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Ngā Tohuwhenua Mai Te Rangi: A New Zealand Archeology in Aerial Photographs


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Flights taken for this book.

Flights taken for this book.

page 9

The history of New Zealand may be read in the archaeological and historic sites of its land surface, yet we have one of the least-recognised historical landscapes anywhere in the world. This vital cultural dimension of the New Zealand landscape is as important as its coastal or mountain scenery. Apart from traditional sites, important in their own right, most of the landscape features of interest are archaeological—the result of people physically working or modifying the soil itself, the land surface or its vegetation cover. The sites are old compared with what is conventionally regarded asjhe stuff of New Zealand history. There are very few standing churches in New Zealand older than 150 years, yet most Māori archaeological sites are twice that age.

This book explains how such sites came to be where they are and illustrates them with aerial photographs. Sites used for illustration were selected for their outstanding landscape and graphic character. The background to interpreting the sites' meanings and the historical narratives about them are in the main body of the text, as are references to the literature. The captions contain detailed commentary on the sites but are not themselves referenced. Readers unfamiliar with some of the terms used may refer to a glossary at the end of the book.

The book is arranged in three parts. Part 1 offers a description and explanation of sites as they are seen today on the surface of the land, emphasising sites of Māori origin. It covers some of the main issues in New Zealand field archaeology and how archaeologists have answered the questions that have arisen. The selection of photographs was designed to reflect the different ways in which people have used the land in the past—for villages, defence, gardens and other economic activities. It finishes in the nineteenth century with Māori and European fortifications of the New Zealand Wars. The European fortifications are dealt with in this part of the book because they are so closely associated with the contemporaneous Māori fortifications. Part 1 therefore takes a wider view, sketching the history that explains why and where sites appear, and is preliminary to the regional chapters of Part 2, where further explanation of features common throughout New Zealand, such as storage pits, would become repetitious.

Part 2 is a regional review. It assumes an understanding of the individual site types discussed in Part 1, and concentrates on the landscape setting and the special historical and archaeological features of each region. Northland and Auckland, Coromandel and Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taupō, the East Coast, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, and the southern North Island have a chapter each, while the South Island is treated in one chapter. The relative importance of these regions, implied by the scope of the chapters, may seem to be a harshly revi-sionary treatment of New Zealand history. Auckland, Wellington and the South Island may be thought to warrant more detail. However, if we take the view of a millennium of history, this division into chapters acknowledges the central importance of the dominant regions from Hawke's Bay and Taranaki northwards. In these regions the sites are also more visible in aerial photographs, and this arrangement allows for an examination of the richest evidence in appropriate detail.

Part 3 covers industrial site remnants of the nineteenth century. Most nineteenth-century industry was extractive in character. It took materials out of the land and sea—coal, gold, clay (for bricks), kauri gum, flax, whale oil, seal skins—and exported them to Australia or the colonial homelands more or less unprocessed. The other nineteenth-century industry that made an enormous impact on the surface of the land was farming. Initially associated with the early mission settlements, and in part designed for subsistence and some cash-cropping, farming above all else (as then seen) was calculated to 'improve' Māori industry and use of the land. Eventually farming, too, produced and exported a basic commodity: wool. Chapter 16 explains why pastoral industry receives only passing mention in this book. Some industries, particularly the later periods of gold extraction, were exclusively the preserve of European capital. Others (kauri gum and flax) were meagre and labour-intensive sources of cash to poorer families. Māori had a hand in several of these industries: whaling and cropping up until the late 1850s, the earliest gold-mining, and gum-digging. Although all these industries made their impact on the land, by far the greatest impact has been that of coal and gold-mining, on which this page 10book concentrates.

In preparing this book, photographs were gathered from existing collections as far as possible. This was far cheaper, for the coverage gained in the initial stages, than flying to take new photographs of sites. This preliminary search also helped to shape the content by showing up places where sites had photographed well. The main source of vertical aerial photographs was the historical collection of the Department of Survey and Land Information, held at New Zealand Aerial Mapping, Ltd, in Hastings. The main sources of oblique photographs were the personal collections of several New Zealand archaeologists known for this work, the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Ltd, and the Waikato Museum of Art and History. With this selection, the potential scope of the book was worked out and the text drafted.

In late winter of 1991 and summer 1992,1 took three major flights designed to get oblique photographs where only verticals had been available, and to obtain coverage of areas where the existing photographs were of poor quality. The first flight was from Wellington to the Clarence River, Kai Kōura Peninsula, Banks Peninsula and Lake Ellesmere. In the second, I flew from Wellington to Taranaki, the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, East Coast and Hawke's Bay—some 10 hours flying time. The third was in the far north in a circuit from Auckland to the Bay of Islands, Doubtless Bay, Karikari Peninsula, Awanui and Ahipara. I have also taken shorter flights on the East Coast, in the Coromandel Peninsula area, Waikato, Hawke's Bay and Central Otago. These flights were the main source of the oblique photographs appearing in this book. Although each flight had its characteristic difficulties in finding and photographing such a large number of sites in varying light and weather and ranging over sometimes difficult geography, I have not attempted to discuss that here.

A number of the oblique photographs in this book are mine. For the technically minded, the colour pictures are from 35 mm Fujichrome 100 film, taken with a Pentax 28-80 mm zoom lens, usually in the range 40 to 70 mm. The lens was usually set at f8 or fll with the shutter speed manually adjusted (usually half that indicated by the meter). Black and white photographs were taken with 120 format Mamiya twin lens reflex cameras, using two bodies and 55, 80 and 180 mm lenses. The most used lens, the 180 mm, was fixed at infinity by a plate lodged in the racking mechanism of the camera body. Film was usually 100 or 125 ASA (occasionally 400 ASA) Agfa or Ilford print stock.

My abiding feeling has been one of privilege in being able to cover so much country, gaining an understanding of regional variation throughout New Zealand, and to catch that quick sense of human settlement and its impact on the landscape that is the essence of this book.