Rare 40,000 year old log given to Māori rather than science

February 2, 2022 • 11:00 am

Increasingly, archaeologist and scientists are coming into conflict with indigenous people, and that’s to be expected as the latter exert rights that have long been trampled on. A lot of these conflicts involve biological remains like skeletons or fossils or, in this case, a log, that are found on “indigenous territory”. What do we do with such specimens?

First of all, you have to examine the claim that the indigenous have a genuine connection with the material. One would be hard pressed, for example, to say that a 15,000 year old fossil hominin in Alaska belongs to the local Inuits. It may come from a person not even closely related to modern Inuits. What is the moral claim to the skeleton? Likewise for remains found on modern or even ancestral tribal lands. Establishing such a connection is of course hard. Ideally, science would study the hell out of the object and then turn it over to those locals who have a substantive and empirical claim to it.

As for artifacts or living material, that’s clearer. Fossils and living species at least belong to the country where they’re found, though not necessarily to people who live nearest to the spot of discovery, and should not be removed to other places without permission. Artifacts like pots that can be clearly connected to modern groups must surely belong to them, though of course it would be nice if they were scientifically examined before repatriation.

But below we have a case where the course of action should be clear, but was violated because of what I call “the valorization of the oppressed.” We’re talking about New Zealand again, but in this case the indigenous people—the Māori—descend from Polynesians who arrived in what is now New Zealand about 700 years ago. Any non-“colonial” cultural artifacts dating after that period clearly should be given into the care of the Māori. Anything dated before about 1300, cannot be connected to Māori, and its disposition depends on property laws and government regulations.

And so, the discovery of a 40,000 year old log of a kauri tree (Agathis australis) that was preserved in an anoxic swamp, should raise no problems. But it did. Click on the screenshot to read:

Kauri trees are increasingly rare as they’ve been cut down for their durable and decorative wood, and a magnificent kauri is a sight to see:

The trees, found only at the northern part of the North Island of New Zealand, are endangered. Kauri play a role in Māori mythology, and that, along with massive deforestation, has been one reason why cutting them is almost completely banned.  But aa 60-tonne kauri log was recently found in a swamp during excavations, and determined to be over 40,000 years old.

From the article:

A 45,000-year-old log discovered during excavations for a new power station could explain a mysterious global event that may have dramatically changed the Earth’s climate.

Scientists in New Zealand believe the 60-tonne log could hold the answers to the ancient Laschamp Event – where the earth’s north and south poles switched with each other 40,000 years ago.

The 60-tonne Kauri log was found nine metres beneath the surface in Ngāwhā in New Zealand’s north island in February and was handed over to local Maoris on Wednesday after a major excavation operation.

Top Energy, the company building the power station, began earthworks in 2017 and had excavated 900,000 cubic metres of the soil before stumbling across the 16-metre log.

Scientist Alan Hogg, from Waikato University, determined the tree dates back to 40,500 years ago, NZ Herald reported.

The mammoth log’s age sparked interest in scientists studying the Laschamp Event – a ‘magnetic reversal’ where the Earth’s north and south magnetic poles switched places.

More:

It was not known exactly when the reversal occurred but it was thought to have been about 41,000 years ago.

Scientists hope that studying the level of radioactive carbon in the tree’s rings would allow them to determine when the reversal occurred and for how long.

Kiwi scientists believe the magnetic reversals — and the accompanying drop in the Earth’s magnetic field strength, which allowed more solar radiation to reach the Earth’s surface — could have a major effect on climate.

‘This tree is critical, we’ve never found one of this age before,’ Mr Hogg says finding the tree was a stroke of luck which will play a huge role in future research.

Going by its size the tree was likely to have been 1500-2000 years old when it died, Mr Hogg said.

The 16-metre log was transported to nearby Ngāwhā Marae (sacred place) on Wednesday, where a ceremony was be held to welcome the ancient tree to the hapū’s care (a division of Maoris).

As far as I can see, the tree was simply handed over to the local Māori without any scientific examination:

Ngāwhā Trustees committee chairman Richard Woodman said it was a ‘fantastic acknowledgement’ from Shaw that the tree was being returned to its rightful owners rather than gifted.

Transporting the tree was a major operation, with sections of about 1.5m long needing to be cut off either end so it could be moved, with the stump alone weighing 28 tonnes.

“Rightful owners”? Where did that come from? That tree both lived and centuries before the Māori even arrived in New Zealand. If there are rightful owners, it’s the government of New Zealand, who should hand the tree over to scientists who have, as noted above, a good reason for studying it. (Ring distribution can also give a clue to ancient climates in NZ, for one rarely gets a tree that is both that old and that well preserved.

The only reason Māori get the tree is because they consider it sacred. This is one example of how excessive respect for the culture of locals impedes the progress of science. No progress will be made by allowing it to stay on the Marae except to buttress a creation myth that is false. Study the hell out of it and then, if you wish, give it to the Māori, but don’t let myth overcome science. This is one reason why Māori “ways of knowing”—mātauranga Māori—are incompatible with science, for in this case the mythological sacredness of the tree, based on its presumed role in creation, prevent scientific work.

Let’s just hope the Māori allow scientists to look at the tree.

h/t: Malcolm

51 thoughts on “Rare 40,000 year old log given to Māori rather than science

  1. Study the hell out of it and then, if you wish, give it to the Māori, …

    But only give it to the Māori if they’ll keep it safe and available to science. After all, scientific analysis will always be vastly more capable in 50 years time.

    I’d say the same about things like the Kennewick Man skeleton, even if we can use DNA to identify which group today it is most similar to. Religion and cultural traditions will change so much over 9000 years or so that we should regard anything that old and that precious as belonging to everyone. And since it tells us about history, the priority should be to keep it safe and available for study.

  2. That’s freakin’ interesting – a giant old log and Laschamp Event – sounds so huge, like “Tunguska Event” – because it is! Magnetic field – I’d never have thought…

    Any pics of the specimen (while I go look for one quick…)

    1. Laschamp Event – sounds so huge, like “Tunguska Event” – because it is!

      The Tunguska event was only a few Hiroshima-sizes in terms of energy release. There have been several other similar events recorded since – over the Amazonian forests of N.Brazil in the late 1930s (no ground traces seen); Chelyabinsk in 2013 ; several recorded over the oceans by nuclear test-ban treaty monitoring systems since the 1960s. Tunguska was probably closer to a once-in-a-decade event than a once in a century event.
      Laschamp – it’s a magnetic reversal – they typically come along every 100,000 years or so. Look at the record in the rocks. If they were of significance to life forms, then we’d see appreciable extinction/ replacement in the fossil record correlated with the magnetic record. We don’t.
      Yes, there are migratory species that respond to magnetic signals. But they also respond to light signals and weather and landscape signals. If, as you’ll know from your own experience, you get two signals pointing one way, and one pointing differently, you reject the signal from the faulty sensor. If a species did depend solely on magnetic signals, and had a close relative that used magnetics and (say) sun position to navigate, then the extinction of the single-sensor species and it’s replacement by the similar (“close relative”) species with two navigation systems, would indeed be a consequence of a magnetic reversal. I don’t know of a single species that relies only on magnetotactic navigation. Presumably whenever they arise, they become extinct at the next magnetic reversal, proving once again that a single point of failure is a bad idea.

        1. That magnetotactic bacteria respond to magnetic fields does not mean that they don’t respond to other (chemotactic, phototactic, piezotactic …) stimuli. your examples of organisms that navigate only by magnetic fields start at … ?
          Most migratory organisms I’ve heard of use multiple senses for managing their migration. Little things like light, sunrise (or -set) direction, scenery …

          1. “navigate only”

            This post is about the earth’s magnetic field, so I added bacterial response to magnetic fields to your comment because its interesting not because I know everything. It depends on your definition of “navigate only”.. bacteria sense all sorts of stimuli but magnetic fields are particularly interesting for this post. I don’t know.

            I’m not understanding the scrutiny of my comment.

      1. Some say the reversal of magnetic poles was possibly a factor in the disappearance of Neanderthal in and around the same time. David Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things”, produced by the CBC in Canada, has a few programs around the pole switches, and the disappearance of the Neanderthals. You can find the podcasts in the CBC archives.

    2. Weelll…a very powerful effect yes, but not so sudden as a meteor. The process of reversal may have taken hundreds or even thousands of years.

      I very much liked this bit on it, from Wikipedia, which I didn’t previously know: “Because it occurred approximately 42,000 years ago, the period has been termed the Adams Event or Adams Transitional Geomagnetic Event, a tribute to science fiction writer Douglas Adams, who wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that “42” was the answer to life, the universe and everything.”

      Who says scientists don’t have a sense of humor?

      1. Who says scientists don’t have a sense of humor?

        Non-scientists?
        As regards the naming, the rules of priority apply (as they do for Zoology, Botany, etc), and it’s going to remain the Laschamps event. Unless someone comes up with a previous published reference.
        File “https://stratigraphy.org/ICSchart/QuaternaryChart1.jpg” in your “useful data” file. You can call it “George”, if you want, but that’s no use if the rest of the dating community call it “Paul, Ringo and John”. Which they don’t.

  3. How would the Maori know it was more than Forty thousand years old without “real” science? Furthermore how are they the “rightful owners”?

    1. My bet would be that during the planning and site-investigation for (whatever the building project is), the ground engineers designing the foundations would have taken core samples across the site (using a “rammed cylinder” method – which gives you ground-strength measurements along with a section through the ground) before designing a piling or foundation system onto which the builders can put their building.
      I don’t know NZ civil engineering standards, but that’s what is required in Britain, because we’ve had enough cases of building collapses because of inadequate foundation investigation. My 30 years as a professional geologist doesn’t give me any of the certifications or professional competences to get into doing such work – I’ve tried.
      North Island has reasonably frequent ash-rich volcanic eruptions, so a soil scientist working there would probably have a pin-up on his lab wall of eruption dates, mineral grain fracture characteristics and mineral chemistries (“Send these samples to the probe lab, Sam!”). Find the appropriate bed at (say) 3m below surface, and you can read the age off the chart.
      I spent most of a decade steering wells between such beds in the basins around the Forties Volcano (about 55 million years old) – we had about 30 marker horizons in that field which we could look for in sediment and micropalaeontology characteristics through the couple of million years duration of the volcanic centre. (We didn’t waste any effort on getting radiometric dating – the labs took too long to give us useful feedback for drilling.)

      1. I always enjoy your career and scientific explanations, Mr. Gravel, do keep it up.

        We used to have a big kauri (not THAT big) near our house – they’re beautiful. (just saying)
        D.A.
        NYC

  4. the ancient Laschamp Event – where the earth’s north and south poles switched with each other 40,000 years ago.

    That’s the North and South MAGNETIC poles swapping with each other. There are enough people who conflate the movement of the magnetic poles (possible, routine, fairly inconsequential) with the movement of the rotation axis of the Earth (needs an immense external torque to achieve more than a few seconds of arc movement per decade ; never shown to have happened ; would be fairly consequential) that you don’t want to encourage that trope.

    The mammoth log’s age sparked interest in scientists studying the Laschamp Event – a ‘magnetic reversal’ where the Earth’s north and south magnetic poles switched places.

    The problem is that the content of magnetic minerals in tree tissues is generally low. You might be able to pick up an interesting signal of changes in cosmic radiation against time, if the growth of the tree didn’t replace the structure of wood in the trunk on a regular basis. You’d be looking for nanomolar or femtomolar concentrations of beryllium-10 (IIRC) or several species of chlorine isotopes as a proxy for cosmic radiation intensity ; the beryllium signal might be OK, but after 40,000 years in a peat bog, I think you’d be optimistic to hope for a signal to not have been washed out.
    Other than that, someone has produced a selection of age estimates for the tree (spanning about 3 times it’s age), which might be by stratigraphy (ash deposits, this being the North Island?) or possibly by C-14 dating (which is going to be subject to all sorts of problems from penetration of C-14-young fungal hyphae, pore fluid, and the excavation process ; there’s a reason that smoking is banned on archaeological sites where C-14 samples are anticipated to be taken).
    If someone took reasonable quality photos of the cut ends of the stump and trunk when they separated it, you should be able to get the dendrochronological climate record out of that – it’s a fairly robust signal, which routinely survives burial at sea before or after partial incineration.
    One hopes the Maori paid for the lorry(s) to take it away. This thing from about 39300 years before they landed on the islands to exterminate the moas.

    As far as I can see, the tree was simply handed over to the local Māori without any scientific examination:

    Which begs the question of where that flurry of (non-overlapping) dates came from. The excavation of the bog might have given a hint, by the chemistry of ash-beds, but whether the excavation records were detailed enough to use that … those non-overlapping dates in the quoted articles do not fill me with optimism.
    For accurate dating of the Laschamp event, estuarine sediments with a reasonable (few 10ths of a % or more) concentration of magnetic grains would be much more useful (“estuarine”, because you want repeated influxes of marine microfossil-depositing tides so you can tie the sediment record to the fossil record). (Excavating sediment samples for magnetic analysis is a very specialist skill – it’s a lot easier in hard rock.) Unless you were lucky and got a really good bombardment record from the cosmogenic isotope profile from bark to interior, and managed to somehow tie that tree-ring record to the marine record.
    I have heard of people doing date-of-exposure dating of rock surfaces from cosmogenic isotope dating, but I don’t remember hearing of the technique being (successfully) applied to organic tissues.

      1. You tube isn’t … oh now it’s working, on the 3rd attempt.
        The “tennis racquet effect”. And the symmetry of that body is … anything like spherical? And this proves that spherically symmetrical objects “flip” their axes on a regular basis … how?
        Yes, the Earth isn’t a perfectly spherically symmetrical object. The equatorial axes are about 1/3 of 1% longer than the polar axis, and that asymmetry leads to the precession of the Earth’s rotation axis on a period of a few millennia. The object being played with in that video has about 10 times the polar axis length compared to it’s equatorial axial lengths. It’s an extremely prolate spheroid (somewhat comparable to 1I/’Oumuamua), while the Earth (and most larger bodies in the Solar System) are mildly oblate spheroids.

        1. I recall Mueller mentioned how people freak out about this because someone said the Earth would flip.

          Tangential/amusing.

          1. Tangential/amusing.

            Incorrect conflation of magnetic field “flipping” (a genuine phenomenon) and rotation axis “flopping”, which doesn’t happen outside various blobs of fiction. At least, not without applying a torque commensurate with the moment of inertia of the body and it’s axial change.
            See also – videos of bodies with a small moment of inertia “flipping” from a small torque. Check your browser history.

            1. … oh I see – I thought you originally pointed out that conflation – but you mean rotation around the axis…

              … but do not see what my browser history… nor how anyo e but me would… know.. whats in there…

    1. Do we really know that the switching of the magnetic poles will be inconsequential? Since the Earth’s magnetic field protects us from harmful radiation, I worry that there might be a gap in this protection during the switchover period. I suppose not much of our infrastructure relies on reliable magnetic compass readings these days but I don’t know it for a fact. Surprising someone hasn’t made a disaster movie about this pole switching. I suppose it’s because it wouldn’t be visually interesting — we hope.

      1. Do we really know that the switching of the magnetic poles will be inconsequential?

        It has happened several thousands of times overall in the geological record (there are lots of little flips between longer periods of relatively stable magnetic orientation, with around a hundred generally accepted by the ISC, International Stratigraphic Commission. https://stratigraphy.org/) [interruption, where was I?] People (specifically Raup & Seposki, but also later workers) have looked at extinction rates across time and … not found anything that matches with the reversal events.
        OK – that work was accepted by the geological community – that magnetic reversals do not associate significantly with extinctions. You are welcome to put a proposal to your funding bod(-y, -ies) to re-do the analyses (I think their initial project took about 5 years), but enjoy getting that funding! Raup and Sepkoski’s work has been repeated repeatedly (including by themselves, before Sepkoski gave it up as a waste of time), and nobody has< TTBOMK, found a significant correlation of species extinction with magnetic reversals.
        “Geomag reversals cause extinctions” is a popular pseudo-science trope, often loudly repeated. It isn’t supported by the data, and any science-aware commentator should be either dumping it from their mental toolbox, or re-doing the analysis themselves. You never know – you might win a Nobel. Or, maybe not.

        1. Sure, no extinction level events due to mag pole reversal but there are lots of other bad things that can happen that might not make enough of a mark to be visible in the fossil or geological record. Really bad sunburns?

          1. Air crew who routinely fly over the poles (and therefore outside much of the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field) don’t qualify as “radiation workers” (serial-numbered film badge, name on a “radiation workers” register, logged working hours, and the dosimeter badges assessed (per worker, per month) by a government-certified lab). But that is largely because aircraft companies rotate them on such routes to avoid them going into the dosage that flags them as radiation workers.
            BALPA have been trying to get them assessed as radiation workers since at least the 1980s, but haven’t succeeded, yet. In terms it’s marginal on absolute doses, but if you believe we’ve a good handle on intermediate-dosage responses to radiation, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Seriously, the people on the sharp end do get worried about it (especially the ones who are pregnant, or want to get someone else pregnant), and worry to their trade union about it. To which, generally, the airlines respond by rotating them to lower-latitude services. since they don’t need to risk losing that fight.
            “Really bad sunburn” in the sense of significantly increased mutation rates? No evidence for it. Little evidence even getting near. We dealt with enough genuine radiation workers to advise BALPA that they would struggle to win that fight, but they could use PR to negotiate mitigations for concerned members. Good enough to keep the concerned happy. With our (not BALPA’s) office in Aberdeen (“the granite city”, with 3-4 times the background radiation level of the average UK city), we maybe took a slightly more robust attitude than someone who wouldn’t even know where to site a radon monitor in their house. Mind you, the “London Clay” is a lot more radioactive than the underlying Chalk – which is good news for those living on the Downs, and why I propose Westminster as a good site for a nuclear waste dump.

    2. Sorry but “One hopes the Maori paid for the lorry(s) to take it away. This thing from about 39300 years before they landed on the islands to exterminate the moas.” was this necessary?
      I live here and who the hell cares when I’ve seen money wasted on far less and its still not clear who gets a piece of this action. As to killing off Moas yes they did but we haven’t been paying attention, the ship building, house building settlers decimated the kauri along with the habitat of indigenous flora and fauna and its associated problems e.g. erosion and shall we mention whalers and sealers pushing some of these creatures to near extinction.
      IIRC without the timely intervention of innovation (gas lamps) I dare say the migrating whales (for oil) would have been history in the southern oceans.
      There has been a lot of work in saving critically endangered fauna using science, dedicated field workers, Govt dept, sponsors, etc in this and last century supported by NZ’ders which includes Maori. It’s not perfect I’m beginning to think nothing ever is.

      1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t the moa (several species) hunted to extinction by the Maori before they discovered European explorers landing on their shores?
        Their environment; their culpability.

  5. “Rightful owners”? Where did that come from? That tree both lived and centuries before the Māori even arrived in New Zealand. If there are rightful owners, it’s the government of New Zealand…

    Time for Solomon’s solution. They interpret the Treaty of Waitangi to mean they get half of everything, then okay, we’ll section it and you can receive half the log.

  6. The 16-metre log was transported to nearby Ngāwhā Marae (sacred place) on Wednesday, where a ceremony was be held to welcome the ancient tree to the hapū’s care (a division of Maoris).

    While the intention here might have been to flatter and appease the Māori, I think it comes off as more patronizing than not because it assumes the Māori aren’t really a part of the modern world with all that implies. Local farmers are assumed capable of appreciating scientific worth and expected to have no problem handing over fossils or artifacts or stumps to those who know how to examine them properly. Find it on church land, same thing. Here’s the age of the earth: keep up.

    But the Māori? Smiles and hushed, gentle voices.’ This sacred, this for you. Tree very old, just like legend say.’ Seems to me the whole process subtly undermines the idea that indigenous people are intelligent, capable adults just like anyone else. It’s not really respectful; it’s more like being solicitous of someone who can’t handle what others can. I imagine not all Māori are equally pleased here. Though I could be wrong.

  7. If any skeletal remains of Homo neanderthalensis are discovered in future, I expect them to be turned over to me for ritual purposes. I assert that I am a rightful representative of the Neanderthal community, due to those 1 or 2 % sequences in my genome: any other use of the skeletal remains would make the Neanderthal bits in my genome feel marginalized and harmed.

    1. Get to the back of the queue, behind the Israeli, Lebanese, Syrian and Iranian residents who have a (geographical) stronger link to the oldest Neanderthal fossils around.
      That would, of course, exclude the proportion of Israelis who are recently derived from mixing in Central Europe then the deportations to Russia, then migration to the USA. Because you may well have a closer genetic association with the earliest Neanderthals than they do.
      (Yes, we name the sub-species (or variety) for the first named fossil, from the Neander Valley. But the oldest specimens, from approaching 100kyr ago, are from Iran and (approximately) Haifa in modern Israel.)

  8. Shocking, not least because the scientific findings that risk being lost have importance far beyond the shores of NZ/Aotearoa.

    1. I suspect that most possible findings were destroyed by the excavation process, long before the trunk was carted (lorry-ed?) off to the care of the Maori.
      We’re talking about a site-clearing project here, not an archaeological excavation.

  9. This is not a new story – it dates from July 2019 – and the article linked to above is pretty misleading. From a report at the time:

    “Ngāwhā Generation – a subsidary of Northland power wholesaler Top Energy – gave the kauri tree back to iwi on the agreement scientists could take samples for study.

    The research is being funded by the Australia Research Council and led by Professor Chris Turney from the University of New South Wales, a expert in paleoclimatology and climate change over the past 40,000 years.”

    Some of the results of the research were published in “Science” in February last year, and reported at the time.

    https://theconversation.com/earths-magnetic-field-broke-down-42-000-years-ago-and-caused-massive-sudden-climate-change-155580
    https://niwa.co.nz/news/ancient-kauri-trees-reveal-a-turning-point-in-earths-history-42000-years-ago

    The paper itself is here (needs a subscription):
    https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/science.abb8677

    Personally I have no objection to the log being handed over, given that this does not appear to have impeded the science in any way. The history of the trade in swamp kauri here is pretty shoddy, and I’d rather that the locals made something nice with it. For some of the history see this:
    https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/swamp-kauri/

    I’m all in favour of crticising what’s being done to NZ science in the name of matauranga Maori, and am extremely grateful to our host for drawing attention to it, but I don’t think this sort of article really helps the cause.

    1. I stand corrected, then. However, none of the stuff you say was mentioned in the article, so it’s both unfair and snarky for you to say that I’m not “helping the cause”. Are you the determinant of what helps the caue?

      I maintain that the log is not the property of the Maori. What is the rationale for that? It belongs to the government, who can retain it for futher study, not made into “something nice” (i.e., cut up and either sold as geegaws or used for statues or construction) by the Maori.

      1. I wasn’t being snarky, and saying that “I don’t think” that something helps the cause is hardly a claim that I am the determinant of anything. It’s an opinion, one which I am prepared to discuss and if necessary modify. What I meant was that if we make claims, for example, that “the tree was simply handed over to the local Māori without any scientific examination” it opens the door for the opposition to use that as an excuse to dismiss your valid concerns, which god knows they’re willing enough to do anyway.

        With regards to the issue of ownership, you may well be right. I don’t really have any strong feelings either way. If the government kept it they’d quite likely cut it up anyway. My house is mainly made of old kauri, although the floors contain rimu.

      2. As an expat kiwi who has some knowledge of the science of this topic, I am afraid that I am with Andrew on this one. I think you have done an awesome job on this blog in highlighting the dreadful way the ‘satanic seven’ have been treated, the appalling way that the NZ Royal Society has acted, Priscilla Wehi’s clown scholarship about Polynesians discovering Antarctica (and the robust response by serious Maori scholars to it), and the way that NZ’s science is circling the drain. The NZ media does not touch this stuff, and many kiwis (myself included) are very grateful that you do. But I am afraid that I agree with Andrew here, and I also find this article unhelpful. Also at the risk of being labelled as ‘unfair and snarky’, yes this stuff is not in the article you mentioned, but shouldn’t you at least do some homework before writing a provocative article like this? (NB I would normally put my name to this response, but my strong agreement with you on other points creates an obvious need for me to stay anonymous)

        1. There is an incredible amount of material presented here each day (it would take me a month to compile a day’s worth). I can’t always keep up just reading. All of it is for free. So it is only natural that some errors or omissions creep in. There isn’t time to fully research every item (there is a lot more to the Balto story for instance). At the least, mentions here can be a good starting point for exploring an unfamiliar topic.
          Even so, it is amazing how often I agree with the positions presented here; so much so that it is always surprising when I do disagree.

        2. You’re welcome to point out errors, but you have no right to tell me how much homework I have to do given the volume of stuff I post. Often I post on a single piece and don’t do a lot of background reading because there’s simply not time. I count on others to point out omissions and errors. I ask that people do so civilly.
          I would suggest that the people who say I should do more work should try fitting this website into their daily schedule.

          And seriously, you leave your name off because you don’t want me to know who you are? Seriously?

      3. I maintain that the log is not the property of the Maori

        IF Kiwi law is much like British law (colony, all that jazz), then the log most likely belonged to the landowners. And what they do with it is their own (PR Department’s) choice.
        caveat various regulations about ancient monuments etc. which in Britain largely post-date separation from NZ, so UK law isn’t much of a guideline.

        1. Yes, this. And IF Kiwi law/treaty gives the Maori half-ownership, or full ownership, then follow that law. When ol’ Jed became a millionaire, nobody asked if he was descended from the plants and dinosaurs that decayed and caused “up through the ground come a bubblin crude” on Jed’s land.

      4. “I maintain that the log is not the property of the Maori.”

        Aww, but they were there first!

        White guys – always throwing themselves around, grabbing everyone else’s stuff.

        First come first served – its simple ice cream line etiquette!

        [ this comment brought to you by sarcasm, satire, and ice cream ]

    2. This short post and brief discussion was valuable – I, under my rock, wasn’t aware of it and got to review some damn interesting science. So what if the source article was old or flimsy – within hours we all we brought up to date on one more small piece of science we wouldn’t have had otherwise. The article also had great pictures of this tree – I mean, did you see it?

  10. Makes NO sense! The tree pre-dated the Maoris by thousands of years! Man I get steamed when any religious stuff (indigenous or otherwise) interferes with science and knowledge. Like celebrities and protesters in Hawaii at that observatory they’re TRYING to build.
    I was going to write an article about that and even my lefty (like me) editors would have published it, but I knew there’d be huge reader blowback and I’d be called a Nazi or a racist or a pedophile or something just as bananas. So I wrote an article about psychedelics instead for that column. hehehe
    They’re much more fun!

    D.A.
    NYC
    (atty/writer – NOT racist, nazi, etc.)
    New York City

    1. In his Texas rally a couple of days ago, the orange one denounced the prosecutors carrying out criminal investigation of him and his business operations as, among other things, racists. Apparently, he
      considers that artificial orange skin tone makes him one of the oppressed POCs.

  11. Increasingly, archaeologist and scientists are coming into conflict with indigenous people … as the latter exert rights that have long been trampled on. A lot of these conflicts involve biological remains …. What [should] we do with such specimens?

    First of all, you have to examine the claim that the indigenous have a genuine connection with the material….

    [Here] we have a case where the course of action should be clear, but was violated because of what I call “the valorization of the oppressed.” … [An item’s] disposition depends on property laws and government regulations.

    And so, the discovery of a 40,000 year old log of a kauri tree (Agathis australis) that was preserved in an anoxic swamp, should raise no problems. But it did.

    Or maybe it didn’t. IANAL and have only an introductory understanding of Te Tiriti and its relationship to NZ domestic law, but ISTM in this instance the oppressed have a strong claim to ownership, as was acknowledged by the construction company “that the tree was being returned to its rightful owners”.

    One of the provisions of Te Tiriti is that the Māori retain all rights to their various stuff (taonga). There have been legal cases involving ownership of recently-dug-up nephrite jade rocks (pounamu), and it seems reasonable that similar considerations could apply to recently-dug-up logs.

  12. Several times you refer to Maori as indigenous. They are not. They did not evolve here,they merely arrived by boat a few hundred years before European. First settlers? maybe, some evidence says no, other people were already here.
    The UN declaration of indigenous rights does not apply to NZ for two reasons, one, as I have said, Maori are not indigenous. Two they signed a treaty with the colonizing power. That treaty in article 2 starts by presuming that all land in NZ was owned by Maori and stays with the unless purchased by the crown at an agreed price.

    1. You are very certain of yourself given the ways that biologists and others use that word. For example, Wikipedia says this under its entry for “Maori”

      The Māori (/ˈmaʊri/,[6] Māori: [ˈmaːɔɾi] (audio speaker iconlisten)) are the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand (Aotearoa). Māori originated with settlers from East Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages between roughly 1320 and 1350.[7]

      Indigenous can also mean “native”, meaning “first people to settle there”

      Finally, the Maori did undergo evolution over the several hundreds years of evolution since they arrived in New Zealand. How much evolution do you count as “evolution.”

      Since this appears to be one of your first comments, I would also advise you to not act so cocksure on this site. Many connotations of the word “indigenous”, biological or cultural, would consider the Maori “indigenous.”

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