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New Zealand Archaeology Blog

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Quotes for Archaeologists

"The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it" Oscar Wilde. 1891. The Critic as Artist.

"A thing belongs to the one who remembers it most obsessively" Kanan Makiya. 2001. The Rock: A Tale of Seventh-Century Jerusalem.

"About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I remember some one saying that at this rate a man might well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe their colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of service." Charles Darwin 1861.

"Problems can not be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them." Albert Einstein

"Archaeologists ought to be grateful to worms, as they protect and preserve for an indefinitely long period every object, not liable to decay, which is dropped on the surface of the land, by burying it beneath their casting." Charles Darwin 1881

"The hardest thing about being a communist is trying to predict the past." Milovan Djilas (1911-1995), Yugoslav author-politician. Djilas was warning apparatchiks rather than Marxist archaeologists - but still ....

"You never know how the past is going to turn out." Jude Quinn in I'm Not There, 2007

"Astronomers have a great advantage over archaeologists: they can see the past." Loeb and Pritchard, New Scentist 27 Oct 2012

"The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

"... everything happens in its own time" Bob Dylan, BBC interview

"Time is not a thing that passes ... it's a sea on which you float." Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood

"I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times." (Psalm 77:5 (King James Version)

"The more one can see the past the more one can see the future." David Hockney Secret Knowledge 2006:197.

"In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured." Victor Frankl 1946 Man's Search for Meaning.

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." George Orwell 1984


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Some years ago I bought a copy of Peter Buck's printed Cawthron Lecture - The Coming of the Maori.Tucked inside it was a printed postcard of two Maori men.

It was not the usual subject for a Maori postcard - usually they were tourist scenes. The two intrigued me - the sitting one clearly of higher status and unusually well dressed for the period. It seemed an unlikely subject.

The card was tucked onto a bookcase shelf and has sat their occasionally attracting my attention ever since, until I recently watched a Shipwreck TV programme about the 1863 wreck of the Delaware near Nelson. It was the well known story of the rescue of most of the crew by the "New Zealand Grace Darling" Huria Matenga.

You can read her story and more on the wreck here:

The programme showed the photos of two brothers Hemi Matenga - Huria's husband and Hemi's brother Ropata Matenga - both of whom took part in the rescue with Huria. Clearly they were the same men as in my postcard - mystery revealed! Hemi is on the left. The reason for the postcard being produced was then apparent. The postcard craze was well after 1863 so this must have been backward looking when it was produced. There is no wording on either face of the postcard or the reverse other than the printed words postcard, so perhaps they were still well known in the district.

Huria and her husband lived well on a substantial land holding so the dress of Hemi is explained too.

1863 was the height of the New Zealand wars and many Taranaki settlers had relocated to Nelson temporarily. The rescue was a contrast to the situation elsewhere and this did not pass unnoticed at the time.


The principal organisation for archaeologists in New Zealand is the New Zealand Archaeological Association.

My interests include: C14 dating, numerical taxonomy, site protection in development projects, web communication and museums.  

Garry Law
About me

This page is mainly about New Zealand archaeology.  The Blog here is some personal observations which I might make from time to time.

Archaeology in New Zealand is practiced in respect of the Maori (Polynesian) occupation of New Zealand (including the Kermadec Islands to the north and Chatham Islands in the east), starting perhaps 800 years ago, but also in respect of historic sites left by more recent visitors and immigrants, European and Chinese, since 1800 AD, looking at settlements and sealing, whaling and mining industries.

New Zealand archaeology relates particularly to New Zealand of course, but archaeologists based here also work in Polynesia, the rest of Oceania, particularly on Polynesian origins and also in South East Asia - particularly Thailand. There is also some research on historic sites in Antarctica. There are close professional relationships with Australian archaeologists and a quite a few there have come from here, but little research is conducted across the Tasman Sea in either direction.

Auckland, August 1908: A Stop on the Great White Fleet World Cruise 
By: Garry Law
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