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The terms "Stone Age" and "Prehistoric"

Peter Zohrab 2021

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According to "The Spinoff", John Banks has been axed over Maori ‘stone age culture’ comments on Magic Talk. We can't expect sub-human journalists, such as those in The Spinoff, to understand the issues. All they can think of is whether Maoris like being called "stone age." Obviously, they would not. No one would like being described in that fashion. To a moronic New Zealand journalist, that is enough to call that term "racist". If they had brains, they would know a definition of "racist" and apply it across the board. Then they would stop having a racist double standard as regards borrowed English words in Maori, as opposed to borrowed Maori words in English.

Although it is not racist to call Maori culture "stone age", it is not at all accurate. The terms "stone age", "paleolithic" and "neolithic" refer to parts of the World where (in summary) the important tools in Society were first made of stone, later made of bronze and later still made of iron. As far as I am aware, the prehistory and history of Maori culture have not followed this particular path. And there is no rule-book that says that you have to follow this path!

More importantly, it is not necessarily because of superior intelligence that the ancestors of John Banks and myself may have started using bronze, iron, plastic or steel tools before the ancestors of present-day Maoris did. The reason for that was probably that we traded with -- or were conquered by -- people who were already using these particular materials. You can't fairly compare small isolated populations, living at the end of the World (New Zealand) with large populations living close together in Europe, West Asia and North Africa, separated only by the small Mediterranean Sea, which enabled relatively easy communication (and conquest).

The term "prehistoric" is similar. It refers to a time before written language was used. Although it is correct to call pre-European Maori culture "prehistoric", this should not be used as (or felt to be) a term of abuse. Writing is only needed in certain types of societies and therefore was only invented (or copied from other countries) when it was needed (or imposed by conquerors). You might as well criticise the inhabitants of deserts for not having the Maoris' wood-carving skills, or criticise landlocked countries for not having the Polynesians' navigation skills!

 

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9 February 2021

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