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Plant microfossils and parasites from Palliser Bay stone garden systems, New Zealand, reveal Māori translocations and helminthiasis

by Mark Horrocks last modified 2024-02-13 05:19 PM

Horrocks M, Dodd A, Bickler S, Carley D, Presswell B. Journal of Pacific Archaeology.


The study of Māori agriculture, including almost all the numerous Māori stone garden sites recorded in both the North and South Islands, has been hindered by lack of evidence in the form of plant remains. Here we address this with pollen, phytolith, and starch analyses of 22 archaeological soil samples across a 14 km range, with an additional sample from 11 km distant, from Palliser Bay in the southern North Island.

Results show evidence of premodern Māori translocations, comprising cf. Ipomoea batatas, cf. Colocasia esculenta, and Cordyline cf. fruticosa, to date the southernmost New Zealand report for the latter two. The presence of cf. I. batatas and cf. C. esculenta starch remains in relatively large amounts in almost all samples and small amounts in fewer samples, respectively, suggests that the latter was more of a minor crop in Palliser Bay. The plant evidence supports the view that the southern extent of Māori cultivation of introduced warmer climate crops in temperate New Zealand was variably, progressively limited by length of growing season requirements. Samples also contained eggs of Dipylidium caninum and Toxocara canis, parasites of the introduced kurī dog (Canis familiaris), which could have adversely affected local people and their dogs.


Agriculture, ethnobotany, cultigens, introductions, Polynesia.

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