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No. 65 (December 1968)
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Some of the group at White Rock on a typical headland pa

JOURNEY INTO THE PAST
Archaeological Survey, Wairarapa

E ngā iwi, e ngā hapū, e ngā pūkōrero, e ngā rangatira o Rangitāne, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou.

Tēnei mātou te Rōpū Rangatahi o te Kura Ako Māhita o Pōneke Te mihi atu nei ki a koutou katoa.

E ō mātou rangatira, ko ngā kōrero e mau ake nei i raro nei he whakaatu tēnei i ā mātou mahi e mahia nei e mātou i waenganui i a koutou arā kei te wananga mātou i te āhua o te noho o ngā tāngata o neherā i te takiwā ki Wairarapa, ki te wāhi e mōhiotia nei ko White Rock.

Much is imperfectly known, not fully understood or misconstrued about Maori history, because Maori tradition is family tradition, personal history, remembered and valued for the mana it gives the descendants, whereas Pakeha history is supposedly objective and concerned with the full sweep of events. When the outsider comes to

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Dorothy Caughley and Ray Holcroft examine a paua shell about 500 ft above sea-level

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write, to translate and interpret Maori history, errors creep in, errors of commission and omission.

The omissions are innumerable: through the disintegration of Maori belief and custom under the impact of the Pakeha, through the withdrawal and the resentment consequent upon land confiscation and racial conflict, through the division between Maori generations, much that was once preserved by tapu has now been lost through tapu. The breakdown and the corruption of the concept of tapu has meant that the guardians of Maori history whose two-fold task was to preserve their knowledge and to pass it on to the next generation have died with their knowledge still locked within their minds, for they had found none worthy of their learning. This has happened and is still happening, as each succeeding generation turns from the Maori past toward a New Zealand present in which esoteric Maori knowledge seems to have scant functional relevance or practical value.

Archaeologists, as they potter over the landscape attempting to fill in some of the gaps in Maori history, must seem a little mad—harmlessly so to the average Pakeha, dangerously so to the average Maori who has a proper fear and abhorrence of the curio hunter, the kind of person who desecrates a wahi tapu for what he might gain. The archaeologist, too, despises this person, regards him as no more or less than a vandal, for souvenir hunters do not respect history, they destroy it. The first stage in initiating a ‘dig’ is to obtain the permission of those kaumatua most closely concerned, and the first studies of the New Zealand archaeologist are the tribal and local traditions of the area he intends to explore. The ultimate value of the work of the archaeologist is understanding. For instance, without Jim Eyles, Roger Duff and others like them, what would we know of the moa-hunter phase of Maori culture, of the way the moa-hunter lived, of the world the moa-hunter knew?

The aim of our Wairarapa coastal survey was to establish the borders of a region in which the Maori made widespread use of stone-walls and mounds for both functional and ritual purposes. Although not generally evident, stone-walls are to be seen on or near the occasional pa or habitation site in the Waikato, the far North, in Taranaki and Banks Peninsula, where they are a feature of former gardens, as in the Wairarapa. Is there a cultural relationship here, with Ngaitahu providing the link? What are the origins of this practice? Do the odd mounds and the ritual use of stone as a tuahu or altar in Palliser Bay bear any close resemblance to practices on a specific Polynesian island, or was stone construction in this coastal region and in Banks Peninsula simply a reaction to environment, a result of stony ground, few trees, and kumara to be planted and nurtured in a region of marginal climate?

There are other questions to be answered. Streams, slips and sea-erosion have, at different points, exposed two separate layers of organically darkened soil, implying two separate occupation-phases. Who were these people and why the apparently long interval with little, if any occupation? Pits, some with raised rims, some round, some square, ranging in size from 2 feet to 30 feet across are a feature of the area. Were the same people who utilised these pits those who built the ridgetop pas? And what were the uses of the various types of pits? Some of these questions are unanswered; some have been partly answered by others, particularly Mr Keith Cairns of Masterton and the late G. L. Adkin, who have done intensive work in this area.

Wellington Teachers College students had made three week-end or holiday trips into the Wairarapa coastal region before the Maori Education Seminar made its expedition to ‘White Rock’ in August. Each of these explorations has been spent mapping, photographing and recording sites, so that now we can see a fairly clear-cut pattern, from the Whareama River, one hundred miles south and then east into Palliser Bay, a pattern of intensive gardening with stonewall shelters and possible diversion of streams (hitherto unknown in pre-European Maori agriculture) in those small areas of micro-climate where conditions of soil, slope and shelter from frost and wind made kumara cultivation feasible.

The ‘White Rock’ area was found to be typical of the region, with predominantly coastal settlement, one large pa, a series of smaller ridge-top encampments further north towards ‘Tora’ with a large kainga and many smaller lowland sites in close relationship with the pa or gardens. On a river plateau near the mouth of the

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Opouawe River we found a stone fireplace, four 18-inch long slabs of rock, almost buried by the passage of the years with blackened hangi stones heaped up within. There were three raised-rim pits on the same little plateau, implying that these were occupation rather than kumara storage pits.

Along the coastal strips, especially on the northern and southern boundaries of what is now the ‘White Rock’ Station were the distinctive stone walls, mounds and pits associated with kumara not potato gardens —as was formerly suggested by Adkin, from his study of Palliser sites, ten miles southeast of this area. We did not excavate the mounds here or further north at ‘Flat Point’, for we had not yet received permission from those Rangitane elders most concerned but these hummocks were oddly regular, with no apparent reason for their existence, like the mounds examined by G. L. Adkin at Palliser Bay, and found to contain alternate layers of rock and paua, planted there as part of a ritual to ensure a bountiful harvest, or so Mr Adkin concluded.

One cannot be sure of the function of the various stone constructions; some are almost circular and have an opening like a doorway as if they had surrounded former hut-sites; others have mounds and apparent terraces within them, suggesting kumara gardens, the mounds being used for drying the tuber and as a means of removing excessively large stones. Although drilling revealed that much stone remained, it was the Maori practice to leave small stones and to add sand and to burn nitrogenous material like manuka to make the ideal soil for kumara. The gravel was left to retain the heat of the sun and so prolong the growing period. Most gardens revealed charcoal-darkened soils, and except at ‘Glenburn’ Station, nearly all gardens seen so far are on relatively new marine terraces with soil that has probably been minerally enriched by recent submersion (i.e., within the last ten thousand years).

The geological work done by Dr W. A. Wellman and by Les Singh, a geology honours student at Victoria University, will be of assistance in determining the age of occupation; so far hangi, middens and pits, but no gardens have been found on the two most recent marine-benches. Primary deposits of sea-borne pumice have been located, but none in conclusive relation to garden or occupation sites, so this chronological aid has not yet been utilised. Here again Dr Wellman's (and others') work in dating the different pumice eruptions and in locating and typing various depositions of sea-borne pumice may yet prove an invaluable aid to dating occupation layers. No radio-carbon dating has been attempted yet, nor will it be until we have material found in a relationship that enables us to make generalisations about the region.

The ecological surveys made by Geoff Park and others have helped establish the dominant pattern of vegetation, with two significant omissions which we are attempting to fill. The first is, the nature of vegetation in the region before the European came. From a study of the records, from the papers of Wm. Colenso, Wm. Williams, Robert Stokes, Wm. Ronaldson, Wm. Wade and others, it seems that the coast was already largely cleared. The second study is a vegetation count and analysis to establish (on inadequate sampling so far) that species of flax, karaka and ti or cabbage-tree are found in association with habitation sites.

A further survey by ‘plane with Professor D. W. McKenzie experimenting with infrared and low altitude photography should help reveal further changes in vegetation and drainage patterns consequent upon man's utilisation of the land. Test drills on garden sites by Dr J. Macnab and others have generally revealed sandy and organically enriched soils, but some walls seem to be built on a haphazard basis, or for no apparent reason, particularly one at least 250 feet long, standing in isolation, about three miles north-east of the Palliser lighthouse. Aerial photography may reveal other human associations in this area; for the development of new techniques makes it possible for the camera to reveal evidence not visible to the naked human eye.

A number of flint, obsidian and argillite flake ‘knives’ and ‘cavestones’ have been found by the group. The argillite adzes found by Mr T. Tyer of ‘Tora’ and by others, seem to bear a close affinity with the stone from D'Urville Island quarries; but these samples have yet to be checked to ascertain their source. (Mr Owen Wilkes, a skilled archaeologist, who will be joining the survey in November, has special knowledge in this field.) Similarly, obsidian samples can generally be traced to their sources. This will tell us something of the

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trading activities of the original inhabitants of this region. A moa-bone needle and a paua shell necklace (made of discs perforated at the top) preserved in dry dune sand have been deposited in the Dominion Museum, but these things in themselves tell us little; if they were found in undisturbed soil in relation to strata they would be easy to correlate with other objects and patterns left by human ocupation. Similarly the moa-egg shell that we find in all dune areas or ‘windblows’, together with moa-bone (not much of this, as cattle eat it for its calcium) have great value only if found in significant relation to human occupation—for instance, in a hangi—but so far we have found only one moa bone in situ—a metatarsal, on the lower organic layer, where a stream had cut through a bank at ‘Te Awaiti’.

We have learnt more from mapping and analysing the relationship of pits, gardens, kainga and pa sites than from any portable artefacts found. Maps and field notes have been placed with the New Zealand site recording scheme, and copies sent to local archaeologists, Dr Budd, Keith Cairns and to kaumatua in the Wairarapa area.

Meanwhile, research continues on three fronts; through Maori informants and the study of published and manuscript material on Kahungunu, Rangitane and early Ngaitahu; through an extensive survey of all the occupation sites along 130 miles of coast; and possibly through a ‘dig’ in the last three weeks of January, under the direction of Owen Wilkes and with the approval of the various kaumatua. The ‘dig’ would not be on a wahi tapu but on an old kainga and garden area, where extensive middens and undisturbed strata of organic material indicate a long period of human occupation.

So far, though, we seem to have more questions than answers. This is only an interim report, published by courtesy of Te Ao Hou so that those who have special knowledge of the area might assist and those who feel dubious about any digging in an area of former Rangitane occupation may make their objections known—and have them heeded.

(Mr Mitcalfe says that he or any member of his group would be willing to meet Rangitane elders to discuss activities in this Wairarapa coastal area and, if elders insist, the group would call off its planned programme of research.—Editor.)