Pre-European adze discovery excites iwi

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 29/08/2014
stone adze
CALEB HARRIS/ Fairfax NZ

HISTORY IN HER HANDS: Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History collection manager Bronwyn Reid with the toki, or stone adze, found on the shore of Lake Onoke in South Wairarapa. Behind her is museum director Alice Hutchison. The adze is being stored at the museum while its history and ownership are established. 

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An unusually smooth stone adze found on the shore of a Wairarapa lake has been hailed as a significant find, as well as a beautiful one.

"It's a lovely artefact - it's completely polished . . . and it's quite beautiful," said Haami Te Whaiti, a representative of Maori in the Lake Onoke area of South Wairarapa, where the adze, or toki, was found.

"I think some of the colouring it's got has come about from wave action."

The adze, which probably predates the arrival of Europeans, had similarities to other, high-quality ones found around the lake, he said. "That's why I think there must have been a great adze-maker in that area."

Ministry for Culture and Heritage spokesman Tony Wallace said it was a significant find and the iwi with an interest in the area, Ngati Kahungunu and Rangitane, could submit a claim for ownership. If both claimed it, ownership might have to be resolved through the Maori Land Court, but Te Whaiti thought a solution could be found.

He said pre-European artefacts were found fairly regularly in the Palliser Bay area but this piece was unusually fine.

The 31-centimetre adze, found at the end of May, is made of argillite rock and was probably used to work on timber.

As a protected taonga tuturu, or recovered treasure, it was taken to Masterton's Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History for storage while the ministry establishes its origins. "Having it in the museum is the ideal place for it - it's about all of our history," Te Whaiti said.

Aratoi collections manager Bronwyn Reid said the museum had a large range of argillite adzes but this was one of the most beautiful she had seen.

Museum director Alice Hutchison said the find showed one of Wairarapa's features: "It's a living, breathing archeological site. People do stumble across treasure like this."

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- The Dominion Post

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