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



Previous sections of this chapter dwelt on the precariousness of animal populations under human predation. Horticulture offered a potentially sustainable subsistence base, but in the south it was limited by climate. Once the difficulties of horticulture in a temperate climate had been solved in the North Island, it remained only to put in the much greater amounts of work needed to grow and store the crop, and Māori had a renewable food source limited only by the quantity of suitable soils. As we have already seen in Northland and Palliser Bay, ecological limits appear to have been reached in some areas, although novel methods of exploiting soils were being attempted.

In the South Island, horticulture was possible on the coast, from the Banks Peninsula north, 11 and in the lower reaches of the major northern rivers. Areas known or inferred to have supported horticulture, though much smaller in extent than in the North Island, are Banks Peninsula, Woodend near Kaiapoi pā, Claverley in North Canterbury, the Kai Kōura Peninsula, Clarence River, the Blenheim coastal plains, the inner and outer Marlborough Sounds and, probably most important of all, the rivers and coastal strip of inner Tasman Bay and Golden Bay. 12 In the last areas, however, stone rows are rare, and some of this inferred distribution is based on the existence of kūmara storage pits. The best-preserved examples of stone rows are on the coastal strip north and south of the Clarence River where they are in forms similar to those of the Wairarapa coast. 13

Throughout this broad area, the average number of pits in any one site is small, seldom more than two or three, although there are rare single sites with as many as 15 or 20, for example at Pari Whakatau in North Canterbury, or Pariwhakaoho in Golden Bay. The pits are also weathered with the sides greatly eroded, so that they do not make satisfactory photographic subjects. 14 However, an exceptional group of pits lies on the terraces of the Seventeen Valley Stream at the southern end of the Blenheim plains, not far from Wairau Bar. These pits are in an ideal locality for marginal horticulture: an open river valley facing north, on the edge of a terrace raised slightly above the ponding of frosty air. Below the pits, on the former flood plain, lie stone rows marking the area of the original gardens.

On the open plains between this valley and Wairau Bar to the north-east were Māori 'canals', a feature of Blake-Palmer's pioneering paper on archaeology and aerial photography in New Zealand, and thus among the first aerial photographs published in New Zealand. 15 They page 201

Cooks Cove and Pourewa Island (foreground), Tolaga Bay. The Endeavour anchored to the right (north) of the picture.

page 202

Garden stone rows on the Pōtikirua coastal strip, near Cape Runaway. The view is to the south.

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Pukemaire, a pre-European pā on terrace land at Tikitiki, East Coast. The pā was occupied by Pai Mārire forces in 1865.

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Ngātapa, inland Gisborne, scene of Te Kooti Arikirangi's defeat in January 1869. Some six transverse rifle trenches or breastworks cross the slope facing the camera. The saps are obscured by the low scrub on the natural scarp across the centre. A vertical aerial photograph and interpretative drawing are on page 152.

page 205

Pukerangiora and Te Arei, on the Waitara River, Taranaki. Te Arei (the Maori position in 1861 and the redoubt of 1864) is at centre with the sap constructed by Pratt's troops at left obscured by the distinct line of trees. At right is the main defended area of the pre-European fortification. Further photographs and an interpretative drawing are on pages 174-177.

page 206

Pre-European pā near Otautu, Pātea River, south Taranaki. A further photograph is on page 170.

page 207

Oika, a pā of the period 1865-68, above the Whenuakura River, south Taranaki. At bottom right is the Whenuakura Marae.

page 208

Putake, a pre-European pā on the Tāngāhoe River, south Taranaki.

page 209

The pā (left of centre) by the State Highway 3 crossing of the Whangaehu River, near Wanganui. Storage pits on the old dune surfaces nearer the river are less distinct. Further photographs are on page 184.

page 210

Pā on ridges above the Whangaehu River. Pits, probably nineteenth century in age, show on low hillocks above the flood plain (in middle distance at left).

page 211

Storage pits at Paekākariki, Wellington. The larger trees on the slope below are karaka.

page 212

Wairau Bar, Blenheim. The main part of the moa-hunter site is in the middle distance by the lagoon edge, but there are significant archaeological deposits on the lines of beach ridge in the foreground.

page 213

Kaiapoi and the Kaiapoi monument, north of Christchurch. Part of the defensive perimeter of the pa is clearly defined by the defensive bank or breastwork of the pā. The defended area extended to the left of the road in the vicinity of the buildings.

page 214

Gum-digging trenches, dating from the 1930s, on the Ahipara plateau. The white patches are the leached sandy subsoil exposed by stripping the gum-rich peat.

page 215

Northburn herring-bone tailings, a gold-mining site near Cromwell, central Otago. Large stones from the sluice face (in shadow nearest viewpoint) were stacked in these rows where they continued to guide waste water flow. Further photographs are on pages 257 and 263.

page 216

Nukutaurua, Māhia Peninsula. At centre is the pā, Waipuna, and at top right is Maungakahia. The pits discussed in the final chapter are by the stream, right of centre, and above Waipuna. A vertical aerial photograph and interpretative drawing are on pages 252-254.

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Pits and stone rows north of the Clarence River mouth

Pits and stone rows north of the Clarence River mouth

Stone rows similar to those at Palliser Bay run down from the foot of the steep slopes (partly out of the image, left) to an uplifted eroded beach line running top left to bottom right. Between the stone rows are darkened, gravelly soils, well suited to kūmara horticulture. There are pits on the terrace beyond the prominent gully. The view is to the north.

were supposed to have been excavated to catch 'flappers' (unfledged ducks). These canals are among the great sports of New Zealand archaeology, ranking along with house pits as unsustained interpretations. The 'canals' are natural distributaries, 16 characteristic of the outflow plains of major rivers. As they accumulate over time, with the changing course of the river and river gravels covering over parts of the earlier ones, their natural origin may have been difficult to detect. They would, of course, have been used for eeling and fowling, but their origin is natural.