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

10 — East Coast

page 139

East Coast

The East Coast region is bounded by the Urewera, Huiarau and Raukumara Ranges in the west,, and runs from Cape Runaway in the north, south towards Māhia Peninsula. The country is built mainly on relatively young sedimentary rocks with a light coating of ash from the Taupō volcanic region. The ash is important in soil formation on the less steep country, and without it, the soils would be less suited to Māori horticulture. The rocks are mainly mudstone with some geological layers being very slippery when wet, leading to a severe erosion problem, 1 and outstanding settlement opportunities on alluvial plains formed by the product of the erosion. The important rivers, from south to north, are the Waipāoa (and its tributaries), Uawa and Waiapu, all of which have wide valley floors. Along with the coastal strip these were the most important areas of settlement. In the river valleys, Māori settled well into the main ranges up to 40 km from the coast, but settlement away from the rivers was sparse. 2 Settlement was also sparse where the coastal strip is narrow or dominated by cliffs.

Important themes that can be followed in more detail using aerial photographs of the East Coast are traditional sites, the records of Māori sites from the 1769 visit of the Endeavour, storage pits and horticulture, settlement and pā in river valleys, and the nineteenth-century fortifications associated with Pai Mārire, and later Te Kooti Arikirangi.

Hikurangi is among the most important traditional sites. Whāngārā is a landing place of the canoes Toko-maru and Mātaatua in one version of their voyages. 3 The small island off Whāngārā beach, Te Ana ō Paikea, is another landscape feature of great traditional significance. Paikea, after whom the island is named, is an ancestor common to both Ngāti Porou and the broader page break
Whāngārā village and the island, Te Ana ō Paikea, north of Gisborne

Whāngārā village and the island, Te Ana ō Paikea, north of Gisborne

The island, bottom right, looks like the whale which rescued Paikea from a sabotaged and sinking canoe. The island has also been a naturally well-defended pā. Terraces, probably for houses, are highlighted by shadow near the peak of the island. There is also a pā, Wai Mihia, by the Waiōmoko River on the mainland. Its ditches and banks, enclosing the river bank, can be detected on the extreme right of the broad bend of the river (partially obscured by hills) and left of the road. The view is to the west.

Ngāi Tahu and Rangitāne tribal groupings. 4 In a Rangitāne traditional narrative, the naming of the landscape is expressed:

Haramai, e tama! E piki ki runga 6 Hiku-rangi, o Ao-rangi;
He ingoa ia no Hiku-rangi mai i Tawhiti, na o kau i tapa. . . .
Ko te ara tena i whakaterea mai ai o tipuna
E te kauika tangaroa, te urunga tapu o Pai-kea. . . .
Haramai, e tama! E huri to aroaro ki te uranga mai o te ra,
Ki Turanga-nui a Rua, ki Whāngārā;
Ehara i konei, he ingoa whakahua no Hawa-iki-nui a Rua-matua,
Ka waiho nei hei papa mo te kakano o kōrau a Ira-nui,
Hei papa mo te kūmara.....

Come, O son, ascend the peaks of Hikurangi and Aorangi;
"Tis a name from Hikurangi from afar so called by your forbears. . . .
That was the course upon which your ancestors voyaged hither
Upon the deep sea school-of-whales, steered by the sacred ritual of Paikea,
Which becalmed the sea-ways across the billowing-ocean.
Come, O son! Turn towards the rising-sun,
Towards the renowned Turanga of Rua, and to Whāngārā;
'Tis not of this land, the name is from Hawai-iki-of-renown of Rua-matua
'Twas made into a plot for the kōrau seed of Ira-nui,
'Twas the plot for the kūmara... . 5

page break
Wai Mihia, a pā on the banks of Waiōmoko River, Whāngārā

Wai Mihia, a pā on the banks of Waiōmoko River, Whāngārā

This pā showed on the lower reaches of the river in the previous view. The pā has been created by right-angled sections of ditch and bank enclosing the main river on the right and the tributary stream in the foreground. Additional areas have been enclosed by further sections of ditch and bank, now partly destroyed, furthest from camera. The overall area is estimated to be 60 by 25 m. The pā is in thistles, obscuring some features. The view is to the east.

The hills, islands and cliffs at the entrances to Uawa (Tolaga Bay) and Tūranganui (Poverty Bay) are likewise full of traditional references. There is a hill with the same name, Tītīrangi, at the entrance to both bays. Tītīrangi and Whāngārā are both references to places in Hawaiiki, as the tradition indicates. The Waipāoa River is a reference to Pāoa, one of the important ancestors of the Gisborne area and a leader of the Horouta canoe. 6

In 1769 the East Coast was the site of the first landings from the Endeavour. The comments in the journals of Cook, Banks and Monkhouse (the ship's surgeon) are of the greatest significance for an archaeological understanding of Māori settlement pattern, artefacts, gardening and fortification at that time. Some of these comments related to features that may be seen in aerial photographs, particularly gardening and pā. 7 The East Coast has numerous ridge or hill pā, although these tend not to be very heavily sculpted into the slopes, especially when compared with the neighbouring Bay of Plenty. James Cook and Joseph Banks, not knowing their function at the time, recorded the hills and ridges as being 'fenced', rather than fortified or having ditches. 8

The photograph here shows the pā on the small peninsula forming the northern side of Cooks Cove. Banks was puzzled by the palisades that he found on the peninsula. In his journal he described them:

... went to the top of the hill above the watering place to see a fence of poles which we had observed from the ship. ... on a hill almost inaccessible by Wood & Steepness, we however climbed it & found several deserted houses near the rails, which only consisted of Poles of 14 or 16 feet high set in 2 rows, each pole 10 feet from the next, the 2 rows were about 6 feet distant.. . . this rail work with a Ditch which was parallel to it, went about 100 Yards down the hill in a kind of Curve, but for what purpose it had been intended I could not at all guess.. . . 9

The ridge on which this structure stood can be identified in aerial photographs. It was, despite Banks' puz- page break
Top left. Cooks Cove and the pā on the northern peninsula

Top left. Cooks Cove and the pā on the northern peninsula

The view is to the north-east; Cooks Cove is on the right and Tolaga Bay on the left. The peninsula consists of a large uplifted mass on which three ridges run south (down to the right) from the main ridge along the head of the cliff to the north. The peninsula is naturally steep-sided all around, with small cliffed steps to the south; the only natural weak point is the small valley (here obscured by the closest ridge) which runs down to the head of the cove. Terraces and pits ('deserted houses') occur on these ridges. Joseph Banks' 'fence of poles' probably ran along the curve of the nearest ridge above the very steep face lying towards the camera viewpoint. The Historic Places Trust obelisk marking Cook's visit can just be detected near the pond on the ridge lower right.

Bottom left. The outer part of the Cooks Cove peninsula

The terraces on the ridges are plain. Halfway down the lefthand ridge, silhouetted against the stony beach just left of centre, is a defensive ditch and scarp. Banks' fence ran down a ridge similar to the ridge on the right (the actual ridge is out of view to the right). The view is to the southeast and the cove is about 100 m across.

page 143 zlement, the outer defensive perimeter of a broad area of settlement on the several narrow ridges of the peninsula. The peninsula is naturally steep-sided with much of the potential defensive perimeter formed by cliffs up to 25 m high. Terraces which may be the sites of Banks' houses show clearly, particularly on the innermost part of the defended area. This outer part of the peninsula also appears to have had a palisade rendered as a brush fence (probably inadequately) in the Endeavour drawings. 10

The Endeavour observers noted only very small settlements, of a size that might now be associated with a whānau. Unfortunately, Cook and Banks and their fellow observers did not travel far inland, up the rivers. Opportunities to do so, at both Poverty Bay and Tolaga Bay, were for some reason not taken. 11 Had they done so, they would have seen much bigger sites and settlement population numbers. 12 At this period, on the Tūranganui (Gisborne) plains there were pā on the river banks and the broad ridges where the main rivers first emerge from the narrow valleys of the hill country. At these points, major floods had deposited large fans of silt. On the principal fan at Waerenga ā Hika and the smaller fans, 10 km inland from Gisborne, there are radiocarbon dates for settlement as early as 1250, although the pā of course are later in age. The wider settlement on the alluvial fans can be traced from the extent of the umu or earth ovens that show as wide black patches in aerial photographs of ploughed areas taken in the 1940s and 1950s. 13 The Waerenga ā Hika flats and the surrounding hill country were the sites of very extensive gardening in pre-European and later times. The low broad ridges in this vicinity were the location of large pā with many kūmara storage pits. 14

Further up the Waipāoa River towards the localities of Pūhā and Mangatū, smaller numbers of large pā and many small pā occur. They usually enclose the terrace edge with an open-sided rectangular length of ditch and bank. In one case, near Pūhā, a pā occupies a flat-topped 'island' formed in this terrace. This pā, probably called Whenuanui, 15 has never been ploughed and shows the pattern of raised-rim storage pits, complete with drains, very clearly; it was illustrated in chapter 4 on horticulture. Another example is on the coast at Pouawa, just north of Gisborne, where a triple ditch and bank cuts off a point or headland in the high terrace.

In the lower courses of the main rivers, the pattern of pā seen on the high terrace is rarely seen today, since many such defences have been ploughed out. However, there is a group of four pā, in two pairs, in the meandering lower reaches of the Maraetaha River. These date from the period 1600-50. 16 People in them would have taken advantage of the compound defensive effect of the river and of the further defences immediately across it.

page break
Pā on coastal high terrace near Pouawa, north of Gisborne

Pā on coastal high terrace near Pouawa, north of Gisborne

A rare example on the East Coast of a triple ditch and bank defence, probably dictated by the flat access at this point. The defended area (to left of the ditch and bank) is about 70 m long by 40 m across. The flat strip marked by the shadowed scarp in the foreground is a natural slump, and the ditches and banks run across it. The relatively narrow defensive ditches suggest that the site may be nineteenth century in origin, in which case a triple line, concentrating the defender's musket-fire, would have been possible. The interior of the pā shows at least six raised-rim pits. The faint criss-cross pattern on the paddocks to right of the pā results from recent giant-discing. Fortunately, the discing has not entered the perimeter of the pā, although a road has breached the ditch and bank towards the far end. The view is to the north.

page 145

On some occasions, there may have been rivalry between hapū. In such cases, the closely placed fortifications would have defended hapū from hapū. 17 On the abandoned course of the Te Arai River, near Manutuke on the south-western margin of the Waipāoa Plains, an intricate meander also had a fine example of such a pā. This pā, Tapui, dates to the same period as the Maraetaha pā and survives in good condition. 18 Lying on the downstream end of the swampy ribbon of the abandoned river course (abandoned in the twelfth century, long before occupation), it seems now to break the rule that major sites will have good access from sea or river transport. Its distance from the sea or river is misleading. The rerouting of the Waipāoa River course, farm drainage and subsequent erosion in the modern period from the adjacent small river valley to the south-west, have filled in the river and estuary beds. In fact, Tapui was once within easy reach of the estuary of the Waipāoa River, and its location is readily explained by that factor.


Storage pits can be seen everywhere in vast numbers on the East Coast, particularly along the coastal ridges and around rivers. As many as 80 pits can be seen together in a single group, sometimes within the defensive perimeter of a single pā. An example is illustrated here of a pā near Tūpāroa in the Waiapu district. Pits are common on ridge ends near alluvial soils, where they indicate the use of these soils for gardening. Pits are also found in smaller numbers in isolated clusters, away from the main areas of settlement and pā. Occasionally an isolated pā will have a small number of pits in its vicinity, probably used at the same time as the pā. It is difficult to illustrate this pattern because of its extensive nature. 19

On the East Coast, soils are usually quite fine and silty with little stone. Any gardening structures such as the mounds or rows seen from the Endeavour by Banks and Monkhouse in 1769 would quickly erode. Opportunities to detect gardening forms of the type seen in the volcanic areas of the far north or the stony coastal strip of the Wairarapa are therefore lacking. However, in the Cape Runaway vicinity is an area of stony soils, unique in the region because of their volcanic origin. Stone rows were created running for 100 to 200 m from the foot of the very steep hill slopes to the rocky shore. The soils between these rows, deep and full of small stones, warm very rapidly in spring, while the rows themselves dry out. Occasionally, the spacing between the rows at the top of a fan is closer than that known elsewhere in New Zealand, for example Palliser Bay, suggesting a function both in the gardening itself (such as support for vines) and clearance of stones from the soil. A more normal spacing is about 12 m. Photographs taken in spring show the pattern of the rows very clearly 20 because the stone rows have dead yellow grass on them while the garden fields between are still green. The setting of such gardens, just behind the shoreline at the foot of very steep slopes, is obvious in the early drawings from the Endeavour of Anaura Bay to the south. 21

Nineteenth-century sites

The river flats had quite extensive settlement away from the coastal strip throughout the nineteenth century. At Tolaga Bay, Waiapu and on the Gisborne plains, there were important stretches of settlement along the lower courses of the river within 5 km of the coast, including papakainga at Manutuke and Matawhero (the latter no longer settled by Māori). Tapui, already illustrated, was also the site of nineteenth-century settlement. 22 From the 1830s the river valleys were the locations of important Anglican Mission settlements at Waerenga ā Hika and also at Rangitukia in the Waiapu valley.

Waerenga ā Hika continued to be the location of Māori settlement in the nineteenth century. In 1865 combined European and Ngāti Porou and Rongowhakaata page 146
Tapui, a pā created by multiple ditches and banks on interlocking bends of the old course of the Te Arai River, near Manūtūke

Tapui, a pā created by multiple ditches and banks on interlocking bends of the old course of the Te Arai River, near Manūtūke

The banks of the river are slightly obscured by young willows in this 1948 aerial photograph. Two curved, interlocking points have been defended by ditches and banks. On the left (west) a rectangular section of double ditch and bank has been constructed enclosing the point and some additional area. Three separate lines of ditch and bank enclose the point on the right bank of the river, the innermost obscured by willows. There is a further rectangular section of ploughed-out ditch and bank to the north of the easternmost defences (top right). There may also have been defences on the broad point to the south among the regular array of white blobs. The road is 6 m wide and the total area of the pā (including the enclosed water) is about 300 by 200 m. The water in the river-bed is ponded and its light colour is caused either by a surface-growing weed or muddy floodwater, compounded by the loss of grey-tone variation in the archived transparency from which the photograph is taken.

page 147 kūpapa fought against Pai Mārire forces from Rongo-whakaata and Te Aitanga a Māhaki. 23 The exact location of the pā occupied by the Pai Mārire forces in this battle has proved to be a puzzle, which can be solved using aerial photographs. James Cowan visited this locality in the 1920s when a good proportion of the extended fortification may have been intact. 24 However, his sketch is almost certainly a reconstruction based on the full eyewitness accounts of this battle. It is speculative in much of its detail and cannot be readily squared with the aerial photograph evidence.

A pā survived at Waerenga ā Hika up until the early 1950s, when it was destroyed by ploughing. Showing clearly in a vertical aerial photograph of 1948, it was a typical rectangular enclosure of the former (river bank, offering a natural defensive scarp 6 m in height, with a single defensive ditch and bank. Pā like this were starting to be built from at least the early seventeenth century on the Waipāoa River and elsewhere. 25 Another feature indicating a pre-European origin is its location at the down-river end of a cut-off loop of the Waipāoa River. The upper end of the loop was higher, filled with silt from floods from the period after the loop was cut off, and therefore dry ground. Near the pā, in contrast, was a narrow lakelet with swampy margins. Eels would have lived in it, providing an ideally placed resource base for the pā.

However, in the cemetery close to 26 Saint Luke's Anglican Church, about 200 m from the fortification describable from the 1948 photograph, is a further fortification. The modern graves, with their markers, flowers and children's plastic toys, lie towards the road. To their rear, towards the old river bank, the ground is bare of visible markers. This area is separated from the rest by the faint trace of a ditch and bank, parallel to the old river bank and 1 to 2 m wide—the rifle trench of the original fortification. 27 The enclosed area is the site of the graves of the many dead of this battle, since the Māori dead were buried in the fortification itself. In the 1948 aerial photograph, in the field between the graveyard and the pre-European pā, the corresponding area is also fenced off and lies in tall grass. The two areas so delineated comprise an area consistent with the size of the original fortification, and more or less adjoining the pre-European one. It is probable therefore that there were two adjoining pā here, and that the pā showing in the 1948 aerial photograph is not the one occupied by Pai Mārire in 1865. 28 The true pā attacked by European and kūpapa forces was immediately to the north and in the area of the modern cemetery.

Colonial and kūpapa forces also fought against Te Kooti Arikirangi at Ngatapa, in steep hill country about 40 km south-west of Gisborne, in December 1868. The encounter was preceded by an engagement at Makaretu near Rere, 7 km to the south-east. Ngatapa was developed from an earlier pre-European pā occupying the sloping triangular summit of a hill. 29 The steep slopes and cliffs that have been so often remarked upon, the lines of defence and the offensive saps, can all be seen in the aerial photograph. The site has five defensive rifle trenches, totalling some 300 m in length, excluding a natural scarp which may also have had defensive value. The pā was occupied by as many as 250 men, so this defensive capacity was well used. A direct assault up the south-east slopes was not possible because of the defensive firepower that could be mustered. The attacking forces therefore out-flanked the pā from the southwest and north, and built narrow saps from the natural scarp at the southern foot of the fortification to gain the opportunity of enfilading fire along and entry to the defensive trenches. Mortars were brought up to the natural scarp but could not be used because of the close range— page break
A pā with many pits near Tūpāroa, Waiapu district

A pā with many pits near Tūpāroa, Waiapu district

Described by the original site recorders, Anne Leahy and Wendy Walsh, as 'magnificent', this site demonstrates the degree to which pits are sometimes found packed into pā. The pits are about 5 m long by 2 m wide and most are of the raised-rim variety. In this view, the defensive elements of the site are not pronounced but there is a transverse ditch on the level ridge on the right. Elsewhere the potential defensive perimeter of the site is sharply delineated by the relatively steep sides of the ridges. Towards the centre of the site, on the broad ridge running towards the camera, the larger open rectangular areas with no rims are probably house platforms. The view is to the east.

page break
Raised-rim pits on a ridge near Patutahi, Gisborne Plains

Raised-rim pits on a ridge near Patutahi, Gisborne Plains

The pits are large (up to 5 m square) and lie on one arm of a large pā, Hanganui a Tara. At the foot of the pā are the fertile, well drained soils of the fan created by the Whakaahu River {left, out of picture). Shell from a midden on the flats here has given a radiocarbon date of 1300. The view is to the north-east.

page break
Garden stone rows on the Pōtikirua Block, near Cape Runaway

Garden stone rows on the Pōtikirua Block, near Cape Runaway

The soils near Cape Runaway are stony, quite unlike those in most other areas of the East Coast. The steep inland hills confined gardening to a very narrow strip. Plots were arranged by placing stones from the cleared soil down the slope in rows. The topsoil between the rows on this coastal strip is very deep, as much as 40 cm, and the slopes face due north. They would have warmed very rapidly in spring and ensured a long growing season. Small settlements consisting of pits and terraces typically occupy the edges of the gullies in this landscape, but are not obvious in this photograph.

the bombs over-shooting the pā and landing amongst the attacking troops on the south-west slopes.

For several days of rain, the two forces lay within 15 m of each other. Te Kooti Arikirangi and others eventually escaped over the north-eastern cliff, leaving weaker members of his force behind. The people who escaped and were caught in the chase were summarily shot by the kūpapa force. Those in the pā (mainly women and children) were taken prisoner. I recorded this pā in the course of a visit in 1990, and I noted that it was an outstanding surviving example of the Colonial and kūpapa forces' wish to engage Te Kooti Arikirangi, and to force a finish to his armed campaigns. He suffered a punishing defeat here—it can be felt at the site because it is so close to the condition it was in at the end of the fighting.

page break
The pā at Waerenga ā Hika, scene of fighting in 1865

The pā at Waerenga ā Hika, scene of fighting in 1865

The photograph was taken in 1948 after severe flooding, with the iagoon' showing as a silty lake bed. The ditch and bank of a pre-European pā, forming a rectangle about 90 by 60 m in plan, shows clearly. The bank is far higher than that shown on contemporary photographs of the pā of 1865, however. The other, second pā extended some 150 m to the north, covering part of the modern graveyard, top right, extending from the road to the river bank. The Anglican mission station and school was at middle right, east of the road. The road is about 18 m across, and the modern Anglican Church, Saint Luke's, is the large building with the distinctive curved driveway to its rear.

page break
Ngātapa, site of Te Kooti Arikirangi's defeat in January 1869

Ngātapa, site of Te Kooti Arikirangi's defeat in January 1869

Two sides of the triangular defended area were cliffed, offering strong natural defences. The third sloped down to the south-east with only a natural slump-scarp offering a potential defensive line. This line appears to have been too long and to have enclosed too large an area for practicable defence. This outer defensive line was abandoned early in the fighting. The main defences were the three or four prominent lines of ditch and/or breastwork at the summit of the hill. The attacking forces cut off the escape from the rear by putting in two lines of trenches on the narrow northern ridge, which otherwise offered a natural escape route, and occupied the south-western slopes below the cliff. Saps show in the centre of the slump-scarp (scrub-dotted), traversing uphill and to the west of the first defensive rifle trench. The saps brought the attackers over the exposed crest of the natural scarp up to the defensive lines. A second sap or communication trench runs from the intermediate defensive line to the double ditch near the summit. The photograph was taken in 1952. An oblique colour photograph is on page 204.

1 New Zealand Soil Bureau (1954); Pullar (1962).

2 K. Jones (1988a; 1989b).

3 Ngata and Buck (1988: 249).

4 Fowler (1974: 15-17).

5 From 'He Oriori mo Tu Tere Moana' by Tu Hoto Ariki, Ngata and Jones (1958, Poem 201, Vol. 3: 3-17). Ira-nui was a sister of Kahungūnu and an important ancestor of several East Coast iwi. Korau is the edible base of the frond of a tree fern.

6 Simmons (1976: 132-146).

7 K. Jones (1983; 1989b: 249-252; 1989c).

8 Banks (1958: 63, 147).

9 Banks (1958: 63); K. Jones (1983).

10 British Library Add. MS 23920, f. 38; K. Jones (1983: 534).

11 Cook (1955: 169-170). The ability of local Māori by sheer force of numbers to cut off a retreat to the Endeavour may have been a reason.

12 K. Jones and Law (1987: 107-110).

13 See photograph in K. Jones (1988a: 31).

14 K. Jones (1988a).

15 E. Best (1927: 386).

16 K. Jones (1988a).

17 K. Jones (1991).

18 K. Jones (1988a; 1991b).

19 K. Jones (1988a; 1989a).

20 Unpublished site records by Anne Leahy and Wendy Walsh and my field observations.

21 K. Jones (1989c).

22 K. Jones (1988a; 1991).

23 Belich (1986: 210, 219); Cowan (1983, Vol. 2:125-128). Te Aitanga a Māhaki is the iwi of the upper Waipāoa River.

24 Cowan (1983, Vol. 2: 124). The plan appears to be speculative.

25 K. Jones (1988a).

26 The cemetery is that of the Anglican Māori pastorate and is several sections to the north, not in the yard of the church.

27 Surviving photographs show a ruined, lightly constructed palisade and a very slight breastwork profile.

28 Professor Judith Binney stresses that unpublished accounts of the battle record a division between the occupants of this locality and the existence of two pā, or a new pā built in 1865 in a part of the old (see also Binney and Chaplin, 1986: 6).

29 Cowan (1983, Vol. 2: 270-284); Belich (1986: 260-267).