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

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Storage pits and garden stone rows in Seventeen Valley Stream, southern Wairau Plains

Storage pits and garden stone rows in Seventeen Valley Stream, southern Wairau Plains

Three groups of kūmara storage pits lie on the edge of a high river terrace. The individual pits are up to 6 m in their greatest dimension. On the river flat below the pits there are a number of stone rows, marking the edge of garden plots. The river is actively cutting away the bank just by the southernmost group of pits. An area of gardens may have been eroded away here. The high terrace on which the pits lie appears not have been gardened, to judge from the lack of stone rows. However, it may be that the natural soils here were silty rather than stony. An area of ploughing shows clearly at the foot of the eastern hills but does not extend over all of the high terrace at the time of this photograph (May 1947).

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As we have seen, the marginality of horticulture remains the only credible explanation for the relatively low population numbers in the South Island late in pre-European history. That small population is reflected in the limited numbers and size of pā. In Nelson, pā on coastal headlands are not uncommon but small in size compared with their North Island counterparts. The largest single pā, and also the greatest concentration of individual pā in the South Island, are on the Kai Kōura Peninsula. On the edge of the high coastal terrace at South Bay, there are five well-preserved pā, the largest of them with a complex set of interlocking defensive ditches and banks. Nearby, on the northern edge of the terrace, are several other pā. 17 The pā were lived in from the pre-European period up until the raids of Te Rauparaha in the period 1822-28. 18

South of Banks Peninsula, pā with earthworks are rare. Pā a Te Wera, on the Huriawa Peninsula near Kari-tane, some 20 km north of Dunedin, has little to show by way of defensive earthworks. The Huriawa Peninsula is more a complex of small settlements, some with unambiguous terraces, others apparently defended by narrow natural razorback ridges and steep coastal cliffs. 19 Mapoutahi, another pā on a headland north of Dunedin, has very little constructed fortification 20 compared to the scale of such fortification in most parts of the North Island. Other pā, both in the Banks Peninsula region and to the south, are more usefully reserved for discussion in the section of this chapter on nineteenth-century settlement.