Hostile Shores: Catastrophic Events in Prehistoric New Zealand and Their Impact on Maori Coastal Communities

Author(s): Bruce McFadgen


This is a groundbreaking book which explores the incidence and effects of catastrophic events - tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions - on Maori coastal communities in the pre- European period. It focuses in particular on a cluster of tsunamis in the late 1400s which had devastating effects from Northland to Otago on population and cultural practices. Nga Ngaru Kaiwaka is the product of meticulous and rigorous research, drawing on archaeology, geology, demography and, most importantly, oral tradition; but it will be of considerable interest to the many readers who are fascinated by New Zealand's prehistory. First published September 2007. The cover blurb reads "Essential reading for anybody living within 300 metres of the New Zealand shoreline." Right on! – Bob Brockie, Dominion Post · Dr McFadgen is already renowned worldwide for his recalibration of the carbon-dating technique, but Hostile Shores . . . promotes him into the ranks of New Zealand's most visionary scientists and historians. – Bob Brockie, Dominion Post


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BRUCE MCFADGEN is an archaeologist who previously worked for the Department of Conservation and the Historic Places Trust. He received a Stout Fellowship to work on this book.

Chapter One introduces New Zealand. It outlines its position in the southwest Pacific, and its colonisation by Polynesians who were the ancestors of the present day Maori; Chapter Two describes New Zealand's tectonic setting across the boundary between the Indian-Australian and Pacific plates, the processes that operate at the plate boundary and the signatures that those processes leave. The chapter ends by introducing the ideas of correlation and dating; Chapter Three discusses the detail of radiocarbon dating, and the interpretation of radiocarbon dates. It pays particular attention to the processes that produced the dated samples, and how the samples relate to the catastrophic events; Chapter Four applies the principles, outlined in Chapter Three, to date the major catastrophic events of the prehistoric period using radiocarbon and dates from other relevant dating techniques, in order to provide a framework for subsequent chapters. Although samples from archaeological sites are relevant for dating some events, the dating at this point only uses samples from natural deposits; Chapters Eight and Nine cover the dating of archaeological samples; Chapters Five and Six describe the common types of New Zealand archaeological sites and their distribution across the landscape; Chapter Six considers the exposure and vulnerability, particularly of the early coastal communities, to the effects of tectonic activity; Chapter Seven examines in more detail the tectonic processes in an archaeological setting. It describes modern catastrophes to show their probable effects on prehistoric coastal communities, and the sort of evidence that might show up in the archaeological record; Chapter Eight reviews the archaeological evidence for catastrophic events around the North Island coast, and Chapter Nine the evidence for catastrophic events around the South Island coast; Chapter Ten describes and summarises the effects of the Fifteenth Century events on coastal communities. It deals in particular with the loss of food resources, the abandonment of coastal settlements as people moved inland and to higher ground, and it identifies the impact of the events as a contributing factor to cultural change.

General Fields

  • : 9781869403904
  • : Auckland University Press
  • : Auckland University Press
  • : October 2007
  • : 250mm X 194mm
  • : New Zealand
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Bruce McFadgen
  • : Paperback
  • : 993
  • : 300
  • : Australasian & Pacific history: BCE to c 1750 CE; Indigenous peoples; Archaeology by period / region
  • : maps, tables and figures