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Maori–European interactions in artlocked

  • Roger Blackley

Extract

The Stone Age in New Zealand ended abruptly in 1769, when Captain James Cook’s Endeavour introduced iron artefacts to the culture of the indigenous Maori. Lucky individuals traded for tomahawks and nails; others less fortunate experienced being shot by devices that totally transcended the familiar wooden and stone weapons. These latter artefacts in turn proved desirable ‘curiosities’ for the European visitors, so that Cook-provenanced artefacts came to represent an ethnographic line drawn between an idealized ‘before’ and ‘after’ European contact—despite such ‘contact’ spanning decades, if not an entire century. Several preserved human heads were obtained on the voyages, inaugurating a macabre collecting craze for tattooed heads that reached its height in the 1820s before being outlawed in ...

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