Māori-plant interactions: Anthracological analysis of an archaeological site at Cooks Beach (Pukaki), Coromandel Peninsula
Charcoal is found throughout the archaeological record as a result of human activity. Anthracology, the analysis of charcoal, is a useful but often neglected branch of research that enables exploration of the dynamic relationship between humans and vegetation in the past. This study highlights the value of anthracological research in an investigation of anthropogenic vegetation change, and the differential selection and use of fuelwood at a stratified, well-dated Māori activity and horticultural site at Cooks Beach, Mercury Bay, on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. A taxonomic and dendrological analysis was completed on 1413 charcoal fragments from nine features. The analysis considered the potential impacts of assemblage formation processes and sample reliability, applied charcoal identifications and evaluation to paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and tested the Principle of Least Effort. This study of taxonomy and dendrological features informs on vegetation change, use and management. The results were related to established models of anthropogenic vegetation change in New Zealand. These include a rapid landscape transformation model, in which drier lowland forests were largely cleared across New Zealand during an Initial Burn Period (IBP), and a Two-step model in which northern deforestation during the IBP was limited in effect and more profound later in the sequence. The interpretation of vegetation change from the Cooks Beach charcoal assemblage draws on elements of both models, where neither is sufficient alone to explain the evidence. This investigation illustrates the problems associated with the application of broad models of vegetation change to the diverse cultural-environmental landscape of New Zealand. It also elucidates Hauraki Māori cultural practices of land use and vegetation management in the past.
Advisor: Barber, Ian Gordon
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Archaeology Programme
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: New Zealand; anthracology; archaeology; Coromandel Peninsula
Research Type: Thesis