The “megaliths” of New Zealand

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By Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

Earlier this week, I gave a talk to the South-West Hertfordshire Archaeological Society on the subject of Bad Archaeology. Among the questions at the end, most of which were generally supportive of my sceptical tone, I was challenged to explain the evidence for pre-Maori “megaliths” in New Zealand and, more specifically, the work of Martin Doutré, an American citizen living in New Zealand. At the time, I mentioned that I had heard of Doutré’s work and that I was aware of its links with extreme right-wing politics. For me, that ought to be enough to dismiss the implications of his so-called “discoveries”, but it was clearly not enough for my questioner.

Back-track to July 2008. I received an email from a “Badger H Bloomfield” of Dannevirke, New Zealand, in which I was challenged to “check out if you are interested.A find of buried clay sculptures ,siltstone carvings,Script,glyphs, pyramids all in New Zealand at Dannevirke ,Motea .Waione. Horoeka,Tararua District… A very objective find …Obviously out of Africa ..3D.carved face profiles with large lips …Everybody has  been skeptical BUT nobody has come to have a look!!? Remember ..”Seeing is Believing:”…I challenge you to prove this as “Bad Archaeology””. A bit of googling revealed a few websites that contain comments by Mr Bloomfield. He seems to turn up from time to time in discussions of New Zealand prehistory, sometimes promoting his Tararua Ancient Sites Project, which has no real web presence. Indeed, this is what he did in a reply email to me: “While you guys argue and debate the misnomer of “Bad Archaeology “.We are uncovering a dig of enormous proportion …No one wanted to know only wanted to argue whether we were qualified to dig or not ,so we called in some overseas Prof:s,Academics ,and interested researchers .…What we have retrieved to date are hundreds of stone carvings ,sculptures ,ancient script ,settlement sites.We have retrieved a lot ,restoring as we go ,with a lot still in the ground being destroyed by quarry machinery it can’t stay in the ground forever ,it has to be retrieved and analised,So instead of yapping about something you know nothing about ,make the effort to come and view at “Tararua Ancient Sites Projects Restoration Studio“.

Some of Badger H Bloomfield's alleged Neolithic tools

Some of Badger H Bloomfield’s alleged “Neolithic tools”

It’s actually very difficult to find information about the Tararua Ancient Sites Project, although a photograph posted by Badger Bloomfield on a site dealing with dinosaur fossils purports to depict Neolithic tools. I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that they are from Tararua; however, this may be confirmed by his comment on the Maori News blog that “the exhibition of Taumata atua sculptures and carved Ma-Uri stones retrieved from Ancient sites by the “Tararu Ancient Sites Project”… want our original “Tangata Whenua”recognised as to whoever they were !!!A culture of Neolithic artisans capable of creating a group{tribe}of very efficient carvers ,seamen,gardeners,builders,all the carved face profiles on the carvings and sculptures only represent “Men”..So!! who did they breed with?? Maeroero ?”. According to the caption of the photograph, “on close inspection carved faces and designs are visible” on the stones. I have to say that I can’t see any evidence for carving, for faces or even for an anthropogenic origin for these bits of stone, although I’m basing my opinion purely on a photograph.

Unfortunately, the New Zealand Archaeological Association declined to comment on Badger Bloomfield’s project when I asked them for further information. A spokesperson did confirm, though, that she was aware of him and had received emails similar in tone to those he had sent me.

Part of the Doutré hypothesis is that orthodox academics are actively suppressing or wrongfully discrediting his discoveries. He manages to get respectful press attention, although some have complained about it. He is also something of a revisionist when it comes to interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Trying to research this subject drags us into the murky subculture of White Supremacists, who are determined to show that Europeans settled various places (in this case New Zealand) before the inhabitants discovered by the first European explorers. Sometimes, these people hide behind innocuous enough (but often poorly designed) websites; sometimes they are more brazen about their beliefs. Now, I’m not suggesting that either Martin Doutré or Badger Bloomfield are white supremacists (indeed, Badger Bloomfield seems to be as enthusiastic about Maori archaeology as his clearly is about supposedly pre-Maori archaeology); what is evident, though, is that the alleged discoveries they are keen to promote are taken up with glee by extreme right wing racists. Moreover, Doutré very publicly endorsed David Irving and holocaust denialism in a comment on a post in the Scoop Review of Books.

However, having neo-Nazi sympathies does not automatically invalidate Martin Doutré’s hypothesis. People can hold vile political views and still make important discoveries. So, what is his evidence for “Celtic New Zealand”? He makes much use of things he identifies as standing stones or megaliths, comparing them with examples known in the British Isles. Many of the stones he claims as megaliths look more like glacial erratics. However, his surveys of their locations have suggested that they incorporate significant astronomical alignments and may even be laid out according to the ‘Megalithic Yard’. His surveying is based on what he has learned in his profession as a carpenter, rather than archaeologist or surveyor, but Alexander Thom, doyen of astro-archaeologists, was an engineer by profession, so this isn’t a damning observation.

However, without evidence that all these recumbent stones were once deliberately arranged in the landscape, some standing upright, they remain boulders that have not been shown to be megaliths. The carved and shaped stones of Badger H Bloomfield resemble nothing more than the “artefacts” from the Bay of Cambay touted by Graham Hancock as evidence for his ‘lost civilisation’; in other words, they are of natural, not anthropogenic, origin. And the precise measurements using ‘megalithic yards’? Well, for one thing, the stones are claimed to have fallen from their original upright positions, so Martin Doutré has to “reconstruct” the original appearance of the “stone circles”, meaning that these precise measurements are based not on the stones themselves, nor on archaeological evidence showing where they originally stood, but on Doutré’s beliefs about where they ought to have stood. Alexander Thom’s ‘megalithic yard’ was debunked in much the same way: his very accurate surveys were of stone circles that were sometimes incomplete or otherwise not in their original forms, or had been ‘restored’ in some way, so his surveys were of the twentieth-century appearance of the circles, not their Early Bronze Age forms. The ‘megalithic yard’ is pretty much the average human pace, not an accurate system of measurement.

A supposedly 150,000 year old carved tree stump from New Zealand

A supposedly 150,000 year old “carved tree stump” from New Zealand

There is more, inevitably. Claims for a 150,000 year old carved tree stump associated with a stone adze have been recycled. A nineteenth-century print of the stump does not inspire confidence in claims that it really was carved by humans. I have not been able to find an illustration of the “adze”; why would someone ‘carving’ a tree stump leave the tool with which they had done the job next to the finished article, anyway?

All in all, Martin Doutré’s “Celtic New Zealand” claims are rubbish. There is no politer way of putting it. Used to bolster some rather unpleasant extreme right-wing political views, it is an hypothesis born of what he wants the past to have been, not what it actually was.

Perhaps one reason for the enthusiasm with which some have taken up the “Celtic New Zealand” hypothesis is the fact that many of the nineteenth-century European immigrants in New Zealand were of Scottish or Irish ancestry. It remains the case, though, that not a single shred of credible evidence for pre-Maori settlement has ever been found; although its proponents claim an academic conspiracy to silence them and suppress their discoveries, not only are they able to publish them, any real archaeologist who discovered pre-Maori settlers on the islands would have their career made in an instant!