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High spatial resolution of pollen and charcoal in relation to the c. 600 yr B.P. Kaharoa Tephra: implications for Polynesian settlement of Great Barrier Island, northern New Zealand

by admin last modified 2008-03-25 01:52 PM

Horrocks M, Deng Y, Ogden J, Alloway BV, Nichol SL, Sutton DG. 2001. Journal of Archaeological Science 28, 153-168.


Analysis of high spatial resolution of nine pollen profiles (150 m-6.5 km apart) from Great Barrier Island shows that between 7500 and 600 calibrated yr B.P., the island had a low frequency of natural fires compared with elsewhere in the northern North Island. Except for one site which has locally sourced pre-Kaharoa charcoal, source of this charcoal in the Awana-Kaitoke area is uncertain. If local pre-Kaharoa burning did occur at other sites in this area, it was patchy, occurring at different times in different places, and was small-scale.

Charcoal was first recorded c. 1700 yr B.P., then again after c. 1200 yr B.P. Pre-Kaharoa charcoal on Great Barrier may be interpreted as either an increased frequency of natural fires in the region due to climatic change to drier conditions, or small-scale, localised initial human impact, or some combination of these factors. Major post-Kaharoa burning in the Awana-Kaitoke area was also patchy, commencing at different times in different places. The presence of the Kaharoa Tephra on Great Barrier Island allows the commencement of major, sustained Polynesian deforestation at Awana-Kaitoke to be reliably dated to c. 600 yr B.P. at some sites, and possibly up to 50 yr later at other sites.


Palynology, charcoal, bracken, (Pteridium esculentum), Holocene, Kaharoa tephra, deforestation, Great Barrier Island.

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