The exploitation of Mayor Island obsidian in prehistoric New Zealand
Seelenfreund Hirsch, Andrea Claudia
Obsidian in New Zealand was exploited from a variety of sources, and has been found in the majority of New Zealand archaeological sites. The presence of obsidian from the Mayor Island sources in most sites has been noted by archaeologists, and it has been assumed that a complex exchange system was responsible for its distribution. The purpose of the present thesis has been to evaluate the importance of Mayor Island as the· main supply source of obsidian in prehistoric New Zealand, and to study the pattern of exploitation and distribution of the obsidian. The analysis employed two separate approaches: site-oriented and regional. On a site-oriented basis, the quarries on Mayor Island were examined, particularly the production and procurement strategies. Ethnographic and comparable archaeological data on quarry exploitation were reviewed in order to test for evidence of access restrictions to the resources. For the regional analysis, archaeological obsidian assemblages from 58 sites were sourced using energy dispersive XRF spectroscopy. Sourcing results indicate a changing pattern of source utilization throughout the temporal depth of New Zealand prehistory. The pattern of source utilization also varied according to site function. The regional analysis of Mayor Island obsidian investigated further the importance of the Mayor Island obsidian in in the total lithic assemblages of the sites studied, and the nature of· the manufacturing techniques in relation to geographical distance from the source, by means of fall-off curves. Using this combined methodological approach it was possible to conclude that the exploitation of Mayor Island obsidian varied between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. While direct access seems to be the most probable way of acquiring the raw materials in the North Island, down-the-line exchange seems to be indicated for the South Island.
Advisor: Leach, Foss
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis