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Introduced Māori Cultigens and Intestinal Parasites found in Microfossil Records from Taranaki, New Zealand

by Mark Horrocks last modified 2024-03-06 07:09 AM

Horrocks M, Gibb R, Bickler SH, Presswell B. Journal of Pacific Archaeology.


The study of Māori horticulture has a long history of research, starting with early ethnographic accounts, then many 100s of archaeological surveys and excavations, and within the last two decades plant microfossils. While microfossil studies are showing promise, many regions, including the North Island’s west coast, have received little attention. Here we address this with microfossil analysis of archaeological substrates at Pohokura in one such region, Taranaki, to shed light on local Māori subsistence activity.

Results are similar to previous pre-contact studies from other regions, showing large scale landscape disturbance by people, gastrointestinal parasites, and agricultural activity with the discovery of remains of the Māori introduced cultigens cf. Colocasia esculenta, Cordyline cf. fruticosa, and cf. Ipomoea batatas. Given the highly variable production and preservation of different plant and animal tissues, the study also illustrates the value of combining the three different types of analyses for the study of early human activity. The addition of parasitological analysis, in this case identifying eggs of Ascaris lumbricoides and Toxocara canis, parasites that could have adversely affected local people and their dogs, extends the combined approach to the realm of helminthiasis.


Agriculture, Ethnobotany, Gardens, Introductions, Parasite eggs, Polynesia.

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