Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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


This book covers four main kinds of historic places. Traditional sites are spiritually respected-places referred to in Māori tradition, such as the island Te Ana o Paikea, near Whāngārā, on the East Coast. Here, Paikea, an important ancestor of Ngāti Porou, came ashore. Archaeological sites can be seen physically in or on the surface of the ground, where they can be recorded or excavated, but only those visible on the surface are dealt with in this book. Many such sites are the result of Māori activity before the arrival of Europeans, such as pā, stone-adze quarries and gardens. The people who lived in the past made an impact on the land which is not only visible but also remembered through oral or written narratives. Nineteenth-century sites may be of Māori, European or other origin, but can usually be distinguished from sites created before the arrival of Europeans. These nineteenth-century sites include gold-mining, early farming, coalmining, and sites of the New Zealand Wars. Industrial sites include both nineteenth-century and twentieth-century sites, for example, coalmines or other industries requiring a lot of capital and large-scale earthworks.

Many archaeological sites visible in the landscape are also traditional sites. It is not easy to summarise or to present what is known about such sites; traditional information is not always readily shared between Māori society and the wider audience. Part of a familiar landscape seen, imagined and referred to from the marae, this body of knowledge serves purposes that relate to the identity of whānau (extended family) and iwi (tribe), their possession of the land and attitudes towards it.

Some pā, the old fortified settlements, and the land nearby have been occupied continuously up to the present day. Present-day Māori landowners may know their names and histories. Their grandparents may be buried in the urupā that were created in the old pā. Pā are therefore prominent spiritual as well as physical reference points, and the full meanings of a site cannot be responsibly discussed without reference to tradition. Chapter 3 is devoted entirely to pā, and individual examples appear in the regional chapters of Part 2.

Other traditional sites that are frequently referred to are 'tauranga waka', canoe landing sites and places that represent, or indeed are, ancestors, or that are associated with ancestors' deeds. Three examples illustrated here are important in the traditions of iwi descended from the waka Horouta and Tākitimu (East Coast), Aotea and Tainui (Waikato) and Mātaatua (Bay of Plenty) respectively.

The pā, Popoia, near the Waipāoa River on the East Coast has attracted much attention over the years. Here Kahungūnu married Ruarereta or Ruarauhanga, one of Ruapani's daughters. Ruapani also married one of Kahungūnu's daughters. 1 The site is therefore associated with the ancestors of a major tribe, Ngāti Ruapani, with linkages throughout the eastern North Island, and also features in the narratives of Ngāti Kahungūnu. In an aerial view of August 1991, the pā is lit to show off its features and can be seen in its fuller landscape perspective. Rather small by comparison with some of its neighbours, it has strong natural defences (cliffs) on one side where in the past it was cut by the Waipāoa River, and double ditch and bank defences on the weaker, gently sloped sides. It contains a good number of kūmara storage pits and is located right next to the horticultural soils of the Waipāoa River plains.

On the Waikato west coast, a locality very important in the traditions of both Aotea (tribes centred inpage 12south Taranaki) and Tainui (centred in the Waikato), aerial photographs taken in the early 1950s of the southern headland show a striking flood of sand driven by the wind from the western ocean beaches across on to farmland on the eastern harbour side. On stable islands of clay in the moving sand, dozens of shell middens (rubbish dumps), evidence of past settlement, are just perceptible in the aerial photograph. On the grassed headlands and ridges towards the harbour some five pā show prominently. In the small bay, Hawaikiiti ('little Ha-waiki', a reference to the central Polynesian homeland), just inside the entrance, is Turi Matai Rehua, a pā where Turi of the Aotea canoe waited for the star, Rehua, to show so that he could resume his voyages. He planted kūmara here on the heights at a place named Raukūmara, now covered with sand. Here also people from the Tainui canoe planted kūmara. 2 Much later, in the nineteenth century, extensive ditch and bank fences were also constructed near the harbour. We will return to similar landscape examples, at north Aotea, in chapter 8 on the Waikato.

The final example is a pā important in the traditions of Mātaatua. Near Whakatāne is the pā, Kakatarahae, occupied by Ue-i-mua, elder brother of Tūhoe-pōtiki. Tūhoe-pōtiki's immediate ancestors were on the Mātaatua canoe, and he was the founder of Tūhoe. 3 In the swamp near Kakatarahae he killed his elder brother, securing his position in the senior male line. This site is not only important to Tūhoe, but also illustrates how leadership in Māori society was asserted and maintained over time. All societies, and certainly all Pacific societies, exhibit fierce rivalry over leadership. In Polynesia this has the effect of forcing hapū, especially the descent groups of junior lineages, out of the ancestral territory, unless of course they can assert a role in the senior line, as Tūhoe-pōtiki did.

Such dramatic themes lie on the margins of archaeological competence. My emphasis here is more on archaeological sites, of which a large proportion is of Māori origin. I have had to be selective about the number of European sites presented, because of the lessening of historical interest as one approaches the commonplace and the present day. In 500 years time, there may be archaeologists who specialise in the historic period,
Continuity in Māori settlement: Mangatoatoa marae near Kihikihi

Continuity in Māori settlement: Mangatoatoa marae near Kihikihi

The urupā with modern gravestones is within the bounds of a high ditch and bank, the defences of a pā, which may be up to 400 years old. The pā itself was sited on a point created by the steep banks of the Puniu River, its course now infested with willows. The urupā and pā can be seen to be part of the marae complex. The point in the foreground was an excellent tactical position controlling the river and its terrace margins, and the pā may have been used as late as the Waikato campaigns of 1864. The view is taken looking to the south-west.

page 13
Popoia, near Waituhi, Gisborne Plains

Popoia, near Waituhi, Gisborne Plains

Ruapani lived here and offered one of his daughters in marriage to Kahungunu, the ancestor of Ngāti Kahungūnu. Ngāti Ruapani is centred on the region between the Waipaoa River and Lake Waikaremoana with strong links to Ngati Kahungūnu, Te Aitanga a Māhaki and Rongowhakaata.

A double transverse ditch lies at the northern end (to the left) and sweeps forward to the western side. Within the pā, raised-rim storage pits are prominent. The pā is about 90 m long and the sunlight is angled from the north-west. Power lines run across the western slope.

page 14
Aotea south head, a place important in the traditions of Aotea and Tainui

Aotea south head, a place important in the traditions of Aotea and Tainui

A number of pā show at centre and top right on the terrace landform adjacent to the inner harbour on the right. The harbour entrance is out of the picture at top left. At centre, the prominent pā of rectangular outline is 75 m long by 30 m wide. A scatter of dense middens shows as a brighter white on the dune crests at lower left. These were probably the sites of settlements in low forest on dune soils that have since been overwhelmed by shifting sand. At right is the bay Hawaikiiti. The pā centre right is Turi Matai Rehua, while on the sand-covered hill at centre is Pukeatua, the place where Turi planted the first kumara.

All the vertical aerial photographs in this book are orientated so that the north point is to the top of the page.

page 15 busily documenting the lines of ancient kiwifruit shelter belts. The contemporary kiwifruit farm occupies a landscape that 400 years before had also been the site of 'subtropical' 4 horticulture—but for the root crop kūmara. For this book, the all-too-rare remnants that have chanced to survive under the kiwifruit fences and shelterbelts will be the most important.

Aerial photography offers an instant glimpse of the layout of settlements and their relationship to the surrounding land. It is especially useful in archaeology because the patterning of the site and the relationship between sites can be seen very clearly. The ditch on the nearby hill, which local farmers call 'the old drain', from the air can be seen to be part of a patterned whole: an old fighting pā, perhaps with kūmara storage pits and house terraces, extending for hundreds of metres along the ridge and beyond, disappearing under forest. From the air it will have a cultural pattern both in its own right and in relation to the modern-day settlement nearby. The defensive perimeter of the site will be clear; within the perimeter, the layout of house terraces and storage pits can be seen. Also within the perimeter, there may be an open area with a few large house floors adjacent, or simply a very large bank-enclosed space—the antecedent perhaps of the modern marae. There is also negative evidence; evidence for what is not happening. There are no central 'streets' through the settlement; access was by foot, although no doubt there was a pattern of 'private' and 'public' space. Illustrated in this book are at least three examples, Popoia, just discussed, a pā at Tirau in the Waikato and a pā near Tūpāroa on the East Coast, where the complexity and close spacing of settlement within pā can be seen.

Aerial photography also forces archaeologists to take account of all archaeological sites that can be seen from the surface. Sites sometimes receive the greatest attention when they are thought of simply as places to be excavated. Even in Britain, where the study of a great many sites has been carried out for several centuries, it has been estimated that fewer than 1% of all sites have been excavated. This is a poor basis upon which to consider the nature of human settlement in the past; good sense has to be made of the unexcavated as well as the excavated sites. Aerial photography becomes an essential tool in analysing those landscapes in which few sites will ever be excavated, while the rest, seen from a distance, spell out the human pattern in the landscape.

page 16
Kakatarahae, near Ōwhakatoro, inland from Whakatāne, a pā very important in the traditions of Tūhoe

Kakatarahae, near Ōwhakatoro, inland from Whakatāne, a pā very important in the traditions of Tūhoe

The pā was occupied by Ue-i-mua, elder brother of Tūhoe-pōtiki. It shows the typically massive defensive ditches and banks of pā in the Bay of Plenty. The defensive scarps outlined by shadow are 10 m high. The overall length of the main defended platform is about 150 m. It was constructed on easily excavated pumice gravels. Exterior terraces, probably for houses, are arranged down the ridge at middle left of the photograph. The view is to the north.