Fishing and Sea-Food Supplies of the Ancient Maori

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    IN the second Bulletin of the Dominion Museum of New Zealand, the director, Mr. A. Hamilton, contributes an elaborate monograph on the fishing and sea-food supplies of the ancient Maori, based upon the investigation of numerous coastal kitchen-middens and camp sites. The importance of these sources of food supply is clearly illustrated by the Maori mythology, which abounds in tales of sea adventure and monsters of the deep. Among the mammalia, the only class affording food or valuable spoil, except the native rat and the imported dog, was the marine fauna, including the fur-seal, sea-leopard (Ogmo-rhinus leptonyx), and the sea-lion (Macrorhinus leoninus), of all of which traces are found in the middens in the form of bones and ornaments made from their teeth. One of the most valued prizes was the great sperm-whale (Physeter macrocephalus); but other members of the same group, such as the black-fish (Globiocephalus melas), were used for food. Of mollusca the consumption must have been enormous, one of the many middens consisting of shells of the Maori pipi (Mesodesma novae-zealandiae) being 340 feet long and more than 4 feet high. Many of these shells, particularly that of the beautiful Holiotus iris, were used in the preparation of ornaments. Among the crustaceans, the most valued were the red crayfish, crabs, and shrimps. Sea-urchins and many kinds of seaweed were collected from the rocks.

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    Fishing and Sea-Food Supplies of the Ancient Maori . Nature 78, 582 (1908) doi:10.1038/078582a0

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