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See arborglyph for tree carvings left by Basque shepherds.
An example

In the Chatham Islands of New Zealand, the indigenous Moriori people practised the art of momori rakau, or tree carving.

The carvings depict Moriori karapuna (ancestors) and symbols of the natural world, such as patiki (flounder) and the hopo (albatross). During the late 1998 review 82 trees were found with carvings.[1] Numbers of momori rakau have been steadily declining due to the age of the host trees, stock grazing, wind and in earlier years, people removing the carvings as souvenirs.

The best known examples of momori rakau are at JM Barker (Hapupu) National Historic Reserve, where the carvings and trees are protected by a fenced enclosure and the protection of being one of only two National Historic Reserves in New Zealand. The reserve was fenced in 1980 to provide protection for the tree carvings from grazing stock and is now showing good recovery. Planning is underway between the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Moriori people to secure a small portion of the reserve for contemporary Moriori carvers to begin a new generation of momori-rakau.

The dendroglyph ritual may be associated with death or remembrance. Many scholars over the years have tried to penetrate the reasons behind these incisions into the trunks of the kopi (karaka) trees and have not come up with explanations that satisfy everybody. The dendroglyphs cover a range of features, with many representing human figures and others clearly representative of birds, fish, plants and animals. The momori rakau are among the few visible remaining signs of Moriori culture from pre-European contact.


  1. ^ "Hapupu dendroglyphs". Wondermondo. 

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