Deep in the bush south of Lake Taupo, New Zealand lies a mysterious stone wall that has been causing controversy since its discovery in the 1990’s. It was first researched by amateur geologist Barry Brailsford “a history lecturer at the Christchurch College of Education (who) had written numerous books including two that dealt with South Island prehistory” and American self-proclaimed alternative historian David Childress (of Ancient Aliens fame).
The duo published an article in Science Frontier magazine in 1996 where they claimed that “There was no doubt that the stones had been cut. The four visible stones in the front wall were a uniform 1.6 metres tall, and 1 metre wide. In one place he could insert his arm into a root-ridden cavity and feel the back face — and the front face of the next tier. The faces were uncannily smooth, with no saw or adze marks. The interstices where the blocks join were knife-blade thin….Further up the hill, the tops of other stones protruded, suggesting a more extensive structure was buried in the hill.”
Furthermore, they stated that the wall was proof of a pre-Polynesian society who had inhabited New Zealand before the Maori. If this were true, it would essentially rewrite New Zealand history and could lead to a whole slew of legal problems–*a story for another day which I won’t get into at this point but if you really want to know, I added a footnote at the bottom!
After the article was published, the New Zealand Department of Conservation had a geologist check out the site to determine the authenticity of the story. He determined that “the rocks (were) 330,000-year-old Rangitaiki Ignimbrite….he revealed a system of joints and fractures natural to the cooling process in ignimbrite sheets. What Brailsford had taken to be man-made cut, stacked blocks were no more than a type of natural rock formation.” Science Frontier redacted their story within the year after this was published.
Now as you may have figured out, I fancy myself a bit of an Indiana Jones type so when I heard about the wall while visiting New Zealand in 2016, I had to try and find it. On a whim, my friend and I had decided to drive to Lake Taupo for our day off from work and on the way home, I begged her to try and find the wall with me. Luckily, she’s an excellent sport so off we went.
There were no solid directions, just a couple of very unclear statements about it being x-number of kilometers from this and that road. I even tracked down a motorcycle website that listed GPS coordinates to try and find the exact location but that ended up being a fail. Now the thing about New Zealand is that it always takes like three times longer than expected to get somewhere. Unless it’s a major highway, chances are it’s a one-lane dirt road. And this one was out in the middle of the bush. We kept driving and driving, halfway expecting to find ourselves in a horror movie. The closest thing we had to actual instructions was this “The Kaimanawa wall is only 10.7km along Clements Mill Road and can be difficult to spot while moving, however, the road continues another 8km to a dead end where several walking trails into the Kaimanawa Forest commence.” which I found on an off-roading website. So we watched our odometer and peered as hard as we could out the windows as we crawled along the dirt road at a snail’s pace. What seemed like hours later, we somehow managed to find it.
It was quite overgrown, but it was MASSIVE. It certainly seemed strange to find this giant wall-like structure in the middle of the New Zealand bush but I’m no expert (yet). I am not convinced either way about the origins of the wall, but I am thrilled that I got to see it. The adventure was the best part!!
Regardless of the wall, I will say that I support the Māori as Tangata Whenua and that I have very strong feelings about the unjust actions of both the British empire and NZ government in regards to the past and continued violation of the Waitangi Treaty.
If you are in New Zealand or planning a trip there and want to try and visit, here are the best directions I could find.
“Identity and Alternative Versions of the past in New Zealand.” In Pacific Island Heritage: Archaeology, Identity & Community, edited by Clark Geoffrey, Liston Jolie, and Alexander Dwight, 5-16. ANU Press, 2011
Science Frontiers No. 107: Sep-Oct 1996
*All photos featured in this post are my own*
*Footnote: “Several published and online alternative prehistories explicitly state that the ‘fact’ of pre-Maori occupation extinguishes Maori rights under the Treaty of Waitangi. In summary, the argument runs that if Maori were preceded by another people, and they killed the Maruiwi/Moriori and took their lands by force, then European settlement and the subsequent alienation of Maori land is simply another example of social-Darwinism – with the weak making way for the strong. Further, the redistribution of state-owned assets under the Treaty of Waitangi is not warranted because the original inhabitants have been extirpated.” (From “Identity and Alternative Versions of the past in New Zealand”)