland for many years, it is probable this ancient and powerful tribe had retained much that was already lost by the continually warring tribes of the north. Some, indeed, have advanced the theory that Waitaha and the half mythical Te Rapuwai were settled here long before the great migration from Hawaiki and like Ttihoe of the north represented in earlier Polynesian migration now lost in the night of ages. On the face of it these strange and isolated rock paintings, alien, apparently, from what may be called historical Maori life, might be taken to strengthen that conclusion, though I am not aware they have ever been introduced in any argument upon this question In any case, it is not unreasonable to suppose that they form a ink with earliest Polynesian history. Is it not then the plain duty of the Government to preserve relics that are unique and absolutely unreplaceable? Not only every student of Maori history, but every patriot, will rejoice to hear that they are in safe keeping at last — safe, at least, from the vandal, if not from the elements.
Timaru Herald, 1 May 1877, Page 6
Philosophical Institute of Canterbury
Between the two fishes, or whales, we have No. 1, which might represent a fishhook, and below the snake, No. 5, a sword with a curved blade, whilst No. 6, in the same line is one of those remarkable signs or letters. Advancing towards the right, we reach a group which is of special interest to us, the figure No. 9, which is nearly a foot long, having all the appearance of a long necked bird, carrying the head as the cassowary and emu do, and as the moa has done. If this figure does not represent a moa, it might be a reminiscence of a tradition of the cassowary. The figure is, unfortunately, not complete, as only the portion of one leg has been preserved. The forked tail is, however, unnatural, and if this design should represent the moa, I might suggest that it was either a conventional way of drawing that bird, or that it was already extinct, when this representation was painted according to tradition ; in which latter case No. 11 might represent the taniwha or gigantic fabulous lizard which is said to have watched the moa. No. 8 is doubtless a quadruped, probably a dog, which, as my researches have shown, was a contemporary of the moa, and was used also as food by the moa-hunters. No. 10 is evidently a weapon, probably an adze or tomahawk, and might, being close to the supposed bird, indicate the manner in which the latter was killed during the chase. The post with the two branches near the top (No. 12) finds a counterpart in the remnant of a similar figure not numbered between the figures Nos 3 and 9. They might represent some of the means by which the moa was caught, or indicate that it existed in open country between the forest. No. 13 under which the rock in the centre portion has scaled off, is like No. 6, one of the designs which resembles ancient oriental writing. Approaching the middle portion of the wall, we find here a well arranged group of paintings, the centre of which has all the appearance of a hat ornamented on the crown. The rim of this broad-brimmed relique measures two feet across. The expert of ancient customs and habits of the Malayan and South Indian countries might perhaps be able to throw some light upon this and the surrounding figures, Nos. 15 and 18, to which I can offer no palpable suggestion. From No. 17, which is altogether 3ft. high, evidently issues fire or smoke ; it therefore might represent a tree on fire, a lamp, or an altar with incense offering. If we compare this peculiar appearance with one of the figures on the copy of the Takiroa cave paintings, we find that it has the some characteristic feature. The figure No. 15 is particularly well painted, and the outlines are clearly defined, but I can make no suggestion as to its meaning. In No. 19 we have doubtless the picture of a human being, who is running away from No. 17, the object, from the top of which issues fire or smoke, and I need scarcely point out to you that this small figure is full of life, and that it is entirely different from the conventional representation of the human figure in the paintings and earrings of the Maoris."
The Opihi Taniwha figure is part of a larger composition measuring more than 4m long. The figure, which gained national prominence when it featured on the two shilling stamp in 1960, was drawn on the ceiling of a small, low-hanging shelter near the Opihi River.
Timaru Herald, 10 September 1898, Page 4
Among the miscellaneous articles in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute for 1897 is one, with illustrations, on "Rock Pictographs in South Canterbury," by Mr A. Hamilton, curator of the Otago Museum. The article describes three caves or cavities in the limestone bank behind the Albury homestead, where rude drawings were found. The floors of two of these shelters were dug up and traces of occupation found in the shape of burnt earth, bones, etc., some of the bones being those of the moa. Mr Hamilton and his companion crossed over to the Opihi, and on the Totara creek, and on the limestone cliffs beside the river, they found a great many of these ancient drawings. They are executed in red and black, and in a few cases white has also been used. Among the drawings printed, the clearest meaning are those of fishes, lizards and men, with one good, if rude, representation of the king penguin. Many of them appear to be mere fancy scribblings, for which a meaning must be invented. The fishes are well outlined, but fancifully marked within the. outline. Mr Hamilton thinks that careful search would bring to light many more of the decorated rock-shelters m the district, and that the same figures will be found in different localities. He mentions in that the "pictographs " in a large rock- shelter on the north bank of the Opihi, locally known as " Noah's Ark " most of the drawings are so high up on the rock as to be out of the reach of defacement— 14 to 20ft above the ground, and he remarks that " the floor of Noah's Ark seems to have been swept out by the river since the paintings were made." We happen to know this spot, and may say that Mr Hamilton's remark does not indicate the change that has taken place since the drawings were made. The floor has not simply been swept out; the whole river-bed has been lowered there fully six feet since the rock was so peculiarly decorated. The former level of the river-bed is indicated by a line of patches of shingle cemented to the face of the limestone at that height, and all the ancient drawings are above this line. We are inclined to think that this is evidence that the drawings are of very great age indeed.
Thomas Selby Cousins came to New Zealand in 1864. By the 1870s he was living in Canterbury and had established a reputation as a watercolorist and illustrator. In 1876, Dr Julius von Haast the first director of Canterbury Museum engaged Cousins to do measured scale drawings of the rock painting images found in a shelter.
Timaru Herald, 1 May 1877, Page 6 Philosophical Institute of Canterbury
Mr T. S. Cousins had made a most conscientious copy for the Canterbury Museum,
was of the highest interest. He exhibited these drawings, as well as another
copied by the Rev. James Stack, of painting in the Opihi country. There are
others at the Opihi, at the Levels, Tengawai, and at Pareora, and, as I have
just been informed, in some other places in the Weka Pass ranges, and doubtless
in many other localities. It would be of the highest interest to have these
carefully copied, as, no doubt, the will throw considerable hunt upon the
history of the ancient inhabitants of this Island. My friend the Rev. James
Stack has given me a copy of a drawing from a rock shelter near the Opihi River,
painted in black, which differs considerably from the Weka Pass painting, and,
as it appears to me, approaches more the designs of the Maoris, I add the same
with Mr Slack's note as Appendix 2.
" In examining the paintings under review, it is evident at a first, glance that they are quite distinct from those of the Maoris, which always consist of curved lines and scroll-work, although in former days the traveller would occasionally see on posts or smooth rocks, rude representations of men, ships, canoes, and animals drawn by Maori children, but they were always of an ephemeral character, Maori artists confining themselves to the drawing of scrolls, and then always in permanent colors. In looking at the ensemble of the rock paintings, it is clear that there is some method in the arrangement which at once strikes the eye as remarkable. Some of the principal objects evidently belong to the animal kingdom, aid represent animals which either do not occur in New Zealand, or are only of a mythical and fabulous character. Some of them can easily be recognised ; the meaning of others can only be conjectured. The group in the centre is of a different character, which is difficult to explain, unless we assume that it represents implements and portions of dress of a semi-civilised people. Only two representations of man can be recognised, but they are full of movement and evidently in the act of running away, whilst the figure of the bird is very suggestive. Below these principal groups we find several smaller figures or signs, the meaning of which for a long time considerably puzzled me. I was inclined to believe that they might be a kind of hieroglyphics writing, but unfortunately there were too few of them, we thought, worth copying, the greater portion having much faded or broken away. Some of those which were too faint occurred at 9, 30, and 46 feet from the left hand side. They were sometimes close to the floor of the rock-shelter, but did not go below it, which is of some importance, to prove that the kitchen middens which had here accumulated were either forming or had already been formed when the painting were executed. The thought struck me at last that these smaller figures resembled the letters of some oriental languages, and that I had seen somewhat similar characters published in our Transactions.
"These ancient works of primitive art, are of considerable historic value, are therefore invested with still greater interest, and I have no doubt that further research will make us acquainted with more of these remarkable relics of the past. I may here observe that as far back as 1862, I met with paintings of similar character, and in a splendid state of preservation, and during my geological surveys in the South, but which I then passed over, imagining that they were probably the work of some shepherd, who had devoted his leisure hours to the execution of these strange figures and characters with the red paint, with which sheep are usually branded. I was then, to speak in colonial language, comparatively a new chum, but I may console myself with the fact that many of our intelligent settlers have looked at them quite in the same light. However, I shall not fail to collect all the material as soon as I can find the time, and hope that the settlers in limestone country will kindly inform me where such paintings are still existing. As before observed, the paintings under review occur over a face of about 65ft, and the upper end of some reaches 8ft above the floor ; the average height, however, being 4ft to 6ft. They are all of considerable size, most of them measuring several feet, and even one of them having a length of 15ft.
"Beginning at the eastern end, we find in the left-hand corner the representation (No. 1) of what might be taken for a sperm whale, with its mouth wide open, diving downwards. This figure is three feet long. Five feet from it is another figure (No 3) which might also represent a whale or some fabulous two-headed marine monster. The painting is 3ft 4in long. Below it, a little to the left in No. 4, we have the swollen head and long protruding tongue. This figure is nearly 3ft long, and shows numerous windings. It is difficult to conceive how the natives, in a country without snakes, could not only have traditions about them, but actually be able to picture them, without they had received amongst them immigrants from tropical countries who had landed on the coast of New Zealand from some cause or another.
Under the Historic Places Act it is illegal to destroy, damage or modify an archeological site without the authority of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. An archaeological authority is required for the demolition of any building or structure constructed prior to 1900.
South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project
Daily Alta California, 13 September 1872
A Moa's egg, in a perfect state, has been turned up by a boy whilst digging at Timaru, but being unacquainted with its value, broke it. Only one real egg is known to be in existence, and this partly broken. It was purchased for a European museum for £115. [Geo. D. Rowley from Chichester House, Brighton, England purchased an egg, found 1859, 252mmx178mm.]
Auckland Star, 9 July 1872, Page 2
We understand from a Southern exchange that a son of Mr. Gould, farmer. near Pleasant Point, in the Timaru district, whilst employed digging in the garden, which is a swampy soil, turned up a very large and perfect moa's egg, but unfortunately, from an ignorance of its value, broke it. The egg was the largest ever found, and quite perfect, and the loss to science is very great, as may be gathered from the fact that there is only one real egg known to be in existence, and that is in a European museum, for which; although partly broken, it was purchased 4t a cost of £115. Dr Haast has written to Mr. Gould with a view to procuring the pieces of the broken egg and re-uniting hem. It is to be hoped that he will be successful.