Ian W. G. Smith
Regional variations in the subsistence practices of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori were recognized by the first Europeans who studied them closely in the late eighteenth century. There is now a critical need to reassess the evidence for both regional and chronological variations in evidence for the types and relative importance of the foods that prehistoric Maori ate to establish when, where, and how changes took place. Reliably dated archaeological assemblages from two New Zealand study areas are examined to generate estimates of the dietary energy harvested from major classes of fauna. These reveal changes over time which are attributable to human predation, and regional differences that reflect differing trajectories of human population growth.
Melinda S. Allen
Marine resources were, and continue to be, dietary mainstays of Pacific Island communities. In this article, archaeological fish-bone assemblages from twelve central-east Polynesian (CEP) islands are used to examine spatial and temporal patterning in indigenous marine fisheries in the first millennium ad. Settled by biologically and culturally closely related peoples from western Polynesia, CEP colonists encountered a familiar but biologically impoverished fish fauna. Common cultural and faunistic origins, in combination with ecologically diverse seascapes, make CEP an ideal setting for investigating long-term social-natural interactions. Most spatial variability appears linked to natural fish abundances, but a distinctive and geographically circumscribed colonizer strategy targeting pelagic fishes is also identified. Over time, fishing declines, inshore fisheries intensify and angling is reduced while mass harvesting increases. Harvesting impacts are sometimes intimated but generally not well demonstrated. The causes underlying these processes are considered, along with methodological improvements that would enhance regional comparisons.
The first human populations colonized the Bismarck Archipelago about 40,000 years ago. The zooarchaeological evidence from Buang Merabak (New Ireland) reveals that, at a first stage, hunter-gatherers only focused on the exploitation of local faunal resources, especially cave-dwelling bats and varanids. As for other Pleistocene assemblages, the contribution of fish to the diet is negligible. Introduced species appear since about 23,050 cal bp with the northern common cuscus (endemic of New Guinea), although bats still provided most of the meat consumed at the site. In later times, the cuscus dominates the assemblage, partially replacing cave-dwelling bats, and the wallaby is also introduced from New Guinea. The introduction and increasing consumption of the cuscus had major implications in terms of land use and mobility. The initial focus on cave-dwelling bats implied shorter stays at sites and required constant movements through the landscape; the shift towards cuscus consumption reduced mobility.