Sunday, December 6, 2009

Maori Place Names - 39

I love the Weka Pass area. There's something mystical about the place that always fires my imagination. And not without good reason as it turns out. Located around 80 km north-west of Christchurch its home to magnificent limestone outcrops that imbue the landscape with an almost tangible power. The area is well known for its Maori Rock Art – which I have yet to explore. Maori are believed to have first explored the area over 1,000 years ago, in search of food. Birds were plentiful then. It is assumed the Maori camped overnight under the limestone overhangs and using charcoal and red ochre (haematite), also known as kokowai, they drew human figures, fish and dogs. There’s a walkway that provides access to the site in Weka Pass Reserve and there are known to be other rock art sites on private land. I believe the main site suffered good deal of vandalism at one point and now there’s a large fence between the public and the drawings.
Also in this region, you’ll find Pyramid Valley, which I drove through about a year ago – stunning countryside and again littered with massive limestone rocks and cliffs. On a different occasion, I was lucky enough to visit a huge farming property in this area, where I actually touched dinosaur fossils. The place was littered with them and there have been significant dinosaur skeleton finds there too. The area shot to fame in 1938 when two farmers, Joseph and Rob Hodgen, discovered large dinosaur bones when they were burying a dead horse in a swamp on their land. When archaeological research began in 1940, over 183 complete moa skeletons were discovered along with tens of thousands of bone fragments. It’s an area I must go back to - when summer finally arrives.

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