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The New Zealand Journal, Saturday, May 02 (1840)


Baked Heads.

[The following interesting article, embodying the views of a phrenologist on the cranial developement of the New Zealanders, is from the pen of Mr. Sydney Smith, author of a most amusing and instructive elementary treatise on Phrenology. Mr. Smith is better known to the London public as a lecturer on the Corn Laws, in which character he has been most successful.
If the science of Phrenology be true, there can be no doubt of its vast importance. Some inquiries are like two grains of wheat in a bushel of chaff—you may search all day ere you find them; and when you have got them, they are not worth the pains. It is certain that this cannot be said of this new physiognomical theory. Only be assured that it is among the chaff, and there is no question that it is worth the search. The only excuse for not studying it is, that it is not founded on fact;-no one can say that even although it were true, it is not worth attention and study. To be able, by means simply of the examination of the human skull, to predicate the passions, sentiments, and capacities of which it is the depository—to have it in our power, with the aid of science, "simple as we stand here," by a few specimens collected from an Athenian Golgotha, to tell with a precision which the greatest of the Greeks could not compass, the peculiar tendencies of the national character, the bent of its genius, and the springs of its action, is to endow us with the seven league boots of time, whereby to walk backward into the mysteries of the elder ages. The mummies of Egypt, the medals and busts of Rome, the stratification of human remains to be found so frequently, the burying-places of barbarous tribes, and the deposits of moors and bogs, all these become, if this science be true, the very grammars and encyclopaedias of history—the most accurate and infallible descriptions of national character, and the records of the progress and causes of civilisation or social degeneration.
Extensive additions of this kind have been made to the chronicles of the human race, which, if Phrenology be at all worthy of credit, cannot fail to be of the utmost value. Every tribe and nation probably in the globe, has been laid under contribution for specimens of the developement of the national cranium, to the museums of the faithful. From Athens, the Ionian Islands, Egypt, India, Turkey, China, Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, from the confines of the torrid and of the frigid zones have came skulls to England of all tribes of men, and at every stage of the history of the world. The brain pan of an Inca is here from Peru, contrasting in size and shape with the inferior developement
of that of the slaves who were sacrificed at his death, and buried with him in his tomb, to attend him in the other world. The skulls of the Picts, recovered from the moss bogs of Scotland, may be compared with those which have been the product of advanced civilisation, and the hideous heads of the Aborigines of South America are preserved, to contrast with the more advanced barbarians of North America, by a tribe of whom the former were extinguished.
But perhaps nothing is more interesting in Phrenology than the corroboration which its principles receive from the history of New Zealand, and the encouragement which the facts of the science hold out to emigrants to settle in that country in preference to any other.
About four years ago, when nearly all that we really know about the New Zealanders was that they were a tribe of ferocious cannibals, we had occasion, in the pursuit of some phrenological researches, to make a frequent and careful examination of the Edinburgh collection of casts. Our attention was very forcibly arrested by three busts, which all concurred in presenting the same remarkable features. On inquiring into their history, we were much surprised to find that they were actually the heads of cannibals, being in fact casts of the crania of New Zealand chiefs, taken in life. The developement of all of them somewhat confounded, as we thought, our ideas of phrenology. Their she came quite up to the highest European averages; indicating great general power, and the utmost force of character. The animal region was large, as it is in the British head; but what most astonished us was, that the intellectual and moral region were decidedly above the British average, and would have entitled the crania to rank with picked specimens of heads, in nations of the first order of civilisation. In one, Eventuality, (the Educabilite of Gall) was extraordinarily large. In all, Benevolence, Veneration, Self-esteem, Conscientiousness, Imitation, Constructiveness, Wonder, and the perceptive faculties were very predominant. We could not hesitate for a moment in casesso marked, to emperil the truth of the science upon them, and accordingly at once committed ourselves to the position embodied in these words: "The New Zealanders alone possess predominant self-esteem-a race whose enormous heads, and whose large anterior lobe, and ample coronal surface, promise to make them at some period, we hope not very distant, the wonders of the world."*
Subsequent inquiry served to confirm every word of this character. Upon inspecting the contents of many museums, we found the articles which had been made by the New Zealanders to display an amount of constructive, inventive, and observing power, far in advance of that manifested by any other tribe of barbarians. The boomerang is an instrument which exhibits an acquaintance with the principles of physics and mechanics, which may with perfect propriety be termed philosophical. While other orders of savages had got no further than the common bow, we were gratified to perceive that the New Zealanders had advanced so far in their discovery of the properties of air and its application to mechanics, as to use a long wooden tube, from which they blew the arrow, and with their simple breath issued it with far greater force and ease than ever could have been done by the ordinary method. The accuracy of the bore also, we observed, was almost as great as a gunsmith could have made it; while the rude materials by means of which the most elegant carved work, and the most useful utensils in clay and wood were fashioned, gave the amplest evidence of their constructive power, their accuracy of eye, their dexterity of hand, and the elevation of their taste above that of every other uncivilised people.
But we were soon destined to receive a still more substantial proof of the correctness of our phrenological inferences. One of our Edinburgh friends, about two years ago, sailed for South Australia, high in courage and in hope. About eight months ago, we received from him a letter giving the most doleful account of that settlement, and of his resolution instantly to leave it, and proceed to New Zealand. One of his principal reasons for the change was the easy command of native labour, the valuableness of the New Zealanders, their ingenuity, the ease with which they could be turned to any useful account, their honesty and gentleness, and the decided preference which every one who knew them gave to them, over even the British emigrant labourers.
We had early been particularly struck with the high moral developement of these simple islanders; Veneration, Wonder, and Hope we fouud very large; while at that point of the base of the brain where the organ of the Love of Life is supposed by M. Bally to be situated, we observed a very visible depression. In strict conformity with all these indications, the recent very interesting publications, describing the manners and customs of the New Zealanders, represent them as being endowed with a strong natural sense of religion, believing devoutly in the immortality of the soul, and embued with a deep feeling of justice and humanity. Their peculiar respect for the female sex, and the fact that that respect is entirely justified by the superior modesty, sweetness, and intelligence of the females, could only be the result of a coronal surface developed in an infinitely superior degree to that of every other tribe of savages, if indeed that term is not altogether out of place in being applied to such a people.
That the organ of the love of life should be so indifferently developed in their crania forms the solution of the problem, how tribes of such a high cerebral order should immolate their slaves with such indifference as is described in Mr. Polack's work. Probably both themselves and the slaves look upon life with comparative indifference, especially when they possess such an intense and thoroughly practical conviction of immortality, and of immediate translation to a state of happiness. The custom of the wives and concubines of chiefs voluntarily hanging and drowning themselves on the death of their masters, in a country where females are held in such real respect, seems strongly to give countenance to this theory of the solution of the phenomena.
One error into which many phrenologists have fallen is very fortunately corrected by the accounts of recent travellers.
The "baked heads" of New Zealand, which have now become so plentiful in English phrenological museums, it has been deemed convenient, for the purpose of enhancing their price, to describe as the heads of chiefs. From an impression very extensively entertained that no heads are tatooed but those of persons of rank, this error has obtained very extensive currency. Mr. Johnson's "Plain Truths" prove, however, that the faces of the slave class are very highly tatooed, and that the '"baked heads" are not those of New Zealand Chiefs, but of enemies taken in battle. From a great many, which we have had an opportunity of examining, we are convinced that they are those of inferior persons. They are in every respect much below the standard either of size or developement of those of the Chiefs whose casts were taken in this country, although still they exhibit evidences of considerable superiority to the crania of other barbarians. It is very necessary that the phrenologist should not, under the general name of New Zealander, confound in his cranial arrangement the two races of men of which the natives consist. The peerage of New Zealand consists of an Asiatic race, from whose larger and better developed heads, it could at once be predicated that they would govern the African tribes with which they have been associated, and whose comparatively inferior cerebral organisation at once marks them out as the hewers of wood and drawers of water of the others. It is a circumstance which has been long familiar to hat-manufacturers, that the finer description of hats required for the middle and higher classes of Britain (who get the others to become practically their slaves) are of a size considerably target than the coarse hats in demand among the labouring population. In Yorkshire, Lancashire, and the north country generally, the people are more energetic than towards the south, and large hats are consequently in demand. They increase in size in Scotland, and again decrease southward. The British army of occupation could not get large enough hats to fit them in France, and new blocks had to be made on purpose to suit their size.


Vide "The Principles of Phrenology," by Sidney Smith. Edinburgh: W. Tait.

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