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16 March 2008
Pictograph in NZ derived from ancient Asian-Pacific culture?

Hanging Rock's famous Ruataniwha image is probably derived from an Asian-Pacific culture more than 4000 years old, according to geographer, ecologist and planner Haikai Tane. Prof Tane is an expert in traditional Dao iconography, thetransfer of knowledge through symbols. He recently discovered a link between early Asian-Pacific people's iconography and cave pictographs found in New Zealand. He reports in a paper presented in the Chinese Academy of Sciences that the Ruataniwha pictograph from the Opihi cave has links to Dao symbolism.
     Archaeological discoveries in the 1970s indicate they may have been made by descendants of the Hemudu culture, prototype polynesians who were boat nomads in the South China seas between 8000-4000 years ago. And to ancient Dao experts the icons still have meaning. In Asia Pacificiconography, the gourd, water dragon (taniwha), and sun bird are significant symbols containing cultural intelligence. Haikai Tane also refers to two river dragon mounds recorded by archaeologist in the Ohau and Pukaki River bed in the 1970s. It seems they were destroyed by road and river works for they are not to be found at the coordinates registered in field notes by archaeologists from Otago and Canterbury museum.
     The symbols of the Ruataniwha Opihi Cave art can be 'read' as watershed symbols. Dao scholars interpreted the images as a Dao model of a mountain-river-lake watershed. A tiger mountain (Mt Cook) aligned to a dragon river and a dragon-turtle lake (Pukaki). "Dao master Ren Farron readily identified the Ruataniwha cave etching as as an ancient Dao pictograph with readily identifiable components."
     Suggesting that humans visited New Zealand before the generally accepted time frame of 1000 years ago, runs contrary to current New Zealand academic accounts of the first people to arrive in the country. When the paper was presented in China it attracted considerable interest. It is consistent with Chinese archeological discoveries of the Hemudu culture south of Hangzhou Bay which dates back 7000 years.
     From genetic research undertaken at the University of Hawaii and reported in the pan-Pacific science congress proceedings, the migrations of economic plant species such as cotton show they were taken to the Americas around 6000 years ago where they were domesticated. They were then returned as domestic plants to Asia by 4500 years ago. He suggests these people may have visited the South Island during their travels across the Pacific more than 4000 years ago. "It is likely the Ruataniwha pictographs were etched during one of these stopovers or early settlements to provide watershed maps of the two inland basins in Dao cultural iconography.
Source: The Timaru Herald (14 March 2008)

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