Historical Significance or Value
The Pleasant River Mouth Site has historical significance through its association with the formative development of Otago archaeology as a scientific discipline during the late 1950s to 1960s, involving leading figures such as archaeologists Michael Trotter and Peter Gathercole, a Cambridge-trained archaeologist appointed to a joint museum-university position in Dunedin in 1958. The Pleasant River Mouth Site was to be the location of one of the early excavations directed by Cambridge-trained Gathercole and undertaken by members of the Otago Anthropological Society (which he established).
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:
Archaeological investigations at the Pleasant River Mouth Site have made a very significant contribution to our understanding of early Maori settlement in New Zealand, assisting in particular with the formulation and refinement of archaeological theory on the nature of settlement patterns in southern New Zealand. The Pleasant River Mouth Site is one of several key Archaic period sites in southern New Zealand re-analysed by Otago University archaeologists during the 1980s and 1990s, in order to test settlement pattern models. Results from excavations at Pleasant River Mouth in the early 1990s provide support to the 'early settlement model' first developed by archaeologist Atholl Anderson in 1982.
CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:
The Pleasant River Mouth Site is of significance to Kai Tahu, particularly Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki (a runaka of Kai Tahu) who exercise manawhenua of the area south of the Waihemo (Shag) River. It is one of many archaeological sites that demonstrate the ancestral Maori occupation of this landscape, particularly the around the river mouths and estuaries. The catchments along the Otago coastline provided ideal locations for human settlement, affording access to abundant food resources such as seal, kaimoana, moa and other bird species occupying the coastal forests.
TRADITIONAL SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:
The Pleasant River Mouth Site has traditional value to Kai Tahu and Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki as a place occupied and used by their tupuna. The physical remains of early Maori occupation at the Pleasant River Mouth Site (midden, hangi stones, artefacts) provide Kai Tahu and Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki with a strong tangible link to their past.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The Pleasant River Mouth Site reflects an important period in New Zealand history - the early Maori settlement of southern New Zealand during the early prehistoric period. It is believed that Maori arrived in Otago as early as the 12th century A.D. and soon colonised the entire province, discovering and utilising its abundant natural resources.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
The Pleasant River Mouth Site has historical significance through its association with the formative development of archaeology in Otago, particularly Peter Gathercole. Gathercole was instrumental in the establishment of Otago archaeology as a professional discipline, and made a significant contribution to New Zealand archaeology as a whole through his appointment to the first teaching position in anthropology at Otago University in 1958.
(c)The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:
Archaeological investigations at the Pleasant River Mouth Site have made a significant contribution to our understanding of early Maori occupation in southern New Zealand, particularly in relation to initial settlement patterns. There is still potential for further research inquiry however, such as addressing how the later 15th and 16th century camps operated within a wider settlement system.
(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua:
The Pleasant River Mouth Site is a place of cultural, traditional and spiritual significance to Kai Tahu, in particular Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki. The Pleasant River Mouth is just one of the numerous river mouths and estuaries along the Otago coastline that were favoured by Maori for settlement during the early Archaic phase of New Zealand's prehistory, providing ease of access to a range of land-based and marine resources. Archaeological sites such as Pleasant River Mouth and the nearby village site at the Shag River Mouth are regarded by Kai Tahu as wahi tapu.
(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:
Archaeological evidence indicates that the Pleasant River Mouth Site was occupied during the early phase of Maori settlement in New Zealand, referred to as the 'Archaic Period'. Radiocarbon dates show that Maori repeatedly inhabited the site during the 14th to 16th centuries A.D.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
The Pleasant River Mouth Site is the largest of the ten archaeological sites recorded in the immediate vicinity of the Pleasant River estuary, and forms part of a much wider archaeological and cultural landscape reflecting early Maori settlement in coastal Otago. This landscape incorporates sites such as the Onewhenua village site at Waihemo (Shag) River Mouth, the Waitaki River Mouth Site to the north, and Warrington and Papatowai to the south.
SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUES:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, c, d, i, k.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place. The Pleasant River Mouth Site has considerable archaeological value as one of the key early Maori settlement sites in southern New Zealand. Its contribution to our understanding of early Maori settlement in southern New Zealand is well-noted. The Pleasant River Mouth Site also has historical importance through its association with the formative development of professional archaeology in New Zealand, and it is a place of cultural, traditional and spiritual significance to Kai Tahu and Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki. It is a visible reminder that their tupuna once occupied this landscape, attracted by the abundant resources that could be found in its coastal forests, waterways and the sea.
Archaeological and traditional evidence points to very early Maori occupation along the Otago coastline. It is thought that the first Polynesian settlers of Otago arrived as early as the 12th century A.D, focusing their settlement along the coastline but soon colonising the entire province. The Otago coastline provided ideal strategic locations for human settlement, affording access to abundant kaimoana resources including seal and a range of fish species, and moa and other birdlife in the coastal forests that existed at this time. It is asserted that all of the river mouths and estuaries along the coastline of East Otago, whether large or small, were part of the 'seasonal trails and behaviours of mahinga kai and resource gathering, and hapu and whanau bonding'. This is clearly reflected in the archaeological record, with a density of sites being recorded along the coastline from the Otago Peninsula north to the Waitaki River. Ten archaeological sites have been recorded within the vicinity of the Pleasant River Mouth alone.
The Pleasant River Mouth site is one of the larger sites along the coastline, along with those at Waihemo (Shag), Awamoa and Waitaki Rivers to the north. Archaeological investigations reveal that southern Maori repeatedly occupied the Pleasant River Mouth Site from the 14th to 16th centuries, establishing temporary camps. The earliest camps contain evidence of the hunting of moa and seal, and have been interpreted as satellites of the nearby Waihemo (Shag) River Mouth village of Onewhenua, a permanent settlement. The later 15th and 16th century camps are less clearly understood, but appear to reflect a more dispersed and fluid settlement pattern within southern New Zealand at this time. Archaeological remains from these later camps indicate that the subsistence focus had shifted to fishing, presumably due to the depletion of moa and seal resources.
Evidence of past Maori occupation at the Pleasant River Mouth Site was observed and reported by Aparata Renata in an 1894 article in the Otago Witness. Archaeologist and 'curio' collector David Teviotdale made several visits to the site during the years 1915-1921, collecting surface items, and recording his observations in field notebooks. The Otago Museum archaeological collection bears witness to the degree of artefact retrieval from the Pleasant River Mouth Site.
The first known recorded excavation was undertaken by Otago archaeologist Michael Trotter in 1957. Trotter recovered faunal remains such as a moa pelvis, dog mandible and fish bones from a small excavation near Area Z of the site (see site plan in Appendix 3, pg 26), as well as a grooved Dentalium reel necklace unit from Area D. Further investigations were planned after archaeologists Peter Gathercole and Jack Golson visited in the site in 1959, and resolved to excavate. Gathercole and Golson were both Cambridge-trained archaeologists who had arrived in New Zealand to take up teaching posts in archaeology. Golson accepted New Zealand's first academic post in archaeology at Auckland University in 1954, and Gathercole was appointed to a joint museum-university post in anthropology in Dunedin in 1958. Gathercole and Golson had been attempting to locate an undisturbed coastal Moa-hunter site, on the premise of potential excavation, and the Pleasant River Mouth Site was subsequently chosen.
Excavations were conducted by the Otago Anthropological Society in 1959-1962, under the directorship of Gathercole. The Otago Anthropological Society published a short summary of the 1959 excavation, but there was limited analysis of the excavated materials at the time. F.J. Teal later produced a more complete analysis of the excavated assemblage for a 1975 Otago University postgraduate research essay, at the suggestion of archaeologist Foss Leach. Teal was assisted with details of the original excavations through correspondence with Peter Gathercole, who had returned to Cambridge to a position at the University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography.
Archaeologist Brian Allingham undertook a series of further investigations at the Pleasant River Mouth Site during the period 1966 to 1975, involving both surface collection of artefacts, and archaeological excavation. He assigned labels to different areas of the site (A-E, P and Z) and used these labels to attribute location data to the surface-collected items (see the site plan in Appendix 3, pg. 26). Allingham collected a range of artefactual items including stone flakes and blades, adze fragments, hammer stones and files, in addition to a grooved Dentalium reel from Area D. Trotter undertook a small excavation near Area D in 1979 for the purpose of extracting samples for radiocarbon dating, but the two samples produced markedly different results.
The three most recent investigations at the Pleasant River Mouth Site occurred during the years 1991-1993, and were run as Otago University Archaeological Field Schools under the leadership of Associate Professor Ian Smith. The Pleasant River Mouth Site was just one several key archaeological sites excavated by Otago University archaeologists during the 1980s and 1990s to gain information for the purposes of testing such settlement models, which had been previously developed on the basis of both ethnohistoric and palaeoenvironmental data. Other key southern Archaic period sites excavated during this period were the coastal sites of Shag River Mouth and Papatowai, and Hawksburn, in Central Otago.
The Otago University Archaeological Field School excavations at the Pleasant River Mouth Site provided strong support for the 'early settlement model' of Archaic Maori settlement in Southern New Zealand, developed by Otago archaeologist Atholl Anderson in 1982 as part of his 'Southern Hunters Project', and later expanded upon by Anderson and Ian Smith in 1996. The early settlement model proposed three site types existing during the Archaic period of Maori settlement - single function sites, restricted function sites and multifunction sites. As the name suggests, single function sites were based around a single function such as moa butchery or tool production, and had restricted seasonal use . They also show no evidence for domestic activity. Restricted function sites were places where more than one activity (i.e. fishing, tool manufacture), was of significance, but without the breadth of faunal remains and artefacts or size of larger villages. Multi-function sites were settlements or villages, as demonstrated in the archaeological record by a range of artefacts and faunal remains, structural evidence such as hearths, evidence of occupation during winter, and evidence of general domestic activities such as sewing.
The early settlement model also contended that restricted function sites or 'camps' existed alongside multi-function sites, and suggests that they continued to exist through into the later Archaic after the decline of the larger villages. The excavations at the Pleasant River Mouth site gave weight to this theory, with the 14th century camps being interpreted as satellites of the nearby village of Onewhenua at the Waihemo (Shag) River Mouth. The later camps at the Pleasant River Mouth Site aren't as clearly understood, but they do demonstrate that the occupation of such restricted function sites persisted through into the later Archaic period, after the demise of larger village sites.
The Pleasant River Mouth Site extends over the tussock-covered sand dune that runs from the foot of the limestone cliffs on the eastern edge of the Pleasant River estuary, westward to the river. It extends northwards into the Salicornia flat, encompassing several small humps or 'islands' of sand, and a sand hill spit borders the site to the south. The site covers an area of approximately 20 000 metres², but consists of discontinuous deposits of archaeological material, as revealed through a systematic programme of test pitting in 1991. Whilst discontinuous, these deposits are concentrated in three main zones, as will be discussed below. Areas of the Pleasant River Mouth Site have been variously labelled after previous archaeological investigations, as shown in the site plan in Appendix 3, pg 28. What follows is an outline of the site according to these labelled areas - all of which are encompassed within the proposed extent of registration.
Area A is located at the foot of the limestone cliffs to the east of the tussock-covered sand dune. A 1959 excavation by the Otago Archaeological Society revealed a single cultural layer, protected beneath a covering of wind-blown sand. This layer comprised two zones: an area of ovens (approximately 9 x. 12 metres) to the north, and an occupational area of approximately 15 x 21 metres to the south. Artefacts recovered from the excavation consisted mainly of stone flakes, and faunal remains included the bones of moa, bird, seal and dog.
Located directly beneath the limestone cliffs to the south of Area A, Area B was described by archaeologist Brian Allingham (n.d.) as an area of 'scattered occupational material' such as oven stones, artefacts and midden. This material had been exposed by deflation of the old dune surface, but most of the area was subsequently buried in March 1968 by sterile sand slumping from the hillside above. . More than two thirds of the items surface-collected by Allingham from the site during the period 1966 - 1975 were from Area B. These included flakes (e.g. quartzite, obsidian, nephrite, chalcedony), adze 'blanks', drill points, and abraders.
Area C lies to the northwest of Areas A and B, and refers to an occupation layer exposed in the riverbank alongside the estuary. Allingham noted that the layer was approximately 10 cm below the surface, and 5 centimetres in thickness, containing mostly mud snails and oven stones. Artefactual items noted by Allingham in Area C included adze fragments and stone flakes. A charcoal-rich occupational layer was still visible at Area C during a site visit in November 2005, and scattered fire-cracked rocks were observed on the beach below.
Area D is located on the estuarine edge to the southeast of Area C. It has been assigned its own New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Record Number - J43/25, but is clearly part of the wider Pleasant River Mouth Site (J43/1). 'Area D' refers to a single cultural layer in the exposed face of the riverbank, and three discrete groupings of oven stones in riverbed below (see Appendix 4, pg 32). A grooved shell (Dentalium) necklace was found amongst the oven stones by archaeologist Michael Trotter in 1957, and other artefacts discovered within Area D include flakes and blades (mostly silcrete), adzes and adze 'blanks', and sandstone files. Three small archaeological investigations have been undertaken within Area D; two by Brian Allingham in 1968 and 1975, and one by Michael Trotter in 1979. The 1968 Brian Allingham excavation is of particular note, as one of the excavation units revealed the fragmentary remains of a human burial, to which an adze, obsidian flake and large moa bones were clearly associated. Archaeological material noted within Area D during a recent site visit (November 2005) included flakes of chert, quartzite and silcrete, cockleshells and moa bone. Wooden stakes and netting were also observed along the edge of riverbank, which would have originally been erected as an erosion-prevention mechanism (See Appendix 4, pg 31). Comparison of a 2005 photograph of Area D with a 1982 image clearly indicates the rate of erosion over the past 25 years (see Appendix 2, pg 25).
Area E is located to the northeast of Area D on the tussock-covered sand dune, approximately midway between the estuary and the limestone cliffs. It is another area where artefacts (silcrete and chalcedony flakes) were surface-collected by Allingham; exposed in this instance by rabbit burrowing.
Area P refers to a large area of windblown sand directly beneath the limestone cliffs, where a single flake was surface-collected by Brian Allingham.
Area Z is located in the approximate centre of the Pleasant River Mouth Site, and was the focus of several excavations undertaken by the Otago Anthropological Society during the years 1959- 1962. These excavations indicated that archaeological deposits varied across the area, but it appeared that there were up to three stratigraphic layers containing occupational material. Three later excavations (referred to as 'Trench I', 'Trench II' and 'X') conducted by Allingham in 1975 uncovered shell, fish bone, moa egg shell fragments and numerous moa bones in Area Z. Artefacts were relatively scarce (as noted during the initial excavations), but included stone flakes, blades, a bone needle and pieces of worked bone.
ZONES A to C AND AREAS 1 to 7:
'Zones A, B and C' were labelled by archaeologist Ian Smith in his 1999 synthesis of Pleasant River Mouth Site, and refer to the three large areas where charcoal-blackened soils, artefacts and midden are concentrated within the site. These three zones lie along the north-western edge of the tussock-covered sand dune, as shown in the site plan in Appendix 3, pg 28. 'Areas 1 to 7' refer to the areas of darkened sand excavated by the Otago University Anthropology Department (led by Ian Smith) during the period 1991-1993, as also evident in the site plan in Appendix 3, pg 28.
Pleasant River Mouth Site repeatedly occupied by Maori, who established temporary camps.
Michael Trotter conducts first recorded archaeological excavation.
1959 - 1962
More extensive archaeological investigations undertaken by the Otago Archaeological Society.
1966 - 1975
Site investigated by archaeologist Brian Allingham.
Michael Trotter excavates a small part of 'Area D' of the site.
Archaeological authority (1986-2ii) granted to place netting over the eroded edge of the site - Area D.
1991 - 1993
Test pit survey and seven archaeological excavations carried out by the Otago University Anthropology Department.
Public NZAA Number
2nd October 2007
Report Written By
Kai Tahu Ki Otago
Kai Tahu Ki Otago Natural Resource Management Plan, Dunedin 2005.
New Zealand Journal of Archaeology
New Zealand Journal of Archaeology
Ian Smith, 'Settlement Permanence and Function at Pleasant River Mouth, East Otago, New Zealand, Vol 19, 1999, pp 27-79.
New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA)
New Zealand Archaeological Association
Site Record Forms & Updates: J43/1 and J43/25
Aparata Renata, 'Rural Rambles: the coast from Otago Heads to the Pleasant River Mouth', January 11 1894, p. 35
Frances Jane Teal, 'Pleasant River Excavations, 1959-1962', P.G.D.A. Thesis, University of Otago, 1975.
Jill Hamel, The Archaeology of Otago, Department of Conservation, Wellington, 2001
Louise Furey & Simon Holdaway (eds), Change Through Time: 50 Years of New Zealand Archaeology, New Zealand Archaeological Association, Auckland, 2004
Simon Holdaway, 'Theory: Aspect and Phase', pp. 9-28; Yvonne Marshall, 'Social Organisation', pp. 55-84
A fully referenced review report is available from the NZHPT Otago/Southland Area Office
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.