The Maori greenstone is a form of nephrite related to jade found in New Zealand, extremely hard and very beautiful, treasured by the Maori since before the arrival of Europeans and used in jewelry such as the hei tiki (tiki pendant) and the hei matua (fish hook pendant). The British Museum website identifies the Maori word hei as a pendant worn about the neck.
Martin Doutré in his 1999 book Ancient Celtic New Zealand argues that the extreme hardness of greenstone, the fact that the Maori did not possess metal tools, the remoteness of the South Island locations where it is principally found, and the presence of distinctive patterns found in the Americas and even ancient Egypt all argue for the possibility that there was already "a developed, thriving and anciently established greenstone carving industry in place" when the first Maoris arrived (274). He notes that finding the remote locations where greenstone exists in New Zealand's south island, recognizing it in its unspectacular raw state, knowing its special qualities and potential, and then organizing long and perilous voyages to retrieve it, are all developments that would take significant time, perhaps generations or even hundreds of years, and that it is possible that the Maoris learned of its special qualities from people who had been there for centuries before they arrived.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence for the theory that greenstone artifacts may be evidence for ancient pre-Maori habitation of New Zealand are the common designs in South America and even Europe and Africa. In this fascinating discussion on his website, Mr. Doutré points out the examples from South America and even ancient Egypt of the distinctive mere hand-club so often seen made out of greenstone in museums such as this one in the Te Papa Museum.
Further down the page, he provides an illustration of an ancient tiki figurine found in Mexico that is unmistakeably similar to the hei tiki pendants of New Zealand. He also details the connections between the South Pacific tikis and the ancient Egyptian dwarf god Bes, the protector of women and children, and argues that the high feather hats, staring eyes and protruding tongues of the tikis are symbolic of the representations of that ancient deity, and that the "chin tattooing" of Maori women and girls is related to the protruding tongue of Bes (as is the chin tattooing found in Egypt and North Africa to this day).
Because the Maori are not believed to have come from South America or ancient Egypt, it is likely that earlier New Zealand inhabitants descended from ancient occupants of Egypt made their way to the Americas and eventually as far as New Zealand, prior to the arrival of the Maori, and that the blending of these cultures led to the many distinctive cultural traditions the Maori have which they do not share with other South Pacific islanders. We have already examined some evidence that such ancient migration (unknown to conventional isolationist historical paradigms) took place with reference to South America. This theory is not meant to take anything away from any culture or people -- if such contact indeed took place, it is yet another amazing chapter in the history of mankind that should cause all of us to marvel and be more humble.
The case of the Ruamahanga Woman adds another piece of evidence in support of this possibility.
The next time you see someone wearing a beautiful neck pendant of Maori greenstone, you should pause to consider the awesome ancient history of mankind, and the possibility that the theories taught so confidently in school might be mistaken.