Prehistoric man and his environment in the Catlins, New Zealand
Abstract:This thesis is a regional study of the interactions between Polynesian man and his environment in the Catlins district, southern New Zealand. The prehistory of the Catlins differs from that of the rest of southern New Zealand (Murihiku) in its pattern of early and continuing settlement followed by abandonment at the end of the seventeenth century. The examination of such a marked change in settlement pattern is likely to yield useful insights into the interplay of cultural and environmental factors.Three different approaches have been stressed: culture history, environmental characteristics and temporal changes in the environment. The relevant environmental factors were studied after consideration of the archaeological and ethnographic data. Methods of sampling and recording these factors were examined and the need to distinguish between man-induced and natural changes in the vegetation emphasised.This thesis incorporates newly gathered data on local climates, forest associations, forest clearings, estuarine populations and site location in the Catlins region, as well as on stratigraphical associations at Papatowai Point.Detailed analyses of the above disclosed that the initial economic pattern of Polynesian people in the Catlins was one of multi-resource zone exploitation of sea, estuary, soft and rocky shorelines, forests and inland plains. Early use of the Mataura and Waimea Plains may have been largely for exploiting silcrete and porcellanite sources, rather than for food supplies. It is postulates that when the climate deteriorated, sites adjacent to fewer resource zones were occupied. The earlier sites may have been abondoned, or occupied at the same time. Two settlement models, incorporating these alternatives, are presented. Seasonal markers indicate a maximum occupation from spring to autumn, and there is no positive evidence of winter occupation. About 1700-1750 A.D., the Catlins coast was abandoned, despite the continued availability of most traditional food supplies. Moas has become extinct and, judging by the data from Papatowai, seals were less abundant than in the 11th to 14th centuries.Ethnographic material indicates that the inland resources of eels, lampreys, forest birds and, presumably, bracken rhizomes were important in the 19th century to Maoris living immediately north and south-west of the Catlins. It is postulated that the local peoples ceased using the Catlins coast in the early 18th century because the dense forests made access to the inland regions difficult. With the moas extinct and seal colonies locally depleted, the Catlins coast lost much of its advantages. A new strategy was adopted of spending the summer months at the mouth of the Clutha River or west of Waikawa where the same resources could be exploited as on the Catlins coast but where inland access was easier. The Catlins coast may never have been occupied during winter, since the damp climate would militate against the storage of dried foods. Hence there is no need to assume a total shift of population in the 18th century to the north or west but rather a change in the pattern of seasonal movements.
Advisor: Higham, Charles
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
xx, 347,  leaves. :ill., maps ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references. University of Otago department: Anthropology