From a non-Māori Maui to Spanish shipwrecks: Who is Noel Hilliam?
Northland man Noel Hilliam has caught media attention again this week for new claims about finding human remains that pre-date Māori.
He has been criticised since for alleged grave-robbing, and his claims of humans in Aotearoa before Māori have been substantially rubbished by qualified archaeologists, notably in a thorough article published by Vice.
It's not the first time Mr Hilliam, a dairy farmer and founder of Dargaville's museum, has been in the news:
- In 1982 he reported seeing a wreck of a Spanish ship on Bayly's Beach, but it was never found.
- In 1998 elders from Te Uri o Hau banned visits to all sacred Māori areas in the Kaipara after Mr Hilliam visited without permission, and claimed to have discovered a prehistoric village.He said the site belonged to a group of people who were driven out by Māori about 600 years ago, but he would not say where exactly the site was.
- In 2000, Mr Hilliam pulled out of the Historic Places Trust's Northland board because he was frustrated with its lack of inquiry into pre-Māori people, NZPA reported.
- In 2004, Mr Hilliam helped excavate a shipwreck west of Dargaville - something he'd been looking for for 30 years. It had last emerged from the sand in 1973 and prior to that in 1909. A number of items were salvaged from the site including an anchor chain and a 1.5m cannon.
- In 2009, it was posited Spanish sailors arrived in New Zealand more than a century before Abel Tasman. A researcher looked into the claims based on Mr Hilliam's belief a Spanish ship visited the country in the 16th century and sank. He says 22 of the 53 crew came from Aranga in Spain - the same name as the area in Northland near where the wreck was spotted. The main street in that town was called 'Rua Tui' which is also a Māori name.
- In 2012, Mr Hilliam co-authored a book called To the End of the Earth in which it claimed famed Māori demi-god Maui wasn't Polynesian, but an ancient Egyptian navigator.