I came across this blog: http://www.tekaraka.co.nz/Blog/from-moa-to-taniwha … which I thought very interesting…. and which led me to this blog: http://www.firstlighttravel.com/blog/prehistoric-maori-rock-art-a-window-into-early-new-zealand-occupation/ … and so on.
I really loved that series of stamps NZ Post put out ages ago, so I went to the library.
“Rock art is found in many different forms in almost every country throughout the world. It is known variously as rupestral art, parietal art, petroglyphs and cave or rock drawings.” (p.71)
“It is possible that New Zealand’s earliest occupants had known of rock art before their arrival here, but there is no evidence definitely indicating the continuation of a previously-developed artistic skill.” (p.73)
“Some investigators have insisted that rock drawings must have a meaning; some suggested that they were a primitive form of writing, mnemonics, maps, or that they illustrated certain legends. Others have seen a ritualistic or magical purpose for them. They were described by Theo. Schoon in the New Zealand Listener (12 September 1947) as great works of art, as “frozen poetry in which the very soul of the mythopoetic Polynesian has been crystallized”, and as idle doodlings. For some reason many people seem loath to accept them simply as a form of art.” (italics in original, p.10)
“By far the greatest concentration of rock art sites is found in South Canterbury. Apart from a few drawings near Waimate, the great bulk are in the vicinity of the Pareora and Opihi Rivers. Here over two hundred sites have been recorded, mostly by A. Fomison. Best known are the Frenchmans Gully ‘birdmen’, the Craigmore ‘moa’ group, both protected as historic reserves, and the previously-mentioned 20-cent stamp [Opihi] ‘taniwha‘.” (p.29)
“Although North Island rock art sites comprise only about eight per cent of the total in teh South Island, comparatively they contain a greater variety of art work, both in subjects depicted and in the techniques of marking the rock surface.” (p.43)
“Looking at North Island rock art as a whole, its most striking features are its diversity in style from site to site, and its general lack of similarity to the relatively-homogeneous rock art of the South Island. Instead of being a distinctive art form, it appears to be the result of local random inspirations. The obvious question arises: why the great dissimilarity between the rock art of the North and South Islands? Does the difference reflect separate cultures, different economies, different ways of life?” (p.48)
Ref: Michael Trotter and Beverley McCulloch (1971) Prehistoric Rock Art of New Zealand. AH & AW Reed: Wellington.