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Soldiers, thieves, Māori warriors: the NZ convicts sent to Australia



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Detail from a coloured lithograph depicting Port Arthur penal station in 1843.
State Library of New South Wales.

Kristyn Harman, University of Tasmania

Soon after it became a British colony, New Zealand began shipping the worst of its offenders across the Tasman Sea. Between 1843 and 1853, an eclectic mix of more than 110 soldiers, sailors, Māori, civilians and convict absconders from the Australian penal colonies were transported from New Zealand to Van Diemen’s Land.

This little-known chapter of history happened for several reasons. The colonists wanted to cleanse their land of thieves, vagrants and murderers and deal with Māori opposition to colonisation. Transporting fighting men like Hōhepa Te Umuroa, Te Kūmete, Te Waretiti, Matiu Tikiahi and Te Rāhui for life to Van Diemen’s Land was meant to subdue Māori resistance.

Portrait of Hohepa Te Umuroa by William Duke.
Wikimedia Commons

Transportation was also used to punish redcoats (the British soldiers sent to guard the colony and fight opposing Māori), who deserted their regiments or otherwise misbehaved. Some soldiers were so terrified of Māori warriors that they took off when faced with the enemy.

William Phelps Pickering, his second wife Grace Martha, and two of her children.
Author provided

Early colonial New Zealand had no room for reprobates. Idealised as a new sort of colony for gentlefolk and free labourers, New Zealanders aspired towards creating a utopia by brutally suppressing challenges to that dream. On 4 November 1841, the colony’s first governor, William Hobson, named Van Diemen’s Land as the site to which its prisoners would be sent. The first boatload arrived in Hobart in 1843 and included William Phelps Pickering, one of the few white-collar criminals transported across the Tasman. Pickering later lived as a gentleman after returning home.

In 1840s Van Diemen’s Land, convict labourers were sent to probation stations before being hired out. Many men transported from New Zealand were sent down the Tasman Peninsula, where labourers were needed at the time.

Ironically, those eventually allocated to masters or mistresses in larger centres like Hobart or Launceston would have enjoyed more developed living conditions than New Zealand’s fledgling townships. In those days, Auckland’s main street was rather muddy. Early colonial buildings were often constructed by Māori from local materials.

At least 51 redcoats were shipped to the penal island. Some committed crimes after being discharged from the military. But many faced charges related to desertion. Four of the six soldier convicts who arrived Van Diemen’s Land in June 1847 were court-martialled in Auckland the previous winter for “deserting in the vicinity of hostile natives”.

Port Arthur penal station, Tasmania, showing convict labourers in 1843.
Coloured lithograph signed ‘R.N.N’ (or ‘K.N.N’).

State Library of New South Wales.

As Irish soldier convict Michael Tobin explained, the deserters had been returned to the colonists by “friendly natives”; that is, Māori who were loyal to the Crown during the New Zealand Wars. Perhaps as a form of insurance, Tobin had also struck Captain Armstrong, his superior. Several other soldiers also used violence against a superior – it was bound to ensure a sentence of transportation, removing them from the theatre of war.

Irish Catholic soldier Richard Shea, for instance, was a private in the 99th Regiment who used his firelock to strike his lieutenant while on parade. This earned him a passage on the Castor to Van Diemen’s Land. His three military companions on the vessel, William Lane, George Morris and John Bailey, all claimed to have been taken by Maori north of Auckland and kept prisoner for four months. But surviving records reveal that their military overlords thought that the three had instead deserted to join the ranks of a rebel chief.

Maori fighters

In 1846, NZ governor George Grey proclaimed martial law across the Wellington region. When several Māori fighters were eventually captured and handed over to colonists by the Crown’s Indigenous allies, they were tried by court martial at Porirua, north of Wellington.

A portrait of Matiu Tikiaki by John Skinner Prout, painted in Hobart in 1846.
British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA

After being found guilty of charges that included being in open rebellion against Queen and country, five were sentenced to transportation for life in Van Diemen’s Land. The traditionally-clothed Māori attracted a lot of attention in Hobart, where colonists loudly disapproved of their New Zealand neighbours’ treatment of Indigenous people. This is ironic given the Tasmanians’ own near-genocidal war against Aboriginal people.

Grey had wanted the Māori warriors sent to Norfolk Island or Port Arthur and hoped they would write letters to their allies at home describing how harshly they were being treated. Instead, they were initially held in Hobart, where they were visited by media and other well-wishers. Colonial artist John Skinner Prout painted translucent watercolour portraits of them. Each of the fighters used pencil to sign his name to his likeness. William Duke created a portrait of Te Umuroa in oils.

Hobartians were worried that the Māori could become contaminated through contact with other convicts. Arrangements were made to send them to Maria Island off the island’s east coast, where they could live separately from the other convicts.

John Jennings Imrie, a man who previously lived in New Zealand and knew some Māori language, became their overseer. Their lives in captivity were as gentle as possible and involved Bible study, vegetable gardening, nature walks and hunting.

Hohepa Te Umuroa’s headstone at Darlington on Maria Island.
Kristyn Harman

Following lobbying from Tasmanian colonists and a pardon from Britain, four of the men, Te Kūmete, Te Waretiti, Matiu Tikiahi, Te Rāhui, were sent home in 1848. Te Umuroa died in custody at the Maria Island probation station in July 1847. It was not until 1988 that his remains were repatriated to New Zealand.

Reducing crime through imposing exemplary sentences saw dozens of working-class men transported to Van Diemen’s Land. One such fellow was James Beckett, a sausage-seller transported for theft for seven years. The only woman sent from New Zealand, Margaret Reardon, was sentenced to seven years’ transportation for perjuring herself trying to protect her partner (and possibly herself) from murder charges. After being found guilty of murdering Lieutenant Robert Snow on Auckland’s North Shore in 1847, the following year Reardon’s former lover Joseph Burns became the first white man judicially executed in New Zealand.

At one stage, Reardon was sent to the Female Factory at Cascades on Hobart’s outskirts to be punished for a transgression. Eventually, she remarried and moved to Victoria where she died in old age.

The ConversationIn 1853, transportation to Van Diemen’s Land formally ended. New Zealand then had to upgrade its flimsy gaols so criminals could be punished within its own borders.

Kristyn Harman, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Tasmania

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Did Indigenous warriors influence the development of Australian rules football?



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In a painting such as Warriors of New South Wales, 1813, we can easily imagine a group of men ready to take to the football field.
Australian War Memorial

Robert Pascoe, Victoria University and Gerardo Papalia, La Trobe University

There are aspects of Australian rules football that never fail to puzzle the uninitiated. The Conversation

The game has its straight up and down plays – the long-kicking and high-marking that seem to give the contest a sense of order and clarity of purpose. But then there are the moments of pure anarchy, as the ball falls to the ground, players knock it forward or sideways, and a quick handball or a short, driving kick produces an unexpected result.

Adam Goodes playing in 2010.
Paul MIller/AAP

Other rules of the engagement are baffling to the untrained eye. There are no referees with a send-off power, merely umpires; there is no offside rule; the pitch dimensions vary from one ground to another; and the language of the commentators and the fans (the “barrackers”) is unusually martial.

Formed in the 1850s frontier contact zone, Australian football owes more to the experience of warfare between British settlers and Indigenous Australians than is usually recognised.

These rules were written on a wet Tuesday afternoon in Bryant’s Hotel in May 1859 by four young British men delegated with that task by the new Melbourne Football Club.

The city of Melbourne, destined to become a leading hub of the British Empire, was still young, but already a series of straight lines intersecting at right angles etched across what had been open Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung land only a generation before. Australian football would become the product of this frontier contact zone.

The four founders of the game spent most of their lives within these overlapping and shifting domains, seeking to negotiate their troubled subjectivities in the frontier.

Tommy Wills, who grew up in western Victoria, was the son of a settler implicated in ethnic cleansing against Indigenous Australians who would later lose his life in a conflict with the Gayiri people in central Queensland. James Boyne Thompson left Melbourne for country Victoria, slipped down the social ladder, did time in gaol, and died young. William Hammersley abandoned a wife and four children in England, married again in Melbourne, and died young without seeing his estranged family again. Thomas Henry Smith is remembered for his peppery temper, but fell from view soon after helping write the rules.

In short, the quartet who drafted the rules of this new “most manly and amusing game” were misfits from British society who were seeking new lives, or a refuge away from the dictates of convention, on the frontier.

Sydney Swans’ Lewis Jetta performs a dance in front of the crowd in 2015.
David Moir/AAP

If we re-assess the historical sources, many features of the “Game of Our Own” reflect the all too familiar story of European colonisation. There were certain consistent themes in the appropriation of native lands and resources by the British, French and other colonising powers in modern imperialism.

One is the collision between ways of delineating – or striating – newly conquered land with straight property lines against indigenous land uses that understood property in more open and communal – or “smooth” – terms. The new football code similarly involved delineations across the “smooth” spaces of Melbourne’s parks and gardens.

The colonisers made attempts to embody Indigenous “qualities” of physical prowess to increase and justify their power and dominance over the colonised. Australia’s imperial newcomers often sought to “go native”, to appropriate what they saw as the Indigenous faculty for becoming spiritual or animalistic, which was their way of interpellating the Aboriginal “Other”.

For instance, in swimming they adopted what became known as the Australian Crawl. In running they borrowed the idea of the crouch start. Elements of the Indigenous ball game usually called Marngrook – such as high marking — made their way into Australian rules football.

Indigenous chalkings and native decoration

European settlers observed Indigenous warriors chalking themselves in vivid colours and stripes for battle and copied this in their guernseys. We argue that the predominantly European colonial football teams adopted totemic plants (such as Mayblooms, Fuschias) and animals (such as swans) in their nomenclature as manifestations of this prowess.

Football players were bedizened in costumes that spoke either of Empire (the white) or native decoration (hooped guernseys).

When we look at paintings such as John Heaviside Clark’s Warriors of New South Wales, 1813, we can easily imagine a group of men ready to take to the football field. They are showing their spirit in their gestures; they are banded together for a common purpose.

The full-sized Warriors of New South Wales, 1813, by John Heaviside Clark.
Australian War Memorial

Not surprisingly, Indigenous men took up Australian football on the Victorian reservations where they were exiled from 1869 onwards, and as early as 1872 a Framlingham resident, Pompey Austin, was selected to play for Geelong.

These martial features of Australian football should not surprise us. After all, a bloody war between the colonisers and the Indigenous was in the living memory of the players and their barrackers.

That war is now distant to us, and has earned the sobriquet the Frontier Wars. Between the 1830s and the 1850s hundreds of Indigenous warriors and dozens of British settlers were killed across south-east Australia. Echoes of that conflict recur in the national code of football.

For Aboriginal Australians, even in parts of the continent dominated by Rugby League, this is their code of preference. They feel such a strong connection to the game that an explanation such as the one we have provided is demanded.

And then there is the ongoing puzzle of the 2015 season – the booing of Adam Goodes, a champion of the game and an Australian of the Year. Goodes wanted to remind the game’s devotees that it contained at its heart an Indigenous element. 95 per cent of the commentariat agreed with him; 75 per cent of the instant experts on social media did not. Those who booed said they were not “racist”.

Historians of the game would beg to differ.

A detailed version of this argument can be found in Robert Pascoe & Gerardo Papalia (2016) A Most Manly and Amusing Game’: Australian Football and the Frontier Wars, Postcolonial Studies, 19:3, 270-290.

Robert Pascoe, Dean Laureate and Professor of History, Victoria University and Gerardo Papalia, Honorary research Fellow in Italian Studies, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


The Celts – Celtic Warriors



Bones of Iron Age warriors may reveal link between Yorkshire’s ‘spear-people’ and the ancient Gauls


Peter Halkon, University of Hull

Around 150 skeletons buried in 75 graves have been discovered in an Iron Age cemetery near the town of Pocklington in East Riding, Yorkshire, in what is undoubtedly one of the most significant recent finds in Britain. They are the latest discoveries from archaeological sites in the area that reveal a culture whose burial traditions suggest links to the ancient Gaulish people of northern France.

At Pocklington, the most striking of the recent finds is the grave of a young man, probably a warrior, buried with an iron sword between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago. What is remarkable is the presence of five spearheads, whose position shows unequivocally that they had been thrown at the corpse itself. Most of the burials were without grave goods, though one female was buried with a fine brooch similar to examples found on the continent.

There are around 23 so-called “speared corpse” burials in eastern Yorkshire, with between one and 14 spear points found in the grave. Was this the equivalent of a rifle volley fired over a military burial as in modern times? Were the swords thrown into the grave as a mark of respect by fellow warriors? Or might it even represent a Dracula-style impaling after death to prevent the dead from rising?

This tradition of speared corpses, burial in square barrows – a small, square, ditched enclosure surrounding a central grave covered by a low mound – and chariot burials are traditions clustered in eastern Yorkshire with only a few outliers. The closest parallels to the square barrows found in East Yorkshire are in north-eastern France and Belgium. Although there are subtle differences in the form of burial and grave goods, some form of continental link seems undeniable.

The Pocklington speared corpse burial under excavation.
Peter Halkon

These traditions are associated with the ancient people known as the Arras culture, named after Arras Farm near Market Weighton in Yorkshire? where the first archaeological discoveries were made between 1815–17. These 19th-century digs unearthed remarkable finds including chariot burials complete with iron tyres and other metal fittings, and in one case the remains of the two horses used to pull the chariot. They were identified by the diggers as “Ancient British”, thought of as the chariot-fighting Britons described by Julius Caesar.

More chariot burials were found during the 19th century, including one excavated at Beverley nearby by the early archaeologist William Greenwell, and during the 20th century more were found among hundreds of Iron Age burials unearthed around the villages of Garton and Wetwang. These included burials complete with swords in decorated sheaths, and another of a woman buried with a decorated copper alloy canister, an iron mirror, and one of only two pieces of gold found in the region – used to embellish an iron brooch also decorated with coral, probably from the Mediterranean. Perhaps the best example of a chariot burial was excavated in Wetwang village in 2001, which revealed another high-status woman and featured in the BBC’s Meet the Ancestors TV series.

Radiocarbon dating has shown the burials around Wetwang to be clustered around the mid-3rd century BC, with an analysis of various isotopes present in the bones demonstrating that most had been brought up in the region.

The cemetery site at Polkington, showing characteristic square barrows.
MAP Archaeology/PA

Who were the Arras people?

The term Arras culture was coined in the 1940s by Vere Gordon Childe, Abercromby professor of archaeology at Edinburgh University and director of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London. Based on the similarities in burial traditions, Childe believed the Arras people had invaded from the Marne area of northern France. Other scholars such as CFC Hawkes saw the Arras culture as one of the waves of invaders who crossed over from continental Europe in later prehistory.

Ian Stead, whose PhD was on these people, undertook many excavations in the 1980s, and his 1991 book Iron Age Cemeteries of East Yorkshire remains the major work on this topic. The similarities in these burials to those on the near continent prompted Stead to conduct excavations in the Champagne and Ardennes regions of France.

The distribution of square barrows, chariot and speared corpse burials suggests some form of regional identity within eastern Yorkshire, and it was this region that 2nd-century geographer Ptolemy wrote of as being inhabited by people known as the Parisi. According to some linguistic scholars, the Old Welsh word for spear is “par”, and so the name of the tribe can be read as “the spear people”. Delgovicia – a settlement mentioned in the Roman Antonine Itinerary as being somewhere east of York – is thought to derive from “delgo”, meaning a thorn or spear, and so could be interpreted as “town of the spear fighters”.

Archaeologists tend to be sceptical about the use of place names in such circumstances, but perhaps this idea should be considered – particularly in light of the spectacular hoard of 33 iron spearheads and five swords in decorated sheaths found at South Cave, 15 miles to the south-east of Pocklington in 2002.

Referred to by Caesar, the Parisii people of what is now northern France who gave their name to the French capital are well known, but links to the Parisi of East Yorkshire are more difficult to prove. Certainly the circumstantial evidence shows continental connections – and perhaps scientific analysis of the remarkably well-preserved Pocklington skeletons may shed light on these ancient connections.

The Conversation

Peter Halkon, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Hull

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


China’s Terracotta Warriors



Excavation of Chinese Warriors


The link below is to an article concerning the work of archaeologists in western China who are excavating the terracotta army of China’s first emperor.

Sky News: Excavation of Chinese warriors.


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