Friday, March 22, 2013


Petroglyph, Pu'uLoa, Hawaii, Photo Joe Belef, 2007.

On 2/1/13, referring to a photograph taken by Joe Belef used in my posting GAME BOARDS, CONTINUED, on 12/29/12,  Anonymous sent the following comment: “The 8 hole pattern around a central hole looks exactly like a game board for Mu Torere.This game was played by the Maori people of New Zealand.The Maori were Polynesians as were the original Hawaiians.The conclusion is inescapable;this is a board for the same game.” 

That promising information required some checking out so I have been looking into this. I think that Anonymous may well be right. With two different, but related cultures (they both have Polynesian origins) as well as the possibility of prehistoric contact through long-distance sailing voyages, it seems eminently reasonable for us to assume this possibility.

Maoris playing Mu Torere, Dominion Museum Photo,
“MuTorere is one of two games that are known to have been played before they were absorbed into the British Empire (Wikipedia), and it is played on a board with a central hole, called the petahi, and eight or more holes around it called, kewai.” (

Mu Torere board diagram.

And from we are told  “this game, known as torere and mu torere, is one of the most interesting items we have to discuss, on account of its resemblance to our game of draughts, and the existence of a doubt as to whether or not it was a pre-European diversion. The board or diagram used is utterly different in form to that employed by us, there is no crowning of kings, and old natives have stated that, so far as they knew, it was an old Maori game.
Mohi Turei, a well informed and very old man of the Ngati-Porou tribe informs us (1912) that mu torere was the old name for the game, and, in this connection, he quotes an old saying:—"E mu torere mai ana ranei ko utou ki au, e hoa ma !" used in the sense of—"Are you striving against me, or, are you looking for trouble?" Tuta Nihoniho, of the same tribe, stated that the European game of draughts was introduced into that district in the time of his grandfather, probably by sailors, or early traders, or missionaries. In the far off Hawaiian Isles, a game resembling draughts was played, and known by two names, mu and konane.” 
According to available references mu torere boards could be painted or carved on wood as we can see from the illustration that shows the game being played , or just scratched out in the sand. This photgraph also illustrated a board with eight peripheral holes (the kewai), and one central hole (the petahi), exactly the same layout as the Hawaiian petroglyph. This is really exciting to me. Through discussion about our shared interest we have added a small, but real, item of knowledge to the encyclopedia of rock art. Thank you Anonymous! 



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