Living and dying on the edge of the Empire: a bioarchaeological examination of Otago’s early European settlers

Buckley, Hallie Ruth, Roberts, Phillip, Kinaston, Rebecca, Petchey, Peter, King, Charlotte, Domett, Kate, Snoddy, Anne Marie, and Matisoo-Smith, Elizabeth (2022) Living and dying on the edge of the Empire: a bioarchaeological examination of Otago’s early European settlers. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 52 (1). pp. 68-94.

[img] PDF (Accepted Publisher Version) - Published Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

View at Publisher Website:


During the nineteenth century, New Zealand was promoted as a land of plenty, promising a ‘better life’, to encourage families to settle and develop the growing colony. This paper characterises the life-course of early settlers to New Zealand through historical epidemiological and osteological analyses of the St John’s burial ground in Milton, Otago. These people represent some of the first European colonists to Aotearoa, and their children. The analyses provided glimpses into the past of strenuous manual labour, repeated risk of injury, and oral and skeletal infections. Mortality of infants was very high in the skeletal sample and the death certificates outlined the varied risks of infection and accidents they faced. Osteobiographies of seven well-preserved adults demonstrated the detailed narratives that can be gleaned from careful consideration of individuals. The skeletal record indicates childhood stress affecting growth and risk of injury prior to migration. However, the historical record suggests that occupational risks of death to the working class were similar in the new colony as at home. The snapshot of this Victorian-era population provided by these data suggests that the colonial society transported their biosocial landscape upon immigration and little changed for these initial colonists.

Item ID: 65972
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1175-8899
Keywords: Bioarchaeology; Colonial; Osteobiography; Life-course; Otago
Copyright Information: © 2020 The Royal Society of New Zealand
Funders: University of Otago (UO), Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand (MFRSNZ)
Projects and Grants: UO Grant-in-Aid, MFRSNZ 18-UOO-028, UO Research Grant
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2021 04:05
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4401 Anthropology > 440103 Biological (physical) anthropology @ 50%
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430105 Archaeology of New Zealand (excl. Māori) @ 20%
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4303 Historical studies > 430320 New Zealand history @ 30%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1307 Understanding past societies > 130705 Understanding New Zealand’s past @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 3
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page