- Waihou Journeys. The Archaeology of 400 years of Maori Settlement
Waihou Journeys is the edited version of the Ph.D. thesis presented by C. Phillips at the University of Auckland in 1994. Centered on the Hauraki Plains, its goal is to reconstruct, through data from archaeology, geomorphology, Maori oral traditions, and European records, nearly half a millennium of human occupation of this small region southeast of Auckland, in northern New Zealand.
The volume, 170 pages long plus appendixes, notes, glossary, references, and index, is divided into seven chapters. The introduction sets the tone, showing that archaeological research around the Waihou Plains started early in the twentieth century and was central to the interpretation of pre-European Maori history. Oruarangi Pa, "an artefact-rich Maori fortification" ( p. 3), has been used since the 1930s as the best example of a centralized political Maori site. Following this historical reminder, the author summarizes the four key issues she identifies as "fundamental to New Zealand archaeology" (p. 3): definition and mechanism of culture change, analysis of sites and settlement systems, impact of European culture, and use of Maori oral histories, before presenting in a few sentences the content of the book.
Chapter 2 presents the physical landscape of the Hauraki Plains, describing the geology, the soils, the climate, and the natural environment of the area, illustrated by numerous maps. The main characteristic of the lower part of the Waihou River is its wetlands, with the lowlands affected by numerous flooding episodes and regular changes in the river's course. The most interesting part of the chapter is surely the reconstruction of the evolution of the lower plain over the last 2000 years, and the identification of the major impact of the Kaharoa eruption some 600 years ago, leading to the "deposition of large amounts of volcanic ash" ( p. 32). A long part is also devoted to the consequences of European settlement in the area.
Chapter 3 summarizes the surveys conducted over the last 50 years in an area about 25 km long and 5 km wide, with the addition of the numerous sites located as part of the present work, mostly through aerial photography. This chapter is unexpectedly short, with the absence of any detailed description of individual sites: only three maps of sites are published, and there are no photographs of the studied area. This leads to difficulty for the reader in really visualizing the archaeological landscape. The different graphs of size of sites, etc., give just general information. At least one aerial photograph used for the study would have been helpful, especially for people not working in the New Zealand context. [End Page 297]
Chapter 4 is a lengthy presentation of the research on the Maori Land Court Records by the author. These traditional claims on the land, mostly recorded for the Hauraki region in the 1880s, identify 135 blocks, covering a total area of about 14,400 ha. Phillips raises different methodological problems with these records, pointing for example to the meaning of fixed boundaries in traditional Maori society. Instead of presenting the raw data, the chapter is divided into different sections incorporating part of the information present in the Maori Land Court Records, developing, after the history of occupation, themes like changes in the physical landscape and economic practices. These themes are developed in the discussion, showing that more sites are listed in the oral traditions than found today on the ground, and pointing to the "unexpected finding (of ) the fluid nature of the land use practices" ( p. 75). Some of the information gathered through the Maori Land Court Records can be traced back as far as the middle of the eighteenth century(1760), but "reference to kainga mainly after 1830, means that most of the sites are post-contact in date" ( p. 75). The late recording of the oral traditions, mainly in the 1880s, places some doubt on the reliability of part of the data, especially regarding the pre-contact Maori occupation of...