Tracking changes in Maori culture

Searching for clues in stone adzes and fish hooks

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2014
Andy Brown

STONE STORIES: University of London PhD student Andy Brown, 28, from Hawera, with a drawer of stone adzes and toki from Puke Ariki’s heritage collection. Brown is examining the artefacts to track the change of Maori culture over time.

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A new scholarship is helping a former Hawera man add to the history files of early Maori in Taranaki.

The first recipient of the $5000 Puke Ariki Trust scholarship, 28-year-old Andy Brown, is midway through his PhD in New Zealand archaeology at the University of London.

Brown's research involves looking at the stone adzes and fish hooks in Puke Ariki's heritage collection to see how Maori culture evolved through time.

Because it was incremental, archaeological research was not as glamorous as other areas of science, Brown said.

"It's not a big swoop like curing cancer.

"It's getting a bigger understanding of how and when and why change was occurring in the past."

He said research tended to categorise Maori history into early and late, but focusing on how it developed over time had not been done much.

"It's something so fundamental but we don't have a massive grasp on it."

Among Brown's peers at the University of London are experts in the neolithic period and Bronze Age, but they are interested in the work he's doing down in the Pacific.

"That's the thing with our history, it is short but there's a lot going on."

Puke Ariki director Kelvin Day said the scholarship and its objective were unique among New Zealand museums.

"What I'm excited about is it allows scholars like Andy to work on specific aspects of the collection and generate new knowledge.

"To get someone from the University of London is a bit of coup, and a local lad to boot," he said.

Puke Ariki Trust chairman Lynn Bublitz said the trust had always wanted to set up a scholarship that allowed the collections to be used as a basis for research.

Without a university in New Plymouth, it was important that material in Puke Ariki be available to students from other universities to build on their knowledge, Bublitz said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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