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Sediment, soil and plant microfossil analysis of Maori gardens at Anaura Bay, eastern North Island, New Zealand: comparison with descriptions made in 1769 by Captain Cook’s expedition

by Mark Horrocks last modified 2008-07-27 01:32 PM

Horrocks M, Smith IWG, Nichol SL, Wallace R. 2008. Journal of Archaeological Science 35, 2446-2464.


Three sediment cores and five test-pits at Anaura Bay, New Zealand were examined for evidence of Maori horticulture, and compared with descriptions of this site made in 1769 by Captain Cook’s Endeavour expedition. The pits revealed soils modified for gardening and plant microfossil analysis (pollen, phytoliths and starch) identified four possible introduced prehistoric cultigens, all featured in the descriptions. These comprise three starch field crops: taro (Colocasia esculenta), common yam (Dioscorea alata) and sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), and an orchard-based crop: paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera). This activity, occurring on steep hills and a recently uplifted surface, was accompanied by deforestation and consequently an extremely accelerated erosion rate. In one of the cores, maize (Zea mays) pollen and c.f potato (Solanum tuberosum) starch possibly older than other evidence of European settlement may confirm early adoption and spread by Maori of these European-introduced crops.


Maori horticulture, plant microfossils, introduced crops, Captain Cook, Anuara Bay, New Zealand.

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