Ngā Tohuwhenua Mai Te Rangi: A New Zealand Archeology in Aerial Photographs
7 — Northland and Auckland
Northland and Auckland
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
The west coast of Auckland and Northland has prevailing strong south-westerly winds, difficult harbour entrances and many long exposed beaches. Transported to the shore by ocean currents, the sand on the beaches was driven inland by wind action along very extensive sections of coast, so that, where steep, hilly topography does not dominate and prevent the migration, dunes run inland for up to 15 km. Over time the raw sand became covered with forest, until it was disturbed by Māori burning or deteriorating climate and wind patterns. The Kaipara Harbour was formed over tens of thousands of years by massive deposits of sand forming peninsulas which enclosed a bay. Most of the other sheltered harbours, such as the Hokianga, were formed by somewhat smaller sand peninsulas. 14 Settlement on this coast seems to have been late in pre-European history, with widespread deforestation on the extensive dunes commencing about 400 years ago. Earlier ages for first settlement have been reported only for the far north of Ninety Mile Beach, and there is a single early (thirteenth-century) radiocarbon age for settlement at Maioro south of the Manukau Harbour. 15
Two broad zones held contrasting settlement potential: the inner harbour shores, and the active dune country of the ocean coast. The highest, inland tracts of sand towards the harbours had a kauri forest cover. The surfaces of these sands are now exposed as a brittle crust, occasionally broken into and eroded but generally stable. The soils are of poor natural fertility. These areas have relatively few pre-European sites except near the edge of the harbours and on the hill country inland from the immediate coastal strip. 16 Pā are common on the eastern harbour margins and on the central hills of this dune country.
Further towards the ocean coast, the younger, sandy soils were more prone to wind erosion, especially once their original vegetation cover was destroyed. In periods with little wind erosion, the blown sand has been stabilised first by the colonisation of manuka and kanuka, then by a light coastal forest cover. This locked up an available source of nutrients that, once released by firing, were used for Māori gardening. Gardens were also created on swamps in the dunelands. Burning not only set off a renewed bout of erosion, forming the apparent duneland 'deserts' that are seen today, but also offered a useful opportunity for Māori settlement. These were the subject of study by John Coster during the early 1980s as part of an effort to reduce the destructive effects of planting pine trees. 17 There were small whānau settlements throughout the western dune country, but not within 1 km of the sea. 18 Occasionally there are pā, especially by the dune lakes, examples of which are illustrated in chapter 15 where the primary point of interest is gum-digging. On dunes in the immediate vicinity of the coast are remarkable, more or less continuous, large middens, scattered over and eroding down the surfaces of the unstable dunes.
Because of their landscape prominence, the pā, pits, terraces and gardens of the volcanic cones are easily recognised. The lava fields and ash soils of the northern volcanoes attracted pre-European Māori because of their horticultural potential. The principal areas of good soils are in the inland Bay of Islands, in localities just to the west of Whangarei township, and on the Auckland isthmus itself. In some other places in Auckland, the volcanic products turned to sticky clays, unsuited to horticulture. The land south of the Manukau Harbour was not settled, providing a great contrast with the settlement on the surrounding fertile soils. 19
Polynesians would instantly have recognised the potential of these cones because of their familiarity with the high-island volcanic cones of Eastern Polynesia. The soils are of recent origin, dating from the last 10,000 years or so, and have not been in existence long enough to have been leached of their fertility. They are produced from lava flows and localised ash showers that weather over time to friable, fertile soils. 20 The soils also tend to be quite stony, offering the natural properties activeb sought by Māori gardeners. Because they are stony, the] cannot be readily ploughed and their original Māori land use patterns have survived in good condition in several localities.
Pouērua, a volcanic cone pā in the inland Bay of Islands
A volcanic cone typically splits open to one side as it approaches its mature form, with a new vent forming outside the split. This has happened at Pouērua. The pā has been built in a number of defended segments around the rim and has a total perimeter-length of some 600 m—about the same size as the larger ridge pā in other regions such as Taranaki or the Bay of Plenty. The view is to the north. The interior of the cone is about 350 m across.
The soft scoria slopes of the volcanic cones have been extensively terraced. The scarps were probably defensive while the upper flat areas held houses, storage pits and other living space. A ditch and bank has been constructed on the level ridge immediately to the left of the tihi (summit platform) where the obelisk has been erected. The broad lower terraces in the foreground and at right were probably for gardens which would have spread well out into the built-up areas of today.
The Ohaeawai battlefield of July 1845 and St Michael's Church, Bay of Islands
In the watercolour by John Williams (top right), the British troops are advancing across the centre of the field. In the left foreground is the British camp and slightly forward of that again is a lengthy breastwork of which no trace is to be seen in the modern photograph (above). (It would lie at about the line of the old Ohaeawai Maori School, the prominent white building with a wide verandah.) St Michael's Church is on the same location as the original stockade—where it commanded the field forward (north of) a shallow gully (filled with many dark trees in the photograph). The British troops attacked the near right (northwest) corner of the fortification from the north and from a position in the gully running towards the camera viewpoint about 100 m west of the churchyard. Both painting and photograph are oriented to the south-east.
St Michael's Church, Ohaeawai
The enclosing stone wall was built not long after the church in 1871 and probably followed a depression or other outline left by the original stockade and perimeter rifle trench. Traces of the trench could be seen until recently in the vicinity of the small stockyards in the immediate left foreground. The parallel lines running away to the upper right from the stone wall are the result of ploughing. The view is to the north-east, and the walled enclosure is 85 by 50 m in extent.
Below the cones lie undulating volcanic stonefields— the prime horticultural lands. Although the cone defences just discussed were probably built by hapū or iwi, the gardening would have been done by whānau living in small settlements around the cone and as much as 5 km from it. 25 Further away from the cone, they may have found it convenient to align themselves with other kin on another cone or in another area. The stonefield gardens are marked by concentrations of stone gathered from the fields and placed in mounds; occasionally the stones were placed in rows. There are also stone-faced terraces and stone-edged pathways. Other features related to horticulture are field boundaries, in the form of trenches, and storage pits. The trenches lie at the foot of the volcanic cone slopes and the bottoms of the small, fertile valleys surrounding it. As discussed in chapter 4, they may have been not only garden boundaries, but also simple forms of irrigation with water or moisture concentrated at the bottom. Open rectangular storage pits were dug on the cones or on low ridges or hillocks in the garden areas.
The areas on the stony country around the cone were also the site of much nineteenth-century Māori settlement. The Te Waimate mission house, site of a model farm established by the Anglican Church in 1831, was established in this general area to be near such Māori settlement, 26 and will be described in some detail in chapter 16.
Cones were also occupied in Auckland where the stonefields are smaller, but with much greater numbers of the cones themselves. Mangere, Maungawhau (Mt Eden) and Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) are three such cones. Other examples are Orākei, Mt Roskill, Mt Wellington (Maungarei) and Mt Albert (Owairaka). 27 Many other cones have been and are being, sadly, ruined by the extraction of scoria for industrial aggregate. The radiocarbon ages for the gardens in the Auckland isthmus tend to be slightly older than those for the inland Bay of Islands. The ages are as old as 700 years, 28 in contrast to the inland Bay of Islands, reflecting perhaps the accessibility of the isthmus from the sea. The Hauraki Gulf also has one island created by volcanic activity, Browns Island, with significant pā and stonefield gardens.
Ruapekapeka, scene of fighting between the British and Kawiti in the summer of 1845-46
The pā lies on a broad ridge and consists of a perimeter of closely spaced rifle pits, with many pits within the defended area. The perimeter originally had a substantial stockade in places and a solid screen of tree trunks designed to resist shelling or solid cannon balls. The screen or stockade was immediately outside the distinctive line of rectangular pits forming the perimeter. Note the use of a distinct bastion to the south (bottom of the photograph) and the flanking gun pits at the north-west and north-east corners. The well (fenced for safety) is at bottom left immediately outside the main perimeter. The pā occupies an area of about 110 by 80 m. In the event, most of Kawiti's force had left the pā during the shelling, and had occupied the slopes to the south (in the foreground in this view). When the pā was assaulted by British troops on foot, they found little resistance until they attempted to go beyond the southern perimeter towards the forest edge. The view is to the north.
The British forward position on the ridgeline about 300 m north of Ruapekapeka
The faint trace of ditch and bank enclosure is the artillery position. When this position was established there appears to have been some concern about fire from the pā and the possibility of a flanking counter-attack, hence the entrenchment of the artillery. To the rear of the entrenchments is a small enclosure said to be the 'first aid post' (another possibility is a munitions store). The artillery position is approximately 35 by 25 m in plan. The view is to the southeast. The photo appears to be out of focus because of the indistinct nature of the archaeological features.
Of the surviving nineteenth-century sites in Auckland and Northland, one is widely recognised as being of national significance. Ruapekapeka, the last engagement in the northern phase of fighting in the New Zealand Wars, lies in hill country about 10 km south of the inner, estuarine reaches of the south-western Bay of Islands. The British soldiers used heavy cannon and howitzers with ball and shell against the pā; rockets were also used. Kawiti, the principal chief of the group occupying the pā, had designed the site with this in prospect. The interior defences of Ruapekapeka consisted of deep pits roofed over with timber and earth, 'bomb shelters', while the perimeter was defended by a heavily timbered palisade, flax-padding, and a continuous line of rectangular pits at the foot of an inner bank. Bastions and flanking angles were formed in the perimeter. These earthwork features all show clearly in the aerial photograph view.
In the fighting, the northern edge of the stockade was breached by cannon balls. As a result of the persistent cannon-fire, most of Kawiti's forces had been forced to camp in the rear of the defensive perimeter. On the advice of their Māori scouts, British troops attacked suddenly, on a Sunday morning. They found the fortification only lightly defended, and forced Kawiti himself to abandon it. The engagement was finished finally by the British forces occupying the pā against Kawiti's counter-attack from breastworks and the forest edge to the south. 34 The position in which the British troops hac their cannon also survives as a shallow ditch and breast work. I photographed this site in February 1992, just after it fell into a light overcast. Luckily, there were distinct crop marks (browned grass) on the breastworks and their pattern shows clearly in the photograph.
1 McEwen (1986:10-14); Simmons (1976:186-187,190-192).
2 Norman (1989: 188).
3 Pātere by the late Revd Māori Marsden; from a poster of Spirits Bay published by the Ministry for the Environment, translated by the Translation Service, Wellington. I thank Shane Jones and Mrs Jane Marsden for discussion.
4 Te A. Davis and Wilson (1990: 4-5).
5 Davidson (1982a: 18-19).
6 Nicholls (1965); see also Barber (1989: 35).
7 Salmond (1991: 364-371).
8 De Surville (1982: 15).
9 De l'Horme, in de Surville (1982: 127).
10 Kennedy (1969); Davidson (1984:161); Salmond (1991:418-421).
11 See 'Plan du Port Marion' in Salmond (1991: 209).
12 For example, the pā on Motuarohia (Spencer, 1983a: 267-270); Kelly (1951).
13 Davidson (1982a, b).
14 Ballance and Williams (1982).
15 K. Jones (1988b); Coster (1989).
16 Cox (1977); Gibbs (1980: 45-47).
17 Coster (1983; 1989).
18 For Hokianga North Head, see K. Jones (1984a).
19 Walton (1985a).
20 The Northland and Auckland volcanoes are andesitic rather than rhyolitic; the latter, such as the Taupō complex, erupt far more violently.
21 The volcanoes erupted through the clay country; see also Sutton (1991: 13).
22 Sutton (1991); E. Best (1927: 303-308).
23 Sissons et al (1987: 32).
24 Fox (1983: 14-15).
25 For example, Marshall (1991).
26 Standish (1962); Harris (1984).
27 Fox (1976); Davidson (1982b); Bulmer (1987).
28 Bulmer (1987: 156).
29 Belich (1986: 41-64); Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 34-87); Challis (1991).
30 Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 34-48); Challis (1991).
31 Challis (1992, pers. comm.); Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 71) reports eyewitnesses as saying the line of the wall is 'almost exactly' on the original line of the fortification. However, the New Zealand Archaeological Association site record form by S. Bartlett has the churchyard lying skew across the outline of the fortification.
32 E. Best (1927: 56, 84).
33 Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 49-72); Belich (1986: 45-57); Wards (1968: 150-159).
34 Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 81-83).