Academic journal article Archaeology in Oceania

Maori and European Landscapes at Te Puna, Bay of Islands, New Zealand, 1805-1850

Academic journal article Archaeology in Oceania

Maori and European Landscapes at Te Puna, Bay of Islands, New Zealand, 1805-1850

Article excerpt


In early nineteenth century New Zealand the arrival of missionaries and whalers initiated two different kinds of European relationships with indigenous Maori, which impacted on the indigenous landscape. This paper examines the details of Maori and European interaction at Te Puna, in the Bay of Islands, northern New Zealand. At Te Puna there is evidence for Maori agricultural intensification and fortification, and early European missionary villages, deserted by the mid-nineteenth century.

My methods combine historical archaeology and an anthropological approach to history to re-examine the landscape, inhabitants, and events of early nineteenth century cultural interaction through an analysis of the archaeological record and historic accounts and images. Cultural landscapes are examined in regard to key themes: Maori concepts of mana and tapu, evidence for cultivation, and European and Maori perceptions of the colonial era at this place.


Te Puna, located in New Zealand's Bay of Islands, is a place connected with significant events of New Zealand's history. It is a landscape rich with archaeological features dating from archaic prehistory to the first dynamic interactions between Maori and Europeans, continuing into the era of agricultural settlement. In the early nineteenth century Te Puna was an important Maori trading place and the site of a mission station (Fig. 1).

In this paper I use archaeological evidence, archival material and illustrations to examine this landscape, one which is charged with sacred and mundane values and imbued with dramatic events from the early interaction between Maori and Pakeha (European New Zealanders). I am concerned with the ways in which events of the early contact period are embedded in the Te Puna landscape and the qualities that contributed to these two peoples coming together here.

This work is a component of my PhD research on the cultural history and archaeology of Te Puna during the most eventful years, 1805-1850, a period when Maori were largely in control. My fieldwork has included both site surveying and excavation of the mission house, built in 1832 but abandoned by about 1870. As the central theme of this paper lies in the landscape it focuses on the results of the site survey and historical research. Results of the excavation will be presented and discussed elsewhere and are not included.

The only previous archaeological research here consisted of a brief site survey thirty years ago. In 1972 C.R. Lawn recorded three of the most prominent sites, the mission station (P05/24) (1), a headland pa (P05/25), and a ridge pa (P05/26) that is now eroded away. My fieldwork has identified a further seventeen sites (Fig. 2).

Te Puna was the residence of Te Pahi, an important chief who established trade and interaction between Maori and European in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Approximately one kilometre from Te Puna is Oihi, where in 1814 Samuel Marsden set up New Zealand's first mission, located here because of his close friendships with the local chiefs Te Pahi and Ruatara. Marsden first met these chiefs in Sydney, but his relationship with Ruatara was further cemented on a voyage from London to Port Jackson in 1809. (Nicholas 1817; Elder 1932, 1934; Salmond 1997). Marsden himself never lived in the Bay of Islands, but visited seven times over the next two decades. After establishing the mission he returned to Port Jackson in March 1815, leaving missionaries and their families at Oihi, along with several convict servants and tradesmen. In 1830, after the decision was made to close the Oihi station, John King and James Shepherd, the last missionaries stationed at Oihi, began to build houses at Te Puna on land purchased by the Church Missionary Society, moving there two years later.

Maori life is reconstructed through the archaeology and European historic sources. Other indigenous sources, such as oral history, have not been used. …

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