Monday, April 19, 2010

Dendroglyphs in the Chatham Islands

When in New Zealand
I read of the dendroglyphs
found on the Chatham Islands
a part of New Zealand,

The Chathams are called
Rekohu in Moriori
and Wharekauri in Maori

the Chatham Islands
are a remote group
of ten small islands
lying 800km 
from the east coast of New Zealand

They have been a part of New Zealand 
since 1842

The dendroglyphs are ancient tree carvings
made by the first inhabitants of the Chathams,
Polynesians who were called the Moriori

Moriori survivors of the Maori Invasion

At that time
the Moriori lived by a code of non violence
and passive resistance
so that when boat loads of the Maori arrived 
in 1835 from New Zealand
to claim the land
and take it's inhabitants as slaves
they were almost made extinct

The Chathams are rather an inhospitable land
different from the warmer islands 
previously known to the Moriori
and to maintain their cultural 
and spiritual heritage
the Moriori carved spiritual images
on the native Karaka trees
there being no suitable substance 
such as the greenstone
in New Zealand which the Maori
utilised for carving implements 
weapons, fishhooks, jewellery
and items of spiritual value

New 3D laser technology
is being used to preserve clear images
of the dendroglyphs
which are fading from the trees
because of time
and wind erosion 
and a beetle peril

currently only
609 people
live on the Chatham Islands



  1. Now that's what I call living art...

  2. Hi Jinksy

    well said, living and growing too...

    Happy days

  3. You are a great teacher, dear Delwyn. I learn many things visiting here.

    The sacred images found on the Chatham Islands are intriguing - good to hear they are being preserved.

  4. Trees play such a part in our memories, history and mysteries. The use of 3D laser technology is interesting, I was wondering how carvings from the 1800's were still so clearly seen.
    In our woods, I can barely make out carvings made before 1950 and I often ponder the mystery of a fading large carved arrow that points down, to the base of a tree.

  5. Thank you Delwyn. Things I did not know, and am now glad I do and can think on them.

  6. delwyn - fascinating! i'm intrigued by the symbolism and then too by the need to leave the markings. steven

  7. This is the type of place I could fall in love with... remote sleepy place rich in history. not to forget beauty.

  8. I've never heard of the Chatham Islands! That last picture is just beautiful!

  9. Delwyn, I had never heard of the Chatham Islands. The dress of the Moriori survivors is interesting. The three women sitting in front could almost be wearing European dress, and two of the men standing at the back could be wearing what looks like Scottish dress. Most interesting.

  10. Wow. So much mystery and magic comes through in these photos.

    Now I just want to go around saying dendroglyph, dendroglyph, dendroglyph. What a wonderful word and concept! Tree tattoos.

  11. Delwyn, thank you for this! You're such a wonderful teacher. I found this fascinating. I find it very sad that when a people who are peaceful and non-violent encounter more warlike tribes that the outcome is so predictable.

    Perhaps in some other worlds intelligence is coupled with more compassion.... Sadly it is not always so here on this plane.

  12. The word dendroglyph reminds me of the word dendrochronology which is the counting the trees rings to see how old it is - usually by taking a core sample - so perhaps 'glyph' means picture - signed Sherlock Holmes.

  13. Thank you Bonnie

    I can't seem to help myself...and I love imagery too

    Happy days

  14. Hi Wanda

    I hadn't thought of trees as history markers but I like it...Do you think that the trees were carved deeply and being a cold climate they may be very slow growing native hardwoods too.

    Maybe its the treasure marker Wanda

    Happy days

  15. Hi there Titus

    glad to be of service. I enjoyed reading about them so thought others may too

    happy days

  16. Hello Steven

    It is rather a desolate place and I suppose it was their way of recording the sacred in the only way that was available to them.

    happy days

  17. Hi Liss

    the Chathams look rather idyllic but I think in truth they are desolate and wind blown...not t all an island retreat....

    Happy days

  18. Hello there Betsy

    its nice to see your lovely face again

    Way down alongside little ol NZ....nearly falling off the bottom of the globe!

    Happy days

  19. Hello Ann

    no I don't think that they would make the news often...

    I imagine that the islanders had had missionary contact, certainly whalers sealers and trade ships would have stopped by and 'shared' clothing, which they may have been grateful for. How do you keep warm on little islands with no large animals to skin...I wonder if they had possums or rats to make cloaks...or did they use plant fibre...

    Good observations Ann

    Happy days

  20. Hi Polly

    I can see that you as a wordsmith would be interested in these records of time past.

    I like the word too. Petroglyphs are the name for the rock paintings found in Hawaii. I wonder what the aboriginal cave paintings are called.

    Happy days

  21. Hi Polly #2 comment

    OK just to clear the terms up The petroglyph is a carving too not a painting.

    The Petros = stone

    glyphhein=to carve

    from the French originally

    So with the trees the dendro part means tree
    and the glyph part the carving

    Happy days

  22. Hi Alden

    good questions and you can see in the comment above to Polly that the glyph part means carving - more than a picture or painting....

    Happy days


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