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Plant microfossil and 14C analysis of archaeological features at Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand: Evidence for regional Māori use of introduced and indigenous plants

by Mark Horrocks last modified 2024-03-11 01:49 PM

Horrocks M, Bickler S, Gumbley W, Jones B. 2024. Journal of Pacific Archaeology 13, 33-51.


The study of Māori agriculture has been limited by lack of evidence in the form of plant remains. Studies using a combined microfossil (pollen, phytolith, and starch) approach have shown promise, although have mostly focused on specific sites. Here we address these limitations by providing a relatively high geographic resolution microfossils and 14C study examining how several sites within a region compared to one another.

Using samples from sediments, middens, and coprolites from six sites on Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand, the results build on previous local studies, showing major landscape disturbance by people, and agricultural activity through the identification of Māori introduced cf. Colocasia esculenta, Cordyline cf. fruticosa, Dioscorea alata, and cf. Ipomoea batatas. Microfossils of possible gathered wild plants in the coprolites, namely Brassicaceae, Coriaria, Rhopalostylis, Rumex, and Sonchus, were also identified, complementing the agricultural record. Ipomoea batatas and Colocasia esculenta were identified at each of four of the six sites and in each of five of the seven coprolites, which could reflect their generally accepted dominance in Māori agriculture. Dioscorea alata starch at only one site is consistent with its status as a marginal crop. Starch of cf. Solanum tuberosum at one site reflects adoption of European cropping.


Agriculture, ethnobotany, Polynesia, cultigens.

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