Historical Significance or Value
Maori rock art is a significant aspect of New Zealand’s earliest human history, and Te Manunui rock art site is an important representative example. There is still much that is unknown about rock art sites such as this, and further research has the potential to develop our understanding of important sites of early human settlement such as this. The discovery of moa bones at the site are also an important find that contribute to the understanding of habitats and distribution of two types of moa. The rock art at this site has been of considerable interest to heritage enthusiasts, archaeologists and international scholars since early colonial settlement.
Archaeological Significance or Value
Te Manunui Rock Art Site is of significant archaeological value. The rock art is clearly visible, in good condition and contains complete figures. This allows comparisons to be made with the styles and techniques used at other sites. In comparison, many other rock art sites in New Zealand contain only very fragmentary and faint traces of art.
The site is valuable in terms of the information gathered through previous archaeological research, and has the potential to further contribute to the current body of knowledge relating to the rock art and archaeology in New Zealand. Recent work on the site that has uncovered new natural deposits indicates potential for new information to be obtained using archaeological methods at this site. There have been 580 sites recorded in the South Island by SIMRAP (South Island Maori Rock Art Project) and 276 examples of rock art recorded in the NZ Archaeological Association Site Recording Scheme for Canterbury. This is one of only a few rock art sites that are accessible to the public nationally, and one of two easily accessible in the district, which allows for opportunities relating to public education. This adds considerable value to research relating to the site. It is worth noting that there has been a noticeable increase in visitor numbers since Te Ana, the Ngai Tahu Rock Art Centre in Timaru, has opened.
Cultural Significance or Value
Te Manunui is significant for a number of cultural reasons. It is primarily important to the kaitiaki runanga, Te Runanga o Waihao and Te Runanga o Arowhenua and to Ngai Tahu whanui as a whole. It is a place that was inhabited by their ancestors in the past. The place is a landmark that contributes to the identity of the Ngai Tahu people and they are active guardians of this area. The traditional stories associated with the site reinforce the Ngai Tahu relationship and interconnectedness with their Waitaha and Ngati Mamoe ancestors. There are iconic images within the Te Manunui figures which continue to provide Ngai Tahu artists with inspiration from the legacy given by their ancestors.
Traditional Significance or Value
The surviving rock art remnants such as that found at Te Manunui are described by Ngai Tahu as a particular taonga of the area, providing an important and unique record of the lives and activities of their ancestors who travelled throughout the region.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
Maori rock art has been studied by scholars in New Zealand since the earliest recordings of an archaeological nature were being made. Although there are a large number of recorded rock art sites around the country, Te Manunui is an important and readily accessible representative example.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
Maori rock art is an important and tangible remnant from the past that links to the earliest period of human occupation in New Zealand. Maori Rock art holds a special and unique place in New Zealand’s cultural heritage.
(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history
The rock art at Te Manunui is valuable for research and interpretation of this aspect of New Zealand History. The rock art is clearly visible, well executed, in good condition and contains complete figures. This allows comparisons to be made with the styles and techniques used at other sites. In comparison, many other rock art sites in New Zealand contain only very fragmentary and faint traces of art. New information continues to come to light regarding the art and its context, revealing valuable insights into New Zealand’s history. Te Manunui is a well-known example of such a site.
(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua
Te Manunui Rock Art Site is of special significance to tangata whenua as a physical example of the activities and places associated with their very early ancestors. The site provides tangible evidence of traditions and practices of their ancestors which still survives in its original geographic context.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place
Te Manunui Rock Art Site has been actively cared for by land owners, community members, tangata whenua, DoC and NZHPT for over fifty years from the time of its original voluntary registration as an historic reserve in 1962 to the 2006 significant upgrade by members of the South Canterbury Historic Branch, Councils, Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust, Runaka, landowners and heritage enthusiasts
(f) The potential of the place for public education
The condition of the art at Te Manunui, together with the relatively natural setting and its proximity to the road make it ideal for educational purposes. Sites that are accessible to the public are an important component in the management of rock art as a whole, as they help raise awareness of the art and appreciation of its significance.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place.
Maori rock art is an important and tangible remnant from the past that links to the earliest period of human occupation in New Zealand. The art at this site is clearly visible, well executed, in good condition and contains complete figures. The significant and rare Pouakai figure has been celebrated and utilised by artists to this day.
(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement
Maori rock art is an important and tangible remnant from the past that links to the earliest period of human occupation in New Zealand. Although the art at this site is yet to be dated, it is stylistically aligned with other examples of rock art that occur alongside archaeological deposits that date to the earliest period of human occupation of this country when Maori lived contemporaneously with moa.
Summary of Significance or Values
Te Manunui is a significant tangible remnant from the past that houses a rare and distinctive rock art bird figure amongst over 80 figures found at this site. The site links to the earliest period of human occupation in New Zealand with art that is still clearly visible, well executed, in good condition and containing complete figures. Te Manunui provides outstanding evidence of traditions and practices of Maori occupation which still survives in its original geographic context. The site is accessible to the public and provides a strong educational opportunity.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 1 historic place
Historical and associated iwi/hapu/whanau
Te Runanga o Arowhenua Ngai Tahu
Te Runanga o Waihao Ngai Tahu
The earliest traditions associated with human occupation of the South Island refer to Rakaihautu, the captain of the Uruao waka, which brought the Waitaha tribe to New Zealand. Rakaihautu beached his waka at Whakatu (Nelson) and divided the new arrivals into two groups, with his son Rakihouia taking one party south along the coastline and Rakaihautu taking another south by an inland route. On his inland journey, Rakaihautu used his ko (a digging implement) named Tuhiraki, to carve out the major lakes and subsequent waterways of Te Wai Pounamu . The earliest people of the South Island are most commonly known as Waitaha. There are also important tribal histories and traditions relating to the Kahui-tipua, Hawea and Rapuwai peoples that are closely connected with the South Canterbury region. As described in WAI 27 The Ngai Tahu Report;
Waitaha were both a people and a collection of peoples. The name refers to all those who were there prior to the Ngati Mamoe and Ngai Tahu migrations. Known by European scholars as Moa Hunters, the culture associated with the hunting of the moa had already gone with the passing of these flightless birds when Ngai Tahu first crossed Cook Strait.
The next wave of migration was undertaken by the descendants of Whatu-Mamoe, who came down from the North Island's east coast (Te Tai Rawhiti) to settle in the south. These descendants came to be known as Ngati Mamoe and through inter-marriage and conquest they merged with the resident Waitaha.
The origins of Ngai Tahu also have genesis from Te Tairawhiti. Tahu Potiki, the eponymous ancestor of Ngai Tahu, descended from the Ngati Porou tupuna, Paikea. The descendants of Tahu Potiki formed Ngai Tuhaitara and Ngati Kuri, and moved south to Wellington. They then continued their migration to Te Wai Pounamu. Warfare as well as political and personal alliances saw Ngai Tahu interests fused with Ngati Mamoe and Waitaha. Today, Ngai Tahu manawhenua is recognised over a large part of the South Island. Huirapa, one of Tuhaitara and Marukore’s children, had been killed at Hataitai and his ure (descendants) called themselves Kati Huirapa when they migrated down to Waipounamu. Kati Huirapa intermarried with Hawea, Rapuwai, Waitaha and Kati Mamoe creating Waiteruaiti then Arowhenua as their main kaika.
Both iwi history and archaeological evidence show Maori occupation in the South Canterbury region over an extended period, with the inhabitants utilising a wide variety of natural resources from the diverse environment. The date of earliest settlement of the area is generally thought to be the 12th century. There was extensive human settlement throughout the South Canterbury region when moa still existed, as shown in the widespread archaeological remains of moa bones in cultural contexts. With respect to the Pouakai, the only Eagle known to have been in New Zealand; tribal korero relates how the Pouakai was so big and strong that it could pick up a small child and carry them off and that it hunted the Moa or Whero nu Moa into the swamps or attacked them as they foraged for food. This korero would indicate the Pouakai was also present when settlement occurred.
Although a specific date cannot be given for the art at Te Manunui, archaeologists have suggested that rock art sites such as this and others in the South Canterbury and North Otago regions date from the first 500 years of human occupation in New Zealand. Some rock shelters with rock art have been shown through archaeological methods to be occupied by Maori who lived while moa still existed in the region.
Descriptions of rock art were amongst the earliest published records of an archaeological nature in New Zealand. The surveyor W. B. Mantell first recorded sketches of rock art in his notebooks in 1852. In 1868 Mantell delivered an address on moa to the Royal Society of New Zealand in which he asserted that Maori must have lived contemporaneously with moa due to depictions seen in the rock art of the Canterbury and Otago regions.
In Julius Von Haast’s first address as president of the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury on the 5th of April, 1877, he chose to discuss the topic of rock art in the Canterbury region,
The paintings are done with a bold hand; they are well finished, and show clearly that they are the work of an artist of times long gone by, who was no novice in his profession. The paint consists of kokowai (red oxide of iron), of which the present aborigines of New Zealand make still extensive use, and of some fatty substance, such as fish oil, or perhaps some oily bird-fat. It has been well fixed upon the some-what porous rock, and no amount of rubbing will bring it off. It is evident, however, that the existing paintings, which are already partly destroyed by the scaling off of the rock through the influence of frost and other physical agencies causing weathering, are not the first which were delineated on this rock, because in many spots, and sometimes below the paintings under consideration, faint traces of still older ones are visible.
Von Haast regarded the rock art executed in black as belonging to an earlier time than the art in red, describing the rock art executed in black as ‘…of a more primitive nature, and seem to have been done by a different race of men’.
The Rev. J. W. Stack presented his “Sketch of the Traditional History of the South Island Maoris” to the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury at that same meeting, which was published in the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He noted that much of his information came from Peta Te Hone of Kaiapoi and other kaumatua of note from areas including Moeraki and Arowhenua.
Stack’s sources attributed rock art to Ngati Mamoe, who ‘…are said to have lived in caves, where traces of their occupation are shown in the rude drawings overlying those of a more ancient date’.
James Herries Beattie published details in the Journal of Polynesian Society of his conversations with respected Maori elder Taare Te Maiharoa, who spoke of the history of rock art. Beattie noted that,
‘It was the people who came with Rakaihautu and their descendants who executed on sheltered cliff-faces the paintings, around the origin of which so much surmise has centred. My informant reckoned that the ancestors of these people had once had a system of writing very unlike English writing or printing, and that they lost much of the knowledge in coming from land to land, but still retained memories of it. These paintings represented their writing after they came to New Zealand, and preserved to them incidents of their history. Only the designs done in black are Waitaha work, and the method of making the paint has been traditionally handed down. There is a tree called monoao, which my informant had seen growing at Benmore (near Lake Hawea), and describes as like a macrocarpa, with branches that may grow many feet long and with leaves like matai (black pine). Probably no other kind of tree in New Zealand contains so much gum or resin (called ware in south, pia in north), and it will burn readily when green. The branches of this tree when burnt, give off a smoke, said my informant, that would speedily turn white clothes black with soot. Screens were erected to direct the smokes against a tipaki (flax mat), and the soot was subsequently scraped into an ipu (carved wooden basin). Tarata trees would be chipped and the gum collected, and rautawhiri berries gathered. These berries or seeds were smashed and tightly squeezed into a whitau (flax bag) and hung by the fire, when the oil from them would drip into the ipu. The oil of the weka (woodhen) was also an ingredient, and these four items were mixed in certain proportions, “not too thick nor too thin,” and the result, said my informant, was “an ink that would stand for ever.
The claim that the paint so obtained was indelible is substantiated by the state of preservation of the work, as some of the black paintings are probably over 1,000 years old. The red paintings, continued my informant, were done many generations later than the black, and were the work of Kati-Mamoe, who simply copied the Waitaha figures.’
Beattie reported that another well-known rakatira Henare Te Maire, agreed with that korero.
Historical Accounts and Recording of the Site
Formal recording of Te Manunui Rock Art Site began in the twentieth century. Local enthusiasts Hugh McCully and G.A Hornsy were among the first to record rock art in the south Canterbury area, leaving significant collections of tracings. Duplicates of McCully’s works were gifted to the Otago and Dominion Museums, whilst Hornsy’s remained in his personal possession. Both collections contain tracings of the Te Manunui Rock Art Site.
Roger Duff carried out a survey of rock art sites for the South Canterbury Historical Society from 1945 to 1946, at which time he made scale drawings of the art at Frenchman’s Gully. In 1946 the Department of Internal Affairs commissioned Theo Schoon to make ‘artists oil copies’ of the rock art sites. As a result of this commission Schoon doubled the number of recorded rock art sites, but unfortunately, he was also responsible for ‘retouching’ a large number of drawings with grease crayon. Te Manunui is one of the sites where Schoon’s retouching is evident. Schoon’s collection of rock art paintings, including two that depict figures at the Te Manunui site, is now held in the Canterbury Museum.
The artist Tony Fomison carried out the third major rock art survey in the south Canterbury area from 1959 to 1960, during which time he created a large collection of sketches and tracings of the rock art figures as well as recording information on the condition of the sites. Fomison made numerous recommendations relating to their long-term preservation. At the Te Manunui site he identified vandalism, flaking and stock as major threats to the art. Fomison’s recommendations included fencing, improved site access and the use of interpretive signage to draw attention to the drawings as a public education tool.
By August 1961 a series of protection/enhancement works had been completed by a committed band of heritage enthusiasts, Department of Works and Labour, and Department of Lands and Survey staff.
The rock art site was declared a Private Historic Reserve by the Minister of Lands on the 6th of June 1962 under the then Reserves and Domains Act of 1953. The National Historic Trust (New Zealand Historic Places Trust) was named as the administering body responsible for managing the site.
Te Manunui was first entered in the New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Recording Scheme in 1965, with details included from Tony Fomison’s site visit of 1959 (recorded as site J39/17).
The most recent recordings of the Te Manunui site were made in 1995 by Brian Allingham as part of the survey and recording work of the Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust South Island Maori Rock Art Project (SIMRAP). There are more than 80 individual figures identified at this site. These recordings are held by the Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust (NTRAT) on behalf of the kaitiaki runaka and Ngai Tahu whanui. Allingham notes that the Te Manunui art is unique in that the site was not a permanent occupation shelter and he offers the suggestion that the proliferation of art at the site may be due to the wai puna (freshwater spring) at the eastern edge of the site. The proximity of fresh running water may have provided both sustenance and cultural inspiration for the early artists.
As a 50 year anniversary project in 2006, the Historic Places South Canterbury Branch elected to significantly upgrade the Frenchmans Gully rock art site in conjunction with the Waimate and Timaru District Councils, Department of Conservation, the newly established Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust, NZHPT and the current landowners.
Works were undertaken to install a culvert close to the rock shelter and to construct an interpretation shelter and gate at the roadside entrance to the site. A number of bones were found during these works and specialists from the Otago Museum confirmed two of them as moa. The bones were identified as belonging to the stout-legged moa Euryapteryx geranoides (renamed Euryapteryx gravis, but now known as Euryapteryx curtus) and the heavy-footed moa Pachyornis elephantopus. However, the bones do not show any signs of human interaction, so these finds do not contribute to dating of the art.
The newly upgraded site was officially opened on the 20 June 2006 at which time the name “Te Manunui” was formally gifted to the site by tangata whenua. The opening was planned to coincide with the 31st UNESCO World Heritage Committee annual conference being held in New Zealand for the first time and was attended by UNESCO Youth Forum delegates as well as local dignitaries.
Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust representative Sue Eddington noted at that time that “it was important to remember it was not just Maori rock art but national history and was there for everyone to take pride in and enjoy”.
Rock Art and New Zealand Art
Maori rock art is often regarded as the earliest New Zealand artwork, and the rock art sites of South Canterbury and North Otago have been described as “New Zealand’s oldest art galleries”. The Ngai Tahu Artist Ross Hemera, has commented on the importance of rock art in informing his work, stating, “These drawings, for me, are manifestations of our tipuna. So when I go back to the rock shelters, when I’m visiting, these are the occasions when I feel closest to the spirit of my ancestors”. Another Ngai Tahu artist, Simon Kaan, described his connection to rock art as, “We talk about filling up our kete as artists and this is where our whakapapa is, you know, from an artistic perspective.” Francese Home has deep feelings for the art maintaining that, “Rock art is part of our whakapapa, it is the direct link with our early tupuna who walked this land centuries ago acquainting themselves with a new life and new land. For a while we lost the connection through colonisation (other iwi as well as Anglo/Saxon) however we never lost the connection to this ancient art and our sense of belonging to this whenua.”
New Zealanders have long been influenced by their experience with Maori rock art. Theo Schoon’s employment by the Department of Internal Affairs in 1947 to document rock art was formative in the development of his own art. New Zealand artist Gordon Walters accompanied Schoon on visits to rock art sites and Tony Fomison was involved in the recording of many sites and extensively sketched the art at various sites.
Comparisons with Other Sites
Rock art in the north Otago and south Canterbury regions is commonly found in a similar context to that of Te Manunui Rock Art Site. The art is often applied to the walls or accessible roof area of a limestone outcrop, where rain contact will be minimal. Limestone surfaces under overhangs such as Te Manunui are found at rock art sites like the nearby Craigmore sites, Takiroa (NZHPT Register No. 7769), Maerewhenua (NZHPT Register No 7770) and Raincliff rock art site (not registered; NZAA Site Record J38/56).
The distinctive bird figure has special significance due to its rarity. The rest of the art depicted within the shelter is not uncommon. The depiction of birds, marine animals, and human type forms are all common in rock art of the area and similarities can be found with other sites in the North Otago and South Canterbury regions. The blank central portion that features in the abstract human-like figures is also a motif seen in art at other sites.
Trotter and McCulloch identified seven other examples of giant bird type depictions in the South Island. Some of these figures have been referred to as ‘bird-men’ or ‘bird-men type figures’. A North Otago site is also shown to depict small birds along its wingspan as seen in one of the figures at Te Manunui Rock Art Site. None of the 80 or so naturistic and stylistic art figures represented at the site depict post-European contact objects.
The depiction of birds such as Moa and Pouakai that have been extinct for more than 500 years suggests that rock art is at least that old.
Te Manunui Rock Art Site is approximately 30 kilometres west of Timaru, south of the Pareora River, in the area known as Maungati. The area is predominantly used for farming, with a number of limestone outcrops and rivers in the area.
The site is located near the west side of Frenchman’s Gully Road about 1.25 kilometres from its junction with Craigmore Valley Road and is signposted.
The rock shelter at Te Manunui is approximately 15 metres long and about 4 metres high at the highest point. The overhang of the rock face above averages about one metre.
The rock shelter is protected by a wire mesh fence supported by heavy galvanised steel tube similar to scaffolding tubes, about 1.5 metres apart, set in concrete. There is also barbed wire at the top, and stones along the bottom of the fence.
The rock art at Te Manunui is clearly visible, in good condition and contains complete figures. There are a number of depictions within the shelter, which are generally located in the upper level of the wall and extending at times overhead. The first figures seen when approaching from the path is a grouping of four figures sometimes referred to as “The Birdman Group”. This image grouping is depicted in a sketch made by Tony Fomison during his visits of the 1960s and were described by Fomison at the time as two bird figures, a fish, and a volute headed figure (see appendix). The bird figure has been utilised in contemporary Ngai Tahu artworks in public and private works. It has also featured, controversially, in commercial objects such as shot glasses.
Further along the rock face are two further fish figures and two figures described as dogs in the NZAA Site Record form. There are also a number of other abstract figures and shapes.
Graffiti and damage
The NZAA Site record form notes that at the time of the visit in 1959 the site already showed signs of damage with “initialling by visitors and restorations by enthusiasts, who have outlined figures in white chalk and made restorations in pencil, indian ink, and crayon.” It was also noted at the time that a lichen/moss growth was obscuring some of the images on the roof of the outcrop. Some growth is currently visible on the wall including around the bird and fish figures. Fortunately, Te Manunui did not suffer the extraction of rock art by visiting American, James Elmore, as other sites did during his infamous tour in 1916.
'Retouching' by Theo Schoon
Completion of a series of protection/enhancement works
Physical access improvements
Installation of a culvert close to the rock shelter, construction of interpretation shelter and gate
The art was probably created using a soot mixture applied to the limestone surface in the solution as per Beattie’s recipe, but it is yet to be fully analysed.
Public NZAA Number
22nd April 2014
Report Written By
Ellen Andersen, Huia Pacey, Jacinta Paranihi
Paul Thompson, Maori Rock Art: An Ink that will Stand Forever, GP Books, New Zealand, 1989.
M Trotter and B McCulloch, Prehistoric Rock Art of New Zealand, Longman Paul Ltd, Auckland, 1981.
Waitangi Tribunal Report, www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz
Waitangi Tribunal, Ngai Tahu Report, Wai 27, WTR 3, Brooker and Friend Ltd, Wellington, 1991
Journal of the Polynesian Society
Journal of the Polynesian Society
Beattie, James Herries, “Traditions and Legends: Collected from the natives of Murihiku” (Southland, New Zealand), Part VIII. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 27(3):148-149.
Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute
Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute
Von Haast, Julius, ‘Address By Professor Julius Von Haast, Ph.D., F.R.S., President of the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury’. Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868-1961. Volume 10 1877
Fomison, A., Maori Rock Art in North Otago and South Canterbury, A Guide to the Interpretation of Its Styles and Subject Matter (c.1970). Ref: MS-0928, Hocken Library Collection, University of Otago, Dunedin.
Tau and Anderson, 2008
Tau, Te Maire, and Anderson, Atholl (Eds) ‘Ngai Tahu: A Migration History – The Carrington Text’, Bridget Williams Books Ltd, Wellington 2008.
A fully referenced copy of the registration report is available on request from the NZHPT Southern Region office.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.