Prehistoric communities in Palliser Bay, New Zealand
Leach, B. Foss
A programme of archaeological research was undertaken in the Wairarapa region on the northern shores of Cook Strait, New Zealand. Some 27 excavations conducted during a 3 year period were designed primarily to examine prehistoric economy and settlement pattern in the region. In addition, studies were made of early historical records of Māori life, Māori traditional history, and aspects of the modern and prehistoric enviroment. In the analysis of excavated material, particular attention was given to physical anthropology, subsistence economy, and the trading patterns revealed by the importation of a number of rock types from elsewhere in New Zealand. It was found that human occupation in Palliser Bay was most intense from about 1150AD to 1400AD, and that significant depopulation may have occurred by 1650AD. At least 6 kinship linked communities were resident in this early period, probably originating from further north. Over several centuries thay strengthened their social ties with other communities in Cook Strait, progressively losing contact with northern areas. A conjunctive picture is reconstructed of a typical community of 30 to 40 people, and aspects of their physical condition, economy, technology, settlement pattern, external social relationships and ideology described. Their economy was initially a balance between hunter-gatherer pursuits and kumara-based horticulture, but in the course of time their forest clearing activities set into motion a series of episodes of erosion which culminated in the development of broad shingle river beds and active fans. High riverine sediment loads led to the loss of much of the local marine fauna at river mouths. A general climatic deterioration about 1450AD and then from 1600 onwards accelerated this process to render the enviroment largely unsuitable to Polynesian habitation. It is argued that coupled to these changes are settlement pattern modifications and an increase in human disease and malnutrition.
Advisor: Higham, Charles F. W.
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Maori; antiquities; excavations; archaeology; Wairarapa
Research Type: Thesis