Ngā Tohuwhenua Mai Te Rangi: A New Zealand Archeology in Aerial Photographs
This region occupies all the southern end of the North Island from the Wairarapa, through the area known in Māori as 'Te Upokō ō Te Ika a Maui', 'The Head of Maui's Fish', to the Wanganui River. The Wanganui River proved to be a difficult area in which to find satisfactory aerial photographs, and coverage in this book is poor relative to the wealth of sites on the river, 1 although this has been compensated for by the inclusion of sites from the neighbouring Whangaehu River. The southern part of the region is dominated by the Tararua and Rimutaka Ranges, separating the western coastal strip and Wellington Harbour from the Wairarapa. In the south-east, the Aorangi Range separates the Wairarapa valley from a very narrow coastal strip to the south and east. The coastal areas, including Wellington Harbour, were the principal location of Māori settlement, although there was also settlement in the Wairarapa valley itself. Themes which are well illustrated by aerial photographs include traditional sites, stone rows and gardening in stony soils, and something of early and mid-nineteenth-century settlements.page 183 page break
Pā and pits on the Whangaehu River 10 km upstream from the State Highway 3 bridge
The pā are at centre and bottom right. The ridges of the hill country come down to the river, offering good access by canoe and an ideal settlement opportunity. On the flat beyond are two knolls, each about 20 m across, with small groups of pits. The presence of a ring-ditch around these pits is puzzling. They are unlikely to be nineteenth-century fortifications, since the site is overlooked by the nearby hill country. The ring is probably a ditch and bank fence designed to protect the storage pits from pigs. The view is to the south-west.
Detail of the large pā, about 160 m long. The upper platform is of ring-ditch form and there are two further narrow segments, with pits on the surface, leading to the river at right. Further transverse scarping lies below the righthand platform. The view is to the south-west.
Pā, Te Ika ā Maru Bay, Wellington west coast
The pā occupies a broad ridge at the foot of a steeper slope (in shadow). A simple transverse ditch and bank defends the interior, while a further section of indistinct scarp runs along the length of the defended platform from the near end of the ditch. The defensive perimeter elsewhere is created by gullies and the wave-cut cliff. There are terraces on the slope nearest the camera. The view is to the west in late afternoon light.
Storage and borrow-pits on old dunes near the mouth of the Whangaehu River
The younger dunes at top run in lines driven by north-west winds. At left, within the western river bend, older dunes, originally more massive and with a cover of volcanic ash, have been reshaped by the flow of water into the form of the loop and progressively abandoned. (The loop is migrating downstream.) The soils on the flat are sandy with some river silts with good topsoils. The intricate pock-marks on the surface of the dunes are storage pits, or borrow-pits (lying in an arc to the south) for sand to place on gardens on the flat land. Their size is accentuated by the collapse of the topsoil crust through which the pits had been cut. Two rectangular depressions marking house floors also show, each about 15 m long. The river itself is about 80 m wide and the two points are each 1.2 km long. The photograph was taken in 1942.
Although many of the region's place names are derived from precursors in Hawke's Bay, reflecting its initial settlement by tribes from that region (including Rangitāne of the Horowhenua), it has older and equally close associations with the voyage of Kupe from Hawaiiki, and in the nineteenth century with Te Atiawa and Ngāti Toa who entered the region from Taranaki and the Aotea and Kāwhia Harbours. Associations with Kupe's initial voyage feature on both sides of Cook Strait. In Palliser Bay is Ngā Rā ō Kupe (Kupe's Sails), a prominent triangular-shaped rock slab with a white-ish appearance from seaward and a companion slab across the stream; on the Cook Strait coast near Wellington city, is Pariwhero (Red Rocks), a site where Kupe's daughters cut themselves. On the other side of the strait, Arapawa Island and The Brothers are reminders-of incidents in Kupe's pursuit of an octopus, Te Wheke ō Muturangi, across the Pacific. On the west coast there are other reminders, including Mana Island itself, the full name of which—Te Mana ō Kupe ki Moana Nui ā Kiwa—refers to the mana of Kupe in crossing the Pacific Ocean. 2
The southern North Island is an area with extremely stony soils, particularly on its hill country. There are significant pockets of loess (fine silt blown around in the Pleistocene) but these tend to be clay-like in texture. Ash from the volcanic centres in the central North Island did not carry in significant quantities (for soil formation) this far south, 3 so there are no soft, easily worked soils on the major hill landforms. As a result, although the localities of many pā are known, 4 the actual archaeological evidence of pā is poor. Nor do pā show well in landscape photographs. Some archaeologists even refer to the line across the island from about the Whangaehu River to southern Hawke's Bay as 'the pā line'. On and north of this line, pā are everywhere prominent in the landscape; south of it they are barely perceptible. An example just north of the line is the remarkable complex of pā, probably of Ngāti Apa origin, inland on the Whangaehu River itself and about 10 km from the bridge.
South of the line, the physical landscape presence of pā is weak although there are still many traditional references. Te Awamate, a pā in the swamps lying off the Rangitīkei River, was illustrated in chapter 3. A small island in a raupo swamp, it is important in the traditions of Ngāti Apa. 5 In the whole of the greater Wellington region, there are only two or three pā whose artificial defences are strongly sculpted in the soil, and even these would be regarded as minor pā, at least in size, elsewhere in the North Island. Examples are the pā at Makara and Te Ika A Maru Bay, 6 near Cape Terawhiti on the Wellington west coast.
One of the contributing factors to the lack of obvious pā is that, from the Wanganui district southwards, the coast is less often cliffed. Instead there is a continuous line of dunes at low level (less than 20 m above sea level), driven inland as much as 15 km by the prevailing northwest winds. The surfaces of these dunes are of varying ages. In the inland areas, they were older (as much as 6,000 years old) and heavily forested in pre-European times. Towards the coast, sand was blown inland and formed young surfaces that had little vegetation. In between, there was a zone of lakes and swamps with forests and scrub of mixed ages, important in offering opportunities for settlement, as we have seen in Part 1 at Te Awamate and Tangimate.