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


Northland and Auckland offer an opportunity to look closely at settlement on duneland and volcanic soils, swamp gardening, the eighteenth-century French accounts of Māori life, and the sites of the first episodes of the New Zealand Wars between British regular marines and troops on the one side and Māori on the other. Early contacts between missionaries and Māori are discussed in chapter 16 on early mission settlements and farming.

North of the Auckland isthmus, the central part of the region is relatively steep hill country. The rocks from which most of the soils have formed are of ancient sedimentary and volcanic origin. Northland and Auckland have a warm, rainy climate by New Zealand standards. Kauri forest once covered most of the older land surfaces. Rainwater passing through such forest into the ground becomes very acidic and the combination— abundant acidic water and warm temperatures—has over time removed much of the fertility of the soil. The exceptions to the generally inhospitable picture for widespread settlement in Northland are soils of recent origin from three sources: wind-blown sand, rivers and swamps, and volcanic eruptions. These areas were particularly important in Māori settlement especially on the northern peninsula and the Auckland isthmus where coastal sand country and volcanic soils have been closely researched. The main inland centres of settlement were along the alluvial soils of some of the principal rivers, such as the Mangakahia and Wairoa Rivers, and again in areas of geologically recent volcanic activity, such as the Taiamai Plains inland from the Bay of Islands.

Traditional sites are frequent in number in the far north. Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua) is the parting place of the spirits of Māori dead. The depth of feeling page 98 associated with this landscape reference point, a locality much referred to and photographed, cannot be too much stressed. For this book, I have chosen to consider in more detail some traditional sites to the east, closely associated with Kurahaupō which brought the founding figures of many North Island tribal groupings. 1 The landing is described in the phrase: 'Te Tomokanga ō te Kurahaupō ki roto ki Waitangi' (the entrance of Kurahaupō into Waitangi Stream). 2 Spirits Bay or Kapowairua, some 15 km east of Cape Reinga, is also an area of great significance to Māori.

Tohea Te Tohe

Kia tu ake au ki te tihi o Maungapiko
Ka uu te mata ki te moana nui a Kiwa. . . .

Kia huri ake au ki Takapaukura, ko Kurahaupō tera e whakakowhatu iho ee.
Ka piki ki te Tomokanga, ka titiro iho ki nga ara moana, ki nga uunga waka.

Kia rere whakaroto au ki Unuwhao.
Ka whano te titiro ki Kohuroanaki
kakapapa ana te manawa, pihi ake ana te taringa ee.
He aha taaku e rongo ake nei
He mumu tai, he wawa whenua, he reo tangata ranei?

Toia ake ana ahau ki Rangitāne he maunga korero, he kainga mahue no toki tupuna a Tohe. . . .

Fight and Fight Again

Let me stand on the crest of Maungapiko
Where the headland reaches into the Pacific Ocean.. . .

Let me now turn to Takapaukura, where Kurahaupō canoe lies, turned to stone.
Ascending Tomokanga, I see the ocean trails below and the landing places of the canoes.

I now turn inland to Unuwhao
And proceed to observe Kohuroanaki
My heart pulses and my ear hears a sound growing in intensity. What is it?
The murmuring of the tide, indistinct sounds from land
Or is it the voice of man?

I am taken to Rangitāne, where a mountain speaks
Of the home left behind by my ancestor Tohe. . . . 3

Further south on the great northern peninsula, the locality of Awanui was a landing place of the Tākitimu canoe. From there it went on to the East Coast, naming features at Gisborne, and landing at Nukutaurua (Māhia Peninsula). Mātaatua made its first landing at Whakatāne in the Bay of Plenty, but its resting place is in Northland, at Takou Bay just to the north of the Bay of Islands. The Hokianga Harbour also has many associations with Kupe, New Zealand's discoverer and creator; it was his final departure point from New Zealand for the voyage back to Hawaiiki. 4

The east coast has many navigable harbour and river entrances which were the location of early settlement, for example at Houhora Harbour on the northern peninsula. 5 For want of easily recognised surface evidence, few of these sites lend themselves to aerial photography. The picture is different for late pre-European settlement. Virtually all of the eastern coastal headlands have substantial pā built on them, including pā described by the earliest British and French observers. Tupou Bay, on the coast between Doubtless Bay and Whangaroa Harbour, is the perfect pre-European Māori landscape. On headlands on either side of the bay are two pā. At the foot of the hills in the centre of the bay lies a remarkable concentration of trenches, closely dissecting the lower slopes of the hills, 6 markers of the boundaries of indi- page break
Kapowairua, Spirits Bay, from the north

Kapowairua, Spirits Bay, from the north

The bay is 20 km east of Cape Reinga, the point where souls of the Maori dead depart for Hawaiiki. The view is to the south. On the left is a headland which has in the past had many Maori burial places. The rounded rocky knob is Maungapiko, an important point of reference in Maori tradition. In the middle distance at left, the highest point is Unuwhao.

Kurahaupō Rocks, near Tom Bowling Bay

Kurahaupō Rocks, near Tom Bowling Bay

The rocks in the sea, middle foreground, are the first anchoring place of this important canoe, which carried the founding population of many tribes in the far northern and southern North Island. At left above the beach is a pā, Tomokanga; its defensive features do not show clearly. People from Kurahaupō landed at the Waitangi Stream, part of which shows at top left of the photograph. The view is to the south-east with Pārengarenga Harbour to the far right.

page break
Tupou Bay: the perfect pre-European Maori landscape

Tupou Bay: the perfect pre-European Maori landscape

On the two headlands enclosing the bay are pā, marked by the distinct rectangular outline of their ditches and banks. Each of the pā is about 180 m long; the width of the lower reaches of the stream is about 15 m. The bay faces northwest, and offers many opportunities for gardening, as well as sheltered, sandy landing places. The outline of at least two different series of drains down the hill slope can be seen at centre.

page break

Detail of garden trenches at Tupou Bay. Like stone rows, trenches may have several purposes. One may have been to mark the boundaries of a garden plot; these examples are spaced at an average of 13 m along the base of the slope—a smallish plot-dimension. If the spaces between the lines were small plots, the function of the lines was also to drain the soil, so that it became more suitable for kūmara or yam. On the flat slopes at the foot of the hill, the trenches may have served to concentrate seepage to create the right conditions for the growth of taro. This would explain the number of trenches. The largest trenches are about 150 m long and about 1.5 m wide.

page 102 vidual garden plots, drains, or a simple form of irrigation.

Northland was visited by French scientific expeditions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—notably under de Surville in 1770 and du Fresne in 1772, who had been sent out to find the fate of the previous expedition under de Surville. Du Fresne landed at Spirits Bay and also at Tom Bowling Bay, whose traditional associations I have just discussed; at Spirits Bay, both houses and trenches (of the type discussed in chapter 4) were closely described. 7 In 1770 de Surville described a pā at his landing place in Doubtless Bay, noting that it would not have withstood an attack with European weapons. 8 De 1'Horme, one of his officers, also observed:

Their villages are composed of only 5 or 6 huts at most but their towns contain more—I call these their strongholds___They choose the steepest place they can for one.

... A ditch of average width which I would rather call a dip in the ground behind which they have stuck a few stakes, furnish all the entrenchment for an area which it would be simplicity itself to attack. 9

That simplicity of attack—with European weapons—was demonstrated later in the Bay of Islands in the course of the subsequent expedition under du Fresne. He and others had earlier been killed, apparently because the numbers of French had exhausted the hospitality of the local Māori community. Following a revenge attack on a pā,
Pā in Doubtless Bay, visited by de Surville in December 1769

Pā in Doubtless Bay, visited by de Surville in December 1769

A view looking to the south-west of the northern coast of Doubtless Bay. De Surville's watering place is in the left foreground, and the pā is at centre, right of the small sandy beach. He described the pā on the point as being of 'grassy earth with a ditch cutting across a little raised mound. . . . Outside the same ditch is a row of palisades, an excellent means of stopping raids which it would appear they carry out on one another constantly.' The ditch is marked by an indistinct line of shrubs about 10 m outside the pine trees. The fortified area is about 150 by 60 m.

page 103 Paeroa, on Moturua Island, by the company of Marion du Fresne's ship, Roux, a senior officer, made very close records of the pā's layout and construction. 10 The locations of this pā and others burnt by the French are well known since the bay was mapped in detail at the time. When I flew over the Bay of Islands and to Doubtless Bay in February 1992, I found that the principal sites relating to all the eighteenth-century visits, 11 including sites documented from the Endeavour in 1770, 12 were under scrub cover and scarcely worth photographing.

Archaeologists have done many significant surveys on the east coast, 13 but the greatest research emphasis has been on the dunes of the west coast, and on volcanic stonefields. The west coast work has been from the Kaipara Harbour northwards, mainly in response to perceived threats from modern afforestation.,Some work on dunes has also been undertaken on the northern coast in the general vicinity from North Cape to Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga).