Tag Archives: New Zealand

Maori Canoe found in New Zealand Beach

Canoe being excavated at Muriwai Beach, 2010. Source: stuff.co.nz

From the Northwest Coast (of New Zealand) comes inspiring news for Northwest Coast (of North America) archaeologists.

I don’t know how many times I’ve told students that I would never really expect to find a canoe in an archaeological site and that the evidence for watercraft and marine fluency – still a contentious issue for the early Northwest Coast – will likely be resolved through interpretation of marine fauna from archaeological and from finding sites on remote islands.  While in my view Kilgii Gwaay settles this question for the early period on the Northwest Coast,  I suspect nothing short of a 10,000 year old dugout canoe will satisfy some people as to whether the first inhabitants around here could catch a fish.

So it came as a surprise to read that a nearly-complete, seven-metre long Maori wooden waka tikai, or river  canoe, has been recently found in Muriwai Beach (map) on the Northwest Coast of New Zealand (video clip).  The canoe may take several years to properly conserve, and is currently undated.  While the canoe presumably is less than a thousand years old (the accepted time frame for the  arrival of Maori in New Zealand), the fact that it survived at all, buried in the sands of what appears to be a fairly exposed beach, leads me to think we need to keep our eyes open more for this kind of find on the Northwest Coast.  This story claims that it was seen washing up in the 1920s, but still – once something like this survives the process of burial then it might survive for a very long time indeed protected deep in dark, wet beach or dune deposits.  Memo to self: don’t be so pessimistic!

Maori waka being raised. Source: nzherald.co.nz

Northwest Coast in New Zealand

Masset, ca. 1924. Source: University of Canterbury, NZ.

I found myself poking around in a New Zealand archive at the University of Canterbury the other day and found some nice historic pictures from the NW Coast.  These are assigned to the collection of John Macmillan Brown, an early New Zealand academic and, in retirement, an amateur anthropologist.  I am guessing these pictures were taken by him in retirement.  Most are undated; one carries a date of 1924.  The subjects are familiar yet the views are new – the more we can catalogue the world’s pictures of the NW Coast, the better we can understand the processes of transformation which continue to unfold.

Update: fixed links, sort of.  Note to web types: you should always provide stable URLs, none of this “your search has expired” junk.  If you want your collections used, and you do, because you put them on the web, you need to make it so the results can be bookmarked and shared.  Gosh.

Skidegate ca. 1924. Are those oarlocks on that canoe? Source: University of Canterbury.