TVNZ has pulled a bizarre documentary claiming seven-foot Celts were chilling in New Zealand thousands of years before the arrival of Māori. Yes, you heard that right. Contradicting the scholarship of literally every respected historian, the two-part documentary, New Zealand: Skeletons in the Cupboard, insists that not only Celts but also Australian aboriginals rocked-up to New Zealand long before Māori.
The pseudo-documentary relies heavily on the work of self-proclaimed astro-archeologist Martin Doutré and the late amateur historian Noel Hilliam, who claimed that ancient remains from Northland were carbon-dated by a British pathologist and were found to be 3500 years old and of Welsh descent. It was these red-headed, pale-skinned people, the discredited theory runs, who built complex astrological monuments and taught Māori how to weave fishing nets.
In fact, Hilliam was so determined to show New Zealand’s indigenous people were European, not Māori, that Heritage New Zealand, following a VICE report last year, were moved to investigate his ties to stolen ancestral Māori skulls that he hoped would prove his theory.
Archaeologist Donna Yates told VICE at the time there was no conclusive evidence for pre-Māori European settlers, and said these claims are part of a far-right racist mythology intended to discredit Māori and their indigenous rights to land.
The documentary was removed after Mediawatch followed up a viewer's tweet questioning TVNZ as to why the “pseudo-history nonsense” was available on the demand website under "documentary and factual”.
On Thursdays TVNZ responded: "We’ve taken another look at Skeletons in the Cupboard. We accept that we should have taken more care in how we signposted this series to our viewers. On reflection, we don’t think it’s robust enough to stay in our factual line-up so we’ve made the decision to remove it from TVNZ OnDemand."
Skeletons in the Cupboard was viewed about 4000 times in the two weeks it was available on TVNZ’s demand service. The documentary has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times more on Youtube.