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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 1, June 1964

By W.T. Hammond

Waihi Beach – Halfway to Bowentown Heads – Whiritoa – Batty's Whangamata – Tairua – Hot Water Beach – Hakei [Hahei? - E] – Buffalo Beach – Otama – Opito.

At the Eastern end of Kuaotunu Peninsula between Opito and Sarah's Gully, there is an outcrop of argillite, a favourite stone of the ancient Maori when making implements of stone.

On all the above workshops were many flakes of argillite, apparently all from the outcrop at the East end of Kuaotunu Peninsula. On these workshops were also blocks of sandstone, hollowed out in places, showing where implements had received their sharpening and smoothing operation.

Many drill points lay on the surface – these were used in drilling holes in whale bone, human bone, dog bone, moa bone, albatross bone – in manufacture of fish hooks, toggles, flutes, pigeon spear points, Kaka rings, bone meres. These drill points were small pointed fragments of jasper or quartz.

Flakes of obsidian strewed the ground, apparently this volcanic glass was obtained mostly from Mayor Island and was called by the Maori – Mata. The name Whangamata meaning harbour of obsidian. Whangamata would be the nearest part of the mainland to Mayor Island. The obsidian flakes were used as knives in culling flesh – scraping wood work, etc. Pieces of chert or quartzose rock, about the size of hen's eggs, also lay on the surface. These were hammers used in breaking down the ridges on a stone implement in process of making. These hammers plainly show the bruising on each end.

At Opito on the Kuaotunu Peninsula, could be found many roughed out stone adzes, chisels, etc. These would be taken to other workshops along the coast for further flaking, bruising, pecking and final polishing process.

The stone implements were of various sizes, shapes and design. Some were to be used as adzes, some as chisels, others as wedges. Some were made for hafting on the side.

The better class of tool was made from chert and from greenstone as being harder. It had a better cutting edge. The stone sinkers were made from any handy rock. Andesite – and were frequently made from any egg-shaped or cylindrical stone by simply bruising a groove round the circumference to hold a cord.

In the vicinity of the workshops were to be seen the sites of haangi or ovens where the meals were cooked. Shells of the common pipi, the limpet, paua, showed upon what the Maori had feasted.

Bones of the ancient dog, human bone, whale bone, albatross bone, bone of the moa and jawbones of the tuatara could be found on an old workshop on the Waihi Beach – one being discovered by Captain Gilbert Mair in 1902. A series of Westerly gales had blown the sandhills seaward and left exposed an old workshop that had probably been hidden for hundreds of years. Nearby great numbers of human skeletons lay exposed and Captain Mair was sent to investigate and it was when visiting this old burial place he came upon the workshop which covered nearly an acre of ground. Here on the surface lay stone implements in all stages of manufacture, flakes or argillite, obsidian and chert, drill points, sandstone grinders, bruising hammers; bones of man, dog, seal, whale and moa. He gathered 3 large Maori kits full of the best and I spent a couple of hours at his home in Thames inspecting his find, which soon found its way to the Auckland Museum.

My brother was living at Waihi at the time and every week-end he spent on the site searching for stone implements and these formed the nucleus of my present collection.

Among artefacts found by my brother on this Waihi Beach workshop, was a large stone adze of black stone, beautifully flaked and in parts showing the bruising process. The adze would probably weigh 10 or 11 lbs. It resembles similar adzes from D'Urville Island.

My brother also found in the same place a perfectly finished gouge of black stone perhaps 10 or 11 inches in length.

Both of these implements I presented to the Auckland Museum as gifts from my brother, Fred.

Many collectors of Maori artefacts began to search over this area and eventually Selwyn Te Moananui Hovell made a systematic search and cleaned the place up of everything showing Maori workmanship. Recently in May, 1960 I noticed that workmen had been cutting away the site of this workshop in getting material for filling in depressions in roads.

The old workshop at Whiritoa, to-day shows hardly a sign that it had once been a workshop of the ancient Maori. The same may be said of Whangamata, Tairua, Hot Water Beach, Hakei [Hahei? - E] and other places once strewn with flakes of obsidian and argillite.