Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Wairarapa skull and the 'white tangata whenua'

Over the past year or so I've had a few cracks at the self-styled scholars who believe that Maori were beaten to Aotearoa by Europeans, or Chinese, or Egyptians, or Indians, or half a dozen other peoples who had no documented contact with these islands in prehistoric times.

I became aware of the variety and relative popularity of alternative theories of Kiwi prehistory while working on an Information Desk in the Maori-Pacific section of Auckland museum. Often, the historical understanding of museum visitors was severely affected by their subscription to one or another extravagant theory that denied the real past of these islands and the status of Maori as the tangata whenua of this country. It's hard to have a useful discussion about the Kaitaia lintelpiece and other masterpieces of Maori carving, for instance, when your interlocutor believes that those carvings were made by Phoenicians or Celts, and then stolen by Maori. It's hard to talk about the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi with somebody who has been convinced by a well-designed but utterly flakey website that Maori were the third or fourth people to arrive on these shores.

Perhaps the most aggressive proponents of an alternative theory of Kiwi prehistory are those folks who believe that Celts settled these islands in ancient times, only to be conquered by the Maori, who appropriated much of their material culture. The best-known advocate for the Celts is Martin Doutre, an American-born immigrant to New Zealand who has published a massive and whimsical book called Ancient Celtic New Zealand and who maintains a very odd website with the same name. Doutre spends his weekends hiking around the backblocks of New Zealand, discovering the ruins of ancient Celtic observatories - 'Stonehenges of the South Pacific' - where other people see random collections of rocks.

Like a number of advocates of alternative, incredible versions of New Zealand prehistory, Doutre has links with the extreme right-wing end of the political spectrum. His name pops up frequently at the website of the One New Zealand Foundation, a small but very grumpy organisation set up to oppose the Treaty of Waitangi, state support for the Maori language and, it seeems, all forms of biculturalism. Doutre has written admiring letters to the neo-Nazi pseudo-historian David Irving, and he also appears to have connections to the kookiest parts of the '9/11 Truth' movement. Kerry Bolton, one of this country's best-known neo-Nazis and the former theorist for the National Front, has published a book on New Zealand prehistory which makes much the same arguments as Doutre. Bolton has lately become a contributor to the One New Zealand Foundation's website.

In The Politics of Nostalgia, his fine study of the far right in New Zealand, Paul Spoonley argued that one of the main barriers to fascist politics here was the status of the Maori people as tangata whenua. Pakeha Kiwis could not, Spoonley suggested, imitate the 'We were here first', 'Keep our country white' rhetoric that had helped make neo-Nazism popular amongst certain sections of modern European societies.

The theory that the ancient Celts settled New Zealand first before being conquered by Maori can be seen as an attempt to dispose of the impediment to fascist propaganda that Spoonley noted. For the likes of Doutre, the One New Zealand Foundation, and Bolton, the assertion that an ancient European people - or the 'white tangata whenua', as Bolton calls them - were the first to settle these islands is enough to discredit Maori nationalism and the ideology of biculturalism. If Maori only took control of these islands as a result of a 'genocide' of Europeans and if taonga of Maori culture like the magnificent carvings at Auckland museum were actually produced by Europeans, then Maori lose their mana, and seem actually to deserve the treatment which was meted out to them by colonisers' armies and goverments.

Doutre and a number of his fellow thinkers employ a paranoid theory with its roots in anti-semitism to explain the apparent lack of evidence for their claims about New Zealand prehistory. They argue that a massive conspiracy run by a sinister minority buries the proof that a massive ancient Celtic civilisation existed on these islands. It seems that some sort of special government squad, rather like the sinister and secret forces in The X Files, is always ready to descend on excavations and confiscate Celtic bones and artefacts. Caves are sealed up and forests declared off-limits whenever Doutre and his co-thinkers get too close to the truth. Advocates for the theory of an ancient Celtic settlement of New Zealand wash up on this blog occasionally, to accuse me of being a spokesman for the vast Maori-led conspiracy to suppress Celtic history.

Now, though, it seems that the conspiracy might be losing its grip, and the heavy veil drawn over the truth about New Zealand history might have lifted. How else can a paranoid pseudo-historian explain the recent investigation into the skull discovered several years ago beside a river in the Wairarapa? Experts have decided that the skull probably belonged to a middle-aged European woman, and radiocarbon tests have suggested that the woman was alive in 1742, twenty-seven years before Captain Cook made it to New Zealand and almost one hundred years before the start of the European settlement of the Wairarapa. Yesterday at least one of the advocates of the prehistoric Celts was using a comments box at this blog to celebrate the vindication of his theory:

Ha ha Maps better stop posting you anti-white racist and bitter halfcaste you have no answer to this skull which proves that whites were first in NZ

Some historians and Maori leaders are clearly apprehensive about the uses that might be made of the skull. Wairarapa Maori leader Haami Te Whaiti thinks that 'the crypto-historians will have field day with this'. Kerry Howe, the Massey University historian who wrote a book about false theories of the first settlement of New Zealand, has the same worry.

Neither Te Whaiti nor Howe has been willing to concede that a European was living in the Wairarapa in 1742. This is not evidence of a conspiracy by a monolithic intellectual establishment, but an entirely appropriate display of caution. There is no evidence, besides the recently-analysed skull, for a European presence anywhere in New Zealand in 1742.

The fact that the skull belonged to a woman, and was discovered some distance from the sea on the eastern side of the country, only makes it more of an anomaly. If the skull of a man was found lying in the sands of some West Coast beach and dated to 1742 it might possibly be explained away as the remains of a whaler or adventurer whose ship was wrecked on New Zealand shores. What, though, would a woman be doing in the inland Wairarapa at that date?

Martin Doutre and his friends undoubtedly believe that they have the answer to the puzzle posed by the Wairarapa skull. Has their golden hour of recogniton and credibility really arrived? I don't think so: one swallow does not make a summer, and one skull dated to the eighteenth century hardly constitutes reasonable evidence that a massive and advanced Celtic civilisation existed on these islands many hundreds of years earlier. If Celts really did establish a southern civilisation here, then we ought to be stumbling on skeletons, buried roads, walls, and so on every hour of every day. Not even the most elaborate conspiracy of radical Maori, elitist academics, and politically correct bureacuracy could conceal the truth from the eyes of Kiwis.

I'll post some more reasonable possible interpretations for the Wairarapa skull on the weekend, if I can manage to find a computer. In the meantime, it's worth remembering that some of the self-appointed experts rushing to acclaim the skull as proof for their theories have pretty unpleasant political motivations.


Blogger Richard said...

This skull find itself sounds dubious as there is (as far as I know) no way to differentiate a Maori woman's skull and that of a European.

But clearly the idea of Celts being here prior to Maori is puerile.

10:48 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Richard,

'there is (as far as I know) no way to differentiate a Maori woman's skull and that of a European.'

I'm no expert but I wouldn't say that was true. There are features of a skull which enable it to be identified as Polynesian - this is one of the ways the myth of the Moriori as Melanesian rather than Polynesian was cleared up. The ethnologist HD Skinner measured Moriori skulls and found them the craniums to be broader and the lower jaws more rounded than they should have been, if Moriori were Melanesian.

The Moriori also had very broad foreheads - this was at first thought to be the result ritual disfigurement, but scholars now believe that the characteristic was the sort of anomaly that can be found in small populations that live in isolation for long periods of time. Perhaps it's not out of the question that a group of Maori might have had developed, through some sort of process of relative isolation and microevolution, some skull features
which we do not associate with Polynesians. Possibly as well the pathologists who identified the skull as European were influenced by the belief - now discounted, of course, than the hole in it was caused by a gunshot.

Those are probably longshot explanations for the skull, though.
I think better explanations are that the radiocarbon dating is innaccurate - radiocarbon is good for dating objects over millenia but can easily be out by a hundred years or so - or that the skull was used as a keepsake by some Wairarapa settler. Perhaps it held a candle in the lonely study of a nineteenth century cottage? Perhaps
the children who inherited the keepsake thought it morbid, and chucked in a nearby river?

I do think that it'd be very exciting if a European woman really were living in the Wairarapa in 1742, and as I say I don't think such a fact should give solace to the Celtic NZ nutters.

11:11 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Golly. Sorry about the shocking spelling in that comment Richard. I am typing through a Tramadol haze at the moment. Off to bed!

11:14 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

What is not realised by a lot of people - especially these crackpots of Celtic twilight theories etc* - - is that scientists deal in probabilities - so here is the key phrase from the report.

(The full scientific report is not published so it is not possible to dispute it easily - the newspapers have thus changed a probability almost into a certainty - more irresponsible journalism... a lot of journalists are also massively ignorant unfortunately. Generally their misinformation is to get a story (or a scoop) in print (often at the near criminal cost of truth) though - mostly they are not (in any conspiracy).

(But some are active racists.
As are some pathologists, some judges, some scientists and some police...)

Here is they key part form the news report (which, typical of such journalism is very meagre, weakly written - and not well presented - but such stuff appeals to morons of the conspiracy theorists of type F above!):

' ...Soon after it was discovered Masterton police sent the skull to Auckland forensic pathologists who concluded the skull was not Maori but PROBABLY Caucasian in origin.

"It is possible to differentiate Maori and European origins from a skull but there's possibly some reasons why those pathologists took the view they did.

"It's possible but IMPROBABLE that it's a European." ...'

My capitals inserted...

So as we are dealing always with a statistical function (in all science) it is indeed a higher degree of being NOT EUROPEAN

De facto and ergo - it is manifestly a Maori skull.

* But not all alternative theorists are excessive racists (they may not be at all - they are sometimes simply benign eccentrics) although I suspect - always did even as a teenager when I read his books - and indeed I liked his books (but I was always skeptical of the conclusions) - that Thor Heyerdahl was a closet or "subconscious" racist....and we are all subject to some degree of xenophobia.

11:22 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Re the skull shape differentiation - I was thinking that Maori and European skulls are very similar (taken in statistical or Gaussian groupings). However I'm no expert in this.

Radio carbon dating to 300 years sounds very dubious myself as usually we are talking about half-lives
of radioactive decay and it is most useful for very long time periods that is - thousands of years not hundreds.

Also - if some DNA was found it might be significant.

But one skull! If the found say 200* or more skulls there would be a case - one doesn't mean much (if anything - I suspect it means nothing ) - a Moriori skull - one taken at random - could well look exactly the same as a Scotsman's wonderful Celtic skull (kilt factored in or not).

It could also be a hoax - like the Piltdown Man hoax which tried to discredit Evolutionary Theory. A skull was planted in disused quarry (in Piltdown, I assume) in England - it fooled even the experts for some time.

There was also a scientist who published papers on various anthropological subjects which were accepted for sometime but it was later found he didn't even go to the places of his "digs" or finds! He simply wanted to keep his job and gain kudos!

The newspapers should always publish the full report of the scientists rather than - their usual stupid speculation - which they present as if the matter were on par such immensely significant subjects as
what some film star is eating on Fridays - and in doing so they insult the intelligence of most people who want to know what is going on.

*A random sample of at least fifty is the minimum usually for any accurate scientific analysis of this kind - as statistical error has to be factored in. One skull certainly DOES NOT make summer of skull or swallow information!!

11:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story is an international sensation. From Britain's Daily Telegraph:

Gareth Winter, the official Masterton archivist who was called as an expert witness, told The Daily Telegraph that the possibility of a hoax could confidently be ruled out.

Mr Winter said that Captain Cook recorded, in the log of his second journey to New Zealand aboard the Resolution in 1772-5, a tale told to him by a Maori chief of a ship having been shipwrecked many years earlier.

Cook said the Maori told him that they given the ship's captain the name "Rongotute".

Early missionaries wrote of hearing the same story from Maori, who related that the survivors of the ship had been killed and eaten when they came ashore.

They said that many Maori had subsequently died in an epidemic, possibly as a result of exposure to a newly introduced infection from Europe.

Historians believed that the most likely site of such a shipwreck was Cape Palliser, the windswept southern-most point of North Island.

Stories that the wrecked ship had crockery on board, and that Maori wore pieces of it as pendants around their necks, convinced the missionaries that the vessel had indeed been European.

11:54 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Tramadol I used in hospital - it made me pretty happy at first - but then I felt too bilious or strange - so I stopped it - but I meanwhile had some fascinating dreams! Sweet dreams Maps - and for the sake of us all who have - like me (tragically) - no other life - and that includes the rogues as well as the "good guys" - please get well as you can as soon as you can - and keep your Blog going!

11:58 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"Gareth Winter, the official Masterton archivist who was called as an expert witness..."

Definition of an expert:

x is an unknown factor, and a spurt is drip under pressure.

12:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Born in 1956 and educated at Hutt Valley Technical College, Lower Hutt, Kerry currently resides in Paraparaumu, 30mins from Wellington on the coast.

Previous Affilitations


Joined the National Socialist Party at age 14.

1975 — Involved with NZ Democratic Nationalist Party. Produced manifesto opposing overseas aid, communism, liberalisation of homosexual laws, etc.

1977 — North Island Director of National Front. Wrote letters to media supporting Pinochet Dictatorship in Chile. Tried to infiltrate the National Party but was
found out before able to cause any trouble.

1980 — Founded the Church of Odin. This was based on worship of the ancient viking pantheon and stressed “Loyalty to race and Culture”. Jews were explicitly
banned from membership and material referred to “…a scummy tribe of Hebrews”. Left it after it wasn’t doing what he had hoped. He has also been a Mormon in the past and claims to be a Christian as
of 2004.

1981 — Founded ‘New Force’, designed with a tight cell structure. Stood a candidate by the name of Zandbergen in the Western Hutt electorate and got a pathetic 30 votes. Produced ‘Nationalist News’ with a pro-apartheid stance right in the middle of the Springbok Tour protests!

1983 — New Force changed name to Nationalist Workers Party. Produced manifesto for election in 1984 with very Nazi looking bare chested blond worker smashing chains on cover. Manifesto called for a hard line against Polynesians to avoid “the further bastardisation of the white New Zealander.”

Expelled overtly Nazi skinhead faction and extreme free marketeers from a cult-like group called Zenith Applied Philosophy (ZAP) who had been inside NWP. Had a hui/meeting with Mana Motuhake (a Maori nationalist party) that got them nowhere.

1987 — Wrote a pamphlet ‘Lords of the Soil’ which claimed that “Polynesia has been occupied by peoples of the Europoid race since ancient times” and that Europeans were worshipped as Gods.

1989 — Produced magazine ‘The Realist’ billed as ‘Journal of the Faustian Society’ with a symbol on cover of pentagram, sword and snake. Contained Holocaust denial articles, articles by British Nazi-Satanist David Myatt, holocaust denier Ernst Zundel and one by a ‘J.E.S.’ saying white folk should avoid apes, black people and drug users in order to avoid AIDS.

1990 — Wrote for ‘Frontline’, the newsletter of the Conservative Front a precursor of the National Front. These writing efforts included the ‘impressive’ achievement of reviewing his own pamphlets.

1995 — Writing in the publication ‘Filosem’ Bolton argued that “The common religion of the inferiors is equality and the Welfare State: these give [them] an unjustified sense of worth and an unearned sense of security”. Ten years later,and he is now a sickness beneficiary. Wonder what he thinks he is worth?

1998 — Joined the NZ Fascist Union. Bolton tried to link fascism to socialists such as Labour MP John A Lee in the 1940s (something he did again in April 2005 in a leaflet written for the NF). NZFU propaganda also portrayed ex Labour Prime Minister (and later head of World Trade Organisation) Mike Moore as a Jewish Communist!

Produced magazine The Nexus which contained adverts for Waffen SS patches, advert for Australian Occult Nazi Metal band “Spear of Longinus,” reviews of international Nazi mags, anti-Jewish articles, obituaries for Nazi general Otto Remer and Satanist La Vey etc.

Used name “National Destiny” for one man organization affiliated with an international alliance called Liason Committee for Revolutionary Nationalism (LCRN). This was an alliance of groups who take a pseudo-left Strasserite position.

Produced extensive book catalogue of fascist and occult-Nazi material using imprint of Renaissance Press. Catalogue included stuff by Goebbels, Streicher, Leese, Mosley, Myatt, Evola etc. The catalogue is carried internationally by others such as the National Socialist Movement in U.S.A.

1999 — Established the NZ Workers’ Front, a national syndicalist group with Strasserite outlook. Used a sword and hammer symbol taken directly from the Black
Front, which was the organisation Strasser set up when he broke from Hitler. Flags with this symbol were still being used on NF sponsored demos as recently as 2004.

2000 — Produced a pamphlet called From The Right under the imprint of Spectrum Press. His hilarious back page refers to himself in the third person and includes this disclaimer: “The author is described by the Security Intelligence Service as ‘a danger to international relations and/or national security’.”

2002 — Produced magazine NZ Examiner with all the usual stuff.

Produced another unintentionally funny pamphlet by Spectrum Press called Useful Idiots of the New World Order which claims there has been an anti family conspiracy begining with Plato (!) and including the Illuminati, the Fabians and Bolsheviks. The best bit? “[I]t is shown that the super-rich have funded the promotion of abstract art” — shock, horror, eh?!

2003 — Associated with Australian holocaust deniers the Adelaide Institute.

Wrote letters to NZ Listener defending the Nazi regime on the basis of its legislation opposing creulty to animals because “the Third Reich … legislated on the manner by which crabs and lobsters were to be boiled to minimise suffering”. He also wrote similar letters defending their health policies banning smoking in public. (Nothing about killing disabled people or ’smoking’ Jews!)

Wrote Renaissance Press pamphlet Portraits & Principles of World Fascism praising the various movements (including Stephenson’s Australia First Movement) as having a “heroic ethos”.

Tried to infiltrate anti-Gulf War demos using front name “Anti-Zionist Alliance”.

2004 — still listed information about Bolton’s Satanic organisations Ordo Sinistra Vivendi, The Black Order and The Order of the Left Hand Path.

2004 — Joined NZ National Front as National Secretary.

Current affiliations


2005 — Briefly changed from National Secretary to Information Director following internal disputes in the National Front. Bolton has now broken away to form his own grouping known as the New Right.

Kerry Bolton Trivia

Impress your Friends! Delight your Party Guests!

Kerry has a half Maori son from a previous relationship. A photo of the two together, wearing full satanic garb, featured in an old Satanist magazine.

In terms of ideology he has been very consistent in promoting the same favourites regardless of whether he is being openly Nazi, supposedly conservative or lefty. He is into Spengler, Evola and Yockey.

Oswald Spengler might still be known in wider circles but the other two are a bit esoteric. Spengler wrote a history of civilisations that took a cyclical view based on botanical metaphors of eternal birth-growth and decay. He criticised the Nazis from the right! Spengler took an elitist position and looked down on the Nazis for their mobilisation of the lower classes. He described the Third Reich as “The organising of those who can’t find work, by those who don’t want to work.” Bolton often adopts Spenglers jargon and terminology.

Evola was into mystical stuff and Hinduism. He wanted to turn things back to ancient times when there was a hierachical warrior leading caste society. He also looked down on the Nazis for their use of the lower orders.

Francis Parker Yockey wrote a very big and boring book dedicated to Hitler and lead an interesting life associating with Post-war Nazis.
Barrie Sargeant · 2 December 2004 · Discussion

12:22 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new version of the National Front is using Celtic NZ material to promote its 08 election campaign.
In 1995 Kerry Bolton distributed this leaflet, which calls Mike Moore a Jewish commuist and threatens non-whites:

6:54 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

This Bolton needs psychological assistance.

Actually I have met or come across quite a few Nazis. Here are a few examples of some of the strange encounters!

(This leaves out the father of a close friend who became member of the SIS and infiltrated the NZ Communist Party in the 60s etc - and was once very keen on Nazism in his youth - as far as I can gather)

1) In about 1970 I was working in the wool stores with a few Niuean blokes and this big German (built like rugby player) who turned out to admire Hitler. I asked him what he thought of protesters etc and he said he thought they were not good...he admired Hitler but he didn't seem to be too - how shall we say - passionate on the issue - perhaps he was also expecting strong reaction. I didn't react much as we didn't have long conversations (lugging heavy bales of wool onto trucks all day one hot summer...) ! But he seemed ok as it happened -I think he may have just been being honest and represented a (quite large) section of Germans) -

but the point is - that at that time I recall conversations with other young Germans. who said that by and large there had been a strong reaction against Nazism since the war.

W. G . Sebald, Gita Sereny, Susan Sontag and many others write (or have written) on or struggle on or with this issue. more specifically the issue of how this is avoided -how un-unique in history Hitler is and so on... Jack Ross also works with and through these issues -albeit in an original and intereting and comeplsx way say in his work about Trezbolinizka and also his recent 'trilogy' including EMO... like Goeffrey Hill hes "sees" back (and forward) into history hence his "Ovid in the Third Reich" (Hitler perhaps being Augustus Caesar and the exiled Ovid being say Benjamin, Celan, or Brecht, Hesse, Mann or Einstein Szilard, or even Chaplin in fact anyone of the great Jewish people of the arts or sciences... My recent cylce of EYELIGHT also
brings up the issue and includes Bronowski (mathematician and biologist) whose family were killed at Aushwitz.

But in Europe and here there are many Nazi or Neo-Nazi Groups -in fact places such as France and Russia have many - and in Israel the police recently broke up a small Nazi party! They were Russian Jews (originated from Russia where anti-Semitism is still hale and hearty)

The job was hard and monotonous so I soon left and lost contact with him.

2. A friend and I know this worker in GI who is a Nazi (or says he is and has lots of books -some woud be quite valuable to (or sought after by) book collectors - on the SS and uniforms etc) - he is married to a Maori woman - I think he really just loves the uniforms and weapons etc - in a bizarre conversation once we listened to him run down or "derog" Jews...then we pointed out how e.g. not all Jews were rich etc and he agreed!! He even then went on to say how good Jews were!!

Perhaps he was hedging - personally I think he was just confused with all of the ideas as originating from the Nazis he knew and books on the war etc

But he was/is certainly not as staunch as this Bolton fellow!!

3) More recently - I mean in living memory! (About 1997 I think) some Maori blokes were getting angry near a shop that was - by a dairy just down the road from me - and I asked them what was going on they said that "That guy is a racist"

I didn't realise then that they were talking about King Ansell - and replied "Lots of people are racist"...

Bizarre that King Ansell (he was head of the Nazi Party of NZ) should 'set up shop' in an area so predominantly Polynesian (Pacific Islanders and Maori - in fact more recently many more ethnic groups: Chinese, Koreans, Indians, people from North and South Africa, Iraqis, and many others.. ) in its demographic...

9:55 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"original and intereting and comeplsx "

should be "interesting and complex"

9:57 pm  
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9:22 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That facts about kerry bolton post made me laugh,when i got to the 'one man organization' bit some snot shot out,what a dork, its a wonder he dosnt just top himself. Him and martin douchebag should be studyed by psycologists, we could even discover a new disorder of the mind,probably just a good dose of schizophrenia tho, and a closet affection for big brown mens bums,obviously.

2:07 am  
Anonymous buy Cialis said...

I have been studying about the theories of Kiwi prehistory, it is so interesting because Their traditional language is the Kiliwa language.thanks for sharing it is so interesting and it is a great topic to make a good blog.

9:19 am  
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