Monday, November 09, 2015

Waipoua Forest and the incredible shrinking conspiracy theory

[I regularly find folks at websites like Reddit, Wikipedia, Grownupsnz, and Kiwiblog linking to posts I've made about theories that a pre-Maori civilisation existed in New Zealand. Recently I followed a link to Kiwiblog, where a prolific commenter who uses the slightly sinister nom de plume Unity was talking darkly about a conspiracy by scholars, museologists, Maori radicals, and the Key government, a conspiracy designed to obscure the peoples who supposedly settled these islands hundreds or thousands of years before Maori. 
I had a long conversation with Unity and Kiwiblog, and I thought this conversation was interesting, because of the way it showed how a very elaborate conspiracy theory can be made to rest upon the slightest and most trifling fact.]
...the Ngapuhi elder, David Rankin has said that in stories passed down through the ages, it was said there were always other people here before – blonde, blue eyes, red hair? He also said Maori weren’t indigenous or great navigators. They came here in the main on a tidal drift. They all arrived here by boat. That was news to me but it makes sense because if they were such great navigators, why didn’t they never return to their homelands at some stage? Life must have been very hard here. 


Polynesians most certainly did return from Aotearoa to the tropics, Unity – we know this because we’ve found obsidian from the Bay of Plenty amongst prehistoric artefacts on Raoull Island. And DNA analysis of the kiore, or Polynesian rat, indicates a genetic diversity that would be hard to account for if only one group of settlers from one island got here. Far from being hard here, life would have been extraordinarily good, compared to life on the small and relatively poorly resources islands of Eastern Polynesia.
David Rankin is not a rangatira, and is not taken seriously within Nga Puhi – he represents nobody but himself. Having said that, he’s as entitled to an opinion as anyone else and if he ever presents any evidence for ancient Celts/Atlanteans/Martians coming here thousands of years ago then I’ll certainly be interested in taking a look. Until then I’ll go with the science. The rest of it is hidden behind a paywall, but here’s the abstract for Lisa Matisoo-Smith’s paper about her DNA tests of kiore, where she argues that the range of genetic variation suggests multiple rather than a singe voyage by Polynesian settlers. 
I’ve been reading your comments with great interest, Scott. Are you able to tell me why a 75 year moratorium was placed on Waipoua Forest several years ago when Labour was in power? No archaeological digs are allowed to take place and it is well known that there are many sites in the forest that prove there were people here long before the 1300’s from when it is known that natives lived here. They weren’t called ‘Maori’ in those days. Why are we not allowed to examine these sites when there are so many of interest in there? I would have thought it was in the interests of all of us to know whatever there is to learn about the history of this country. It all seems very strange to me to hush these things up. It is also well known that ‘Maori’ have destroyed many sites elsewhere. Why?
I found the following link when Googling ‘Waipoua Forest Moratorium’. There are other interesting things under that Google heading too.
These conspiracy theory-related claims get bigger and bigger in the retelling. It would be pretty hard to put a ‘moratorium’ on Waipoua forest, which is vast and is full of public walking tracks. Numerous archaeological surveys and digs have been done in Waipoua forest; many of them have been written up and can be read in research libraries (there are half a dozen in the University of Auckland library catalogue).

A small amount of one report was apparently withheld from publication, after requests from local iwi. It isn’t at all unusual for moratoriums to be put on documents that contain sensitive information – I was recently looking through the Hillary papers, and noticed that Sir Ed’s family have put moratoria on various documents that are related to his personal life. When I wrote a PhD on EP Thompson I had to put up with a fifty year moratorium on the papers he left the Bodleian library. I would guess that the deleted paragraphs in the Waipoua report relate to burial sites. A lot of iwi now keep information about burial caves close to their chests because of damage done to these sites by ghoulish fossickers.

Martin Doutre has erected an enormous fantasy on the top of a couple of deleted passages in a single report on Waipoua. He thinks there’s a huge Celtic city in the forest, and that the report has been censored to hide this fact. But thousands of people visit Waipoua every year and numerous archaeologists have studied the forest.

With regard to the 75 year moratorium placed on archaeological digs in the Waipoua Forest it’s all in the following link, Scott.


I had a quick look at that site, which is run by Martin Doutre, and even by his account it seems there’s less to the Waipoua case than I thought. Some documents in national archives were held back from scrutiny on the request of an iwi – until 1996! What moratorium are we talking about then, Unity?


Right at the very beginning of that article is the front page of the Archives document which states very clearly in handwriting ‘restricted until 2063’. Up until that date it requires the approval of Iwi. Why? It was very clearly imposing a restriction on certain information related to the extensive and very expensive archaeological excavations conducted in the Waipoua Forest between the late 1970’s until the late 1980’s. Obviously they found something and one wonders why we are not allowed to know.
After that there was much ducking and diving by various departments and people trying to say there never was a moratorium. I cannot for the life of me understand why the archaeological excavations were not allowed to continue and why we are not allowed to delve into our history. I can’t think of any other country where archaeological digs are curtailed and what was already discovered is ‘covered up’. I also have it on very good authority that today if someone went into the forest and tried to delve into things in there, they are very quickly ushered out by ‘Maori’. One would think they too would be very interested to learn what is in there because there are most definitely several things that we already know of that point to a much more advanced civilisation than the native one.
I hope this answers your question.
I feel you may be misunderstanding the note that’s been written on the document at the top of the page, which appears to be Michael Taylor’s report on his work at Waiopua. You seem to think that the note indicates that Taylor’s work was called off, and the site he was studying was placed off limits until 2063. But doesn’t the handwritten amendment call for passages of Taylor’s report on his work to be restricted until 2063? That’s quite a different thing. As I mentioned earlier, a moratorium on part of the report needn’t have been motivated by sinister ends – huge numbers of documents in all our research libraries are the subject of moratoria for one reason or another (I mentioned the Hillary papers). But as the later letters show, the Taylor report was not restricted until 2063. The letter from Philida Bunkle says that copies of the report filed with National Archives have been available since 1996.
I can’t see, then, how you get the idea that the government somehow intervened and called off archaeological work at Waipoua until 2063. And archaeological work has continued at the forest since 1988, when Taylor made his report. I just looked in the University of Auckland library catalogue and I see it has a report by Taylor on his work in Waipoua in 1988. Isn’t this the document that Doutre claims was repressed? It doesn’t look like the sinister forces charged with hiding our true history made much of a job of it!
Title: Waipoua Archaeological Project stages II and III : management and research undertaken during 1985-87
Author(s): Michael Taylor
Annetta Sutton; New Zealand. Department of Conservation.; Waipoua Archaeological Project.
Published: Auckland N.Z. : Dept. of Conservation 1988
Description: 70, [110] p. (1 folded) : ill., facsims., maps ; 30 cm..
Subjects: Excavations (Archaeology) — New Zealand — Waipoua State Forest; Maori (New Zealand people) — Antiquities; Waipoua State Forest (N.Z.) — Antiquities
Related Titles: Variant Title: Waipoua Archaeological Project.
Notes: Cover title: Waipoua Archaeological Project.
“Unpublished internal report”–Disclaimer.
“February 1988.”
Includes bibliographical references (p. 67-70 (1st sequence)).
Data Source: Alma: 21154978930002091
This all seems like a pretty small foundation for Doutre’s claims of a conspiracy to hide NZ’s ancient Celtic history. And I find it curious that Doutre apparently hasn’t bothered to go to Wellington and read a copy of Taylor’s report, in the nineteenth years since it was made available to the public. Wouldn’t he want to get his hands on the document and publicise its explosive contents?
But of course the point is that if Doutre’s theory were correct, and a huge and technologically sophisticated Celtic civilisation existed all over NZ thousands of years ago, we wouldn’t have to go scratching about in the backwoods of Northland to find evidence of such a civilisation. Doutre claims Auckland was crammed with settlements thousands of years ago, and claims that the stones on the tops of our volcanoes are the remains of ancient observatories. If it were true that a European great city lay across this isthmus thousands of years ago, why haven’t the tens of thousands of excavations carried out not by archaeologists but by spades and diggers and road building gangs over the past one hundred and fifty years found a single artefact – a sword, a piece of pottery, a coin, anything – from an antique European culture buried under the city? The British can’t build a chicken coop without discovering some Roman coin or road.

Thank you for that, Scott. However, it still seems rather strange that Taylor’s work would initially be suppressed until 2063. What on earth could he have discovered that couldn’t be seen until 2063? I would have thought that more care would be taken with sites of interest and finding the truth for everyone whatever their ethnicity. Why did one Maori man say that some carbon dating preceded Maori by 500 years and then a moratorium was placed on everything? If it is now permitted to see this archaeological information, I’m not convinced that it is all being seen rather than selected parts of it.
Also how about the hassling, threatening notices left on cars etc that still happen today? There is something very fishy no matter how people try to dress it up. I’m not defending Doutre or whoever was responsible for the Celtic site but I need to be convinced in my own mind and that hasn’t happened yet.
That’s the first I’ve heard of ‘a huge and technologically sophisticated Celtic civilisation existed all over NZ thousands of years ago.’ A bit over the top don’t you think? I don’t even know that it was Celtic but that’s not the important point which is that some of our archaelogical work is being suppressed and I want to know why. We should all know about whatever turns up no matter how inconvenient it might be to what we have always believed our history to be. My mind will always remain open but also questioning especially when we aren’t being told everything.


I was just talking about the theories of Martin Doutre, the bloke whose site you linked to, Unity. Doutre claims that at least half a million white people created an advanced civilisation here thousands of years ago after arriving here via South America and Easter Island. Read the rest of his website.

But I don’t think that Doutre claims that the page you linked to shows there’s a seventy-five year moratorium on archaeological work in Waipoua. Assuming they are genuine, the documents on his page show that there was a seventy-five year moratorium put on passages in a report on Waipoua that was written in 1988, and that this moratorium was lifted in 1996 – nineteen years ago. So where is the suppression of history?

I’m more interested in the suppressing of archaeological information which is not Maori and is carbon dated 500 years before they are reputed to have arrived here. However because of the stories I have heard from Maori, Moriori and others, I do believe (until someone can refute it) that this country was occupied by others earlier than the official version. Also, in favour of the Celtic theory, there are many designs in Scotland that are the same as those attributed to Maori. Did Maori learn them from someone else? How do you know that all the archaeological information that was suppressed and then released covered everything and not just selected pieces of it?

You say you’re not too interested in arguing the pros and cons of Martin Doutre and his views, but would rather focus on the radiocarbon test results from Waipoua that were repressed because they indicated a people lived on the site five hundred years before Maori arrived. The trouble is that you’ve taken the latter claim straight from the website of a certain Martin Doutre, and the claim is not supported by anything other than the word of the same Martin Doutre. There’s no name given for the Maori who supposedly witnessed the suppression of the radiocarbon data, no date is given for this dirty deed, the artefact that was tested is not named, and no indication is given about what happened to said artefact.
Given all this, it’s a bit rich for you to say you’re not interested in considering the credibility of Doutre and his ideas. I’ve already talked about why I consider the Celtic New Zealand theory fantastic, but I wonder if you’re aware of some of the other rather dubious claims that Doutre makes about the world and its history. He’s an enthusiastic proponent of the idea that the 9/11 attacks were not the work of the Osama bin Laden but an ‘inside job’ by sinister elements within the American and Israeli governments. He denies that a plane even hit the Pentagon on 9/11.  
Doutre is also a committed Holocaust denier, who believes that Hitler is a victim of a Jewish conspiracy to blacken his name in the years since World War Two. I’ve highlighted his explicit Holocaust denial here.
We’re faced, then, with a man with a history of making fantastic, demonstrably false, and deeply bigoted statements aiming a very serious allegation of criminal conspiracy against a group of New Zealand scientists – an allegation which he has no substantiated with a single piece of evidence. You’ll forgive me if I don’t take Doutre’s allegation seriously. I wonder why you’ve chosen to take it seriously.
The funny is that, back in the ’90s, when Doutre alleges this huge coverup was taking place, Kiwi scientists really did come up with a radiocarbon dating that predated accepted estimates for the Maori arrival in these islands. They responded not with a coverup but by publishing their results and beginning a debate that continues to this day. That’s how scholars, as opposed to conspiracy theorists, behave.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

amazing how often the myth of an embargo lasting until 2063 comes up, for eg

11:06 am  
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11:24 pm  
Anonymous Jono Carpenter said...

Calibrating the Motohuru date via Oxcal (The Oxford Radiocarbon lab calibration suite which is available online for anyone to use) using the latest Marine curve (Marine13, Reimer et al 1913) and DeltaR for NZ of -7 +-45 gives a calendar range of 1350-1455 AD at one standard deviation.

Its an early date to be sure, but well within the expected range. It would certainly represent an occupation of Waipoua 500 years prior to Te Roroa moving into the Waipoua area, which according to traditional histories was at the end of the 18th century from further north around Waimamaku. But again, ancestral Polynesian and later ethnohistorically attested tribal groupings were very mobile up into the historic period.

3) Finally, a straw poll of a hundred or so attendees at the 2014 NZ Archaeological Association Conference suggested a mid-13th century colonisation based on current evidence. Previous polls from 1988, 1994 and 2002 conferences supported a somewhat earlier arrival (10-1200 AD) and bi-modal (ie a split between early arrival around 1000-1100 AD and later arrival 1100-1200). The current break for a somewhat later arrival for humans in NZ is supported by all the archaeological, linguistic and DNA evidence, and even the latest paleoenvironmental evidence suggests major vegetation clearance started around the same time. Further, elsewhere in the south Pacific the dates of colonisation of e.g. the Marquesas, Easter Island and Hawaii have been pushed back by scientists working there and match up quite nicely with the first settlement of NZ and suggesting one last push out of central eastern polynesia in several directions within a few hundred years around the start of the second millenium.

11:41 am  
Anonymous Jono Carpenter said...

Reimer et al is 2013, not 1913 obviously!

11:44 am  
Anonymous Jono Carpenter said...

Arghhhh the first half of my post got disappeared. Dagnabit!

To cut that previous long story short, Heritage NZ and Whangarei Library both have the Waipoua reports available as pdfs if anyone wants them. The apparently early date that gets bandied about for Waipoua along with the Nathan's suprise at its anqiquity is because people dont understand the need to calibrate conventional radiocarbon ages to get calendar years, The Motohuru date of 930 YBP +-45 years is on a marine sample (cockle) which give older dates prior to calibration to take into effect not just wiggles in the amount of atmospheric carbon, but the slow speed (400 years) at which the ocean exchanges atmoshperhic carbon at a global level, and local (DeltaR) variations in the ocean exchange. Thus, if you calibrate the Motohuru date according to the internationally accepted way of doing so using the published, peer reviewed curves generated in an internally and externally consistent manner using known age samples of eg Bristlcone pine dated by dendrochronology/tree rings and museum collections of known date/provenience shell, you get a not particularly suprising date.

1:13 pm  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

Thanks for those really invaluable comments Jono: I'm sure I'll be referring someone to them the next time this 'controversy' stirs! I was meaning to look up the 1988 report in the U of A library: I had no idea it was even more accessible!

7:51 pm  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

Looks like the report and others like it can be accessed via this page?

7:57 pm  
Anonymous Jono Carpenter said...

Yeap. All the documents in that collection are from the disestablished Historic Technical Support/NZAA Northland File Keeper office which used to sit in the Northern Conservancy Office in Whangarei. When everything was restructured all the material was sent to Archives NZ but former DOC Historic TSO James Robinson (then doing a PhD at Otago and working as a consulting archaeologist) supported the late Maria Butcher, the DOC Whangarei Historic Ranger to get all the material scanned and OCR'd and then deposited with the library so it would remain easily accessible.

Do a search for Alan Titford and you can even get the reports on his pa bulldozing from the late 1980s; no wonder Te Roroa got so pissed off!

9:54 am  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

Just in case you're still checking this (I realise you have more important things to do) Jono: why do you reckon Michael Taylor wanted fourteen pages of his notes embargoed until 2063 in the first place? Was he trying to protect an informant or a burial site (I haven't read the report yet)? Thanks again for your earlier comments.

6:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole idea that ancient Celts set off from Europe and bounced around the Americas without leaving a trace, continued on to make an epic journey colonising these isles in great numbers, but were then overwhelmed by a relatively small number of Polynesian settlers is just ludicrous.

8:14 pm  
Anonymous Jono said...

As I understand it, and I couldnt tell where I read it or heard it, the information sent to Archives NZ and initially embargoed was not 14 pages of information, but the file material described on 14 sheets noted on the transfer document that caused all the fuss. The Forest Service which had sponsored all the work had just been disestablished and was in the process of being carved up and sold off, DOC had just been established from the "green dots" of the Forest Service, DoSLI and the Wildlife Department, and for the sake of sercuring the entire project file, Michael sent it all to Auckland and locked it down in the hope that those custodians of Crown doings at Archives NZ would be some kind of bulwark against the massive destruction of institutional knowledge that Rogernomics was causing. The major reports of the work had been prepared and all the field notes, minutes of meetings, correspondence etc needed to go. Within that larger body of material there was information Te Roroa didnt want to become public information, and the archaeological project which to some extent was ground breaking in terms of its cooperation with the Tangata Whenua and the formal nature of the agreements entered into to do the work,required some circumspection.

Michael is down in Whanganui now, trading as Archaeology North, and he still comes up to work in Waipoua on a contract basis and has a crew of hardcase local Te Roroa field assistants who could teach most graduate archaeologists a thing or to. If you ever met him, you would understand why the idea of him at the heart of some conspiracy is laughable. You are far more likely to find him at the heart of a hare krishna takeaway at WOMAD!

9:01 pm  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

Ta muchly again Jono!

8:42 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If this hasn't already been done before, have you considered publishing a refutation of the Ancient Celtic NZ thesis in a Q&A format (or perhaps a link to the same from your website) with the object of disseminating this information to as wide an audience as possible? I think that what you have to say on the subject is far too important to be left buried in a Kiwiblog post.


7:15 am  
Anonymous Scott Hamilton said...

Hi KS,

I did a little Q and A handout about this stuff back when I worked in the Auckland museum. That was actually when I became aware of the subject - folks were coming in and recycling ideas about the Moriori as a pre-maori people and so on. I do notice that posts on this site (I collected some at and also at Matthew Dentith's thorough blogsite get used as references when debates about pre-Maori settlement break out in various parts of the net. But I fear that, however many refutations they receive, certain conspiracy theories live on...

8:44 am  
Blogger Liz Clark said...

And yes the Pseudo-history continues with a slickly made "documentary" along with BBC voiced Gabi Plumm as the narrator with Doutre and others. Noel Hilliam features with the captioning "Noel Hilliam Archaeologist" claiming 60,000 skeleltons were ground up at a bone mill in Onehunga in 1861 by a guy called Robertson except the claim is so inaccurate. Robertson owned the old Epsom Windmill from 1865 onwards. Epson/Eden history does say there was a record in the old Mt Eden Council records of maori bones being taken from caves in the local area and ground up. I'm taking local area as the Auckland isthmus not some cave Mr Hilliam was standing in most likely somewhere near Dargaville. The Pou has again arisen as a "Waitaha" one despite the information plaque in the Dargaville Museum saying only that it was found at Poutu by a camper and the old Waitaha story completely wiped out. I see our old friend the moa and the Greek warrior have made another appearance. Yes about right too - still.

5:23 pm  

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