A new chronology for the Māori settlement of Aotearoa (NZ) and the potential role of climate change in demographic developments

Bunbury, Magdalena M.E., Petchey, Fiona, and Bickler, Simon H. (2022) A new chronology for the Māori settlement of Aotearoa (NZ) and the potential role of climate change in demographic developments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119 (46). e2207609119.

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Understanding the role of climate change, resource availability, and population growth on human mobility remains critically important in anthropology. Researching linkages between climate and demographic changes during the short settlement history of Aotearoa (New Zealand) requires temporal precision equivalent to the period of a single generation. However, current modeling approaches frequently use small terrestrial radiocarbon datasets, a practice that obscures past Māori population patterns and their connection to changing climate. Our systematic analysis of terrestrial and marine 14C ages has enabled robust assessments of the largest dataset yet collated from island contexts. This analysis has been made possible by the recent development of a temporal marine correction for southern Pacific waters, and our findings show the shortcomings of previous models. We demonstrate that human settlement in the mid-late 13th century AD is unambiguous. We highlight early (AD 1250-1275) settlement in the North Island. The South Island was reached a decade later (AD 1280-1295), where the hunting of giant flightless moa commenced (AD 1300-1415), and the population rapidly grew. Population growth levelled off around AD 1340 and declined between AD 1380 and 1420, synchronous with the onset of the Little Ice Age and moa loss as an important food source. The population continued to grow in the more economically stable north, where conditions for horticulture were optimal. The enhanced precision of this research afforded by the robust analysis of marine dates opens up unique opportunities to investigate interconnectivity in Polynesia and inform the patterns seen in other island contexts.

Item ID: 76732
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1091-6490
Keywords: Polynesian settlement, marine 14C reservoir, Māori archaeology, Little Ice Age, empirical analysis, Medieval Warm Period
Copyright Information: © 2022 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (ARC), University of Waikato Marsden Support Grant, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE170100015
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2022 00:21
FoR Codes: 43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430101 Archaeological science @ 100%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1307 Understanding past societies > 130705 Understanding New Zealand’s past @ 100%
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