Yesterday I received an email from John Aldworth, the editor of Max Hill’s “To the Ends of the Earth”. He has asked me to post the following reply from Hill with respect to my book review/commentary:
Top The Ends Of The Earth. Did Greeks circumnavigate the world and settle New Zealand before the birth of Christ?
The author’s right of reply: The above mentioned book launch was held on 24th March 2013 with some 630 people in attendance. Since then the book has continued to sell far better than expected.
Matthew wrote his review while I was recovering from a life saving operation, so until now I just could not be bothered to reply to his review.
There are a number of mistakes Matthew has made, so I will address a few.
1. Matthew quotes a price for the book. His quote is incorrect.
2. Matthew states the old Maori name for New Zealand was “Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu”. Again another mistake.
This is what Dr Michael King wrote in his book, The Penguin History of New Zealand, published 2003, page 42: “Finally, New Zealand was certainly not known to Maori as Aotearoa in pre-European times”.
3. Towards the end of his review Matthew states there are a number of maps on page 14 – there are no maps on page 14.
Referring to world maps in the book Matthew said: “I reproduce some of them below, with Hill’s highlighting of the remarkable presence of the continent we know as Australia. As you will see the resemblance is remarkable”.
Readers may be interested to learn that before the book went to print it was given to a number of professors and ex-university staff. A copy was also given to one of New Zealand’s leading secondary schools.
As the author I received a number of written comments, phone calls and also met with one of New Zealand’s leading professors. All requested and suggested amendments were made before printing.
Of interest is a quite from Professor Kerry Howe’s book, Vaka Moana, which states that the early people of New Zealand the Patupaiarehe. Note people, not fairies.
Then there is the Fairfax news report 28.12.2012: Maori claim they were first met by a fair-skinned people. Finally there is the Coroner’s report on the finding of the skull of an unmistakably European woman who, he concluded, had been killed in the Wairarapa more than 300 years ago.
Now, I will admit that I got a few page numbers wrong in my review (for example, the maps I refer to as being on page 14 are, in fact, on page 17) 1. So, for that I apologise.
However, I should like to note that Hill hasn’t provided any particular good reasons to doubt my criticisms of “To the Ends of the Earth”. He cites books sales, which are hardly a measure of the quality of a book’s central thesis.
For example, Erich Von Däniken’s books sell well, but that doesn’t mean his Ancient Astronaut thesis is credible. Just because Hill’s book has exceeded sales expectations, this does not tell us that his arguments are a serious threat to academic orthodoxy. Books sell well for a number of reasons and you can’t derive what that reason might be from sales alone. Perhaps if he could point towards some other critical appraisals of his book which refute the kind of arguments I presented as criticism of “To the Ends of the Earth”, then his point about the book’s reception might have merit.
This leads to Hill’s second “response” to my review, which is that the book was reviewed by current and ex-university staff and that this somehow gives his views the veneer of academic acceptibility. However, without knowing who these academics are and what their comments amounted to, this really doesn’t say much at all. We know Paul Moon read a draft of the book, because Hill cites the following piece of correspondence:
We also know that the poor students of History at St. Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton are going to be taught pseudohistory if the following endorsement in “The Ends of the Earth” is to be believed:
If Hill really wants to claim that his book was peer-reviewed such that the reviewers were positive about the merits of the book and simply did not give him advice to mitigate some of its worst failings it would be good to know who these academics are, for (at least) two reasons.
- Academics are usually not particularly loath to support work they think is important, so unless someone wants to claim that there is a conspiracy to suppress honest research into our past, I suspect said academics wouldn’t mind being outed.
- It would be nice to know whether the kind of academics Hill talked with are historians or archaeologists, given that if academics have endorsed Hill’s central thesis (the Greco-Egyptian voyage) it would be nice to know if they have appropriate qualifications rather than being (I say advisedly) a mere academic2.
As for the news clippings, I do not have much more to add to my previous analysis of claims about pale-skinned peoples in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu. The claim about the coroner’s finding on the Wairarapa skull is interesting but Hill’s claim that the deceased died in situ in the Wairarapa is disputed. As even the coroner admitted, the skull might be Mãori and given both the lack of a full assemblage or any other skeletal evidence showing Caucasian occupation at that time and place, it’s hardly supportive of the claim there was an established non-Māori population living there. Indeed, Wellington forensic pathologist Dr Robin Watt has suggested that the skull belongs to the member of a Dutch crew that got lost whilst mapping the coast of Australia whilst other writers have suggested it was part of a reliquary. Whilst I really don’t know how likely any of these particular claims are as explanations, they certainly fit in better with what else we know of the colonisation of Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu than Hill’s Greco-Egyptian thesis.
- However, I don’t ever claim the old Māori name for this country is “Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu”; Hill is confusing my usage of what I take to be the best contemporary name for New Zealand as some claim about it being the original name. As for the claim I got the price of the book right, that was the price it was advertised at at the time I bought the PDF version of “To the Ends of the Earth”.↩
- This point is a bit of a counter to the previous one; an academic whose speciality is not, say, in our local pre-history might be loath to admit to supporting Hill’s thesis because they might recognise that they aren’t the right kind of expert to endorse such a view or they might think it looks interesting but they don’t know enough to say that they think it is warranted.↩