ARCHAEOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:
Argillite source sites have very important archaeological values. They have the potential to provide information about the extractive techniques used to obtain the stone material and debris associated with these extractive techniques can provide information about the degree of processing that took place at the source prior to transport back to habitation sites. Refitting of flakes at these sites can also potentially identify the forms of artefacts being created. Typological studies of artefacts have been important in better understanding New Zealand prehistory and cultural change.
The presence of argillite in sites all over New Zealand can help identify trade routes that were used to transport the material around the country.
The Oparapara (Samson Bay) quarry sites are largely intact. One of the main reasons for this is that unlike the Rushpool which is perhaps the best known of the quarry sites public access is difficult and therefore extensive fossicking has not taken place.
These source sites did not exist in isolation. People working at them probably came from the large coastal settlement sites and were supported while they were working the material. While no camp sites have been specifically identified in association with these quarries, it is likely that they will have been located somewhere in the vicinity, possibly on the shore line at the mouth of Falls Creek.
There is likely to have been a degree of prestige attached to the stone workers as the work required a high level of skill. Additionally, a complex social system is required to support the stone workers and to facilitate the subsequent distribution of finished products through trade and exchange networks.
These archaeological sites therefore, have high archaeological value for both the information that they can provide from a technological perspective as well as the ability to derive models for settlement patterns and social organisation.
TRADITIONAL SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUE:
The location of argillite quarries appears in at least one legend that tells the story of the flight of Poutini (the taniwha of the god Ngahue) from Whatini. Each place of refuge identified in the story relates to a stone resource location including Tahanga, Mayor Island and D'Urville Island thereby serving as a form of oral map of source sites.
The significance of argillite to Ngati Kuia is imbedded in various Ngati Kuia karakia and waiata as well as legends such as that of Poutini described above. This importance is also highlighted through the different names that Ngati Kuia have for the different colours of argillite from various sources such as marutea for a light grey argillite found at Te Hoiere.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
As a collection, the Oparapara (Samson Bay) argillite quarries provide representative examples of quarrying practices in the Nelson region from the chipping of boulders to exploitation of below-ground deposits. The evidence of extensive flaking and the identification of performs also illustrate that secondary working of the stone was occurring at the source site rather than only the raw material being obtained for later use.
This reflects more generally the rapid adaptation and use of a high quality stone material shortly after Polynesian settlement of New Zealand. Prehistoric Maori did not have the use of metals and stone was therefore a fundamental part of the day to day tool kit.
(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:
The quarries have the potential through archaeological investigation to provide information about the nature of stone exploitation and tool manufacture. Analysis of the movement of material from these sites has the potential to provide knowledge about trade and exchange networks.
(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua:
The location of argillite appears in at least one legend which acts as an oral map of important stone resources. Ngati Kuia consider the use of argillite to be integral to their tribal identity and it features in many karakia, waiata and whakatauki.
(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:
Previous archaeological work has established that argillite was being obtained and exploited very soon after Polynesian settlement in New Zealand. The artefact types from the earliest sites resemble East Polynesian artefact types but there is a dramatic change in style later in prehistory. Knowledge of where these sources were located and the fact that the material from them was distributed widely very early in prehistory attests to the complex social organisation that would have been required to achieve such outcomes.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:
These argillite quarries, by virtue of the restricted geographic area in which they are located are part of a very limited data set. It is important to recognise them because the volume of material found in archaeological sites throughout New Zealand illustrates that they were heavily utilised even though they were a finite resource. Over-exploitation of the most accessible material may be one factor in argillite's disappearance from later archaeological sites. P26/251 for example appears to have been completely quarried out.
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:
These sites are located within the Nelson Mineral Belt and are part of a chain of argillite sources exploited by people for stone material for adze manufacture.
SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANCE OR VALUES:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, c, d, i, j, k.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
Adzes made from metasomatised argillite or Pakohe are common artefact types found in archaeological sites throughout New Zealand. The stone appears to have been highly valued for its hardness, the predictability with which it flakes and its glossy finish once polished.
Current archaeological understanding is that metasomatised argillite is one of the two major stone resources utilised for adze making during the early period of New Zealand settlement (from about the 13th century) with the other being fine-grained basalt from Tahanga at Opito on the Coromandel peninsula. The use of these high quality stone resources diminished over time to be replaced by locally sourced (often poorer quality) materials necessitating a change in manufacturing techniques.
Artefacts, particularly adzes, made from metasomatised argillite tend to be of a form similar to East Polynesian artefact types and are frequently located in Archaic period sites throughout the country. The exploitation of metasomatised argillite is therefore considered to have commenced very soon following the initial colonisation of New Zealand.
Based on the amount of waste material recorded in some of the Nelson Archaic sites like Tahunanui (O27/21) and Rotokura (O27/1, NZHPT Register # 5954), extensive tool manufacture was occurring in the region. Waste flakes and adze preforms at the quarry sites themselves suggests that a degree of processing of the raw material was occurring as it was obtained. It is likely, however, that some finishing of the adzes occurred back at the permanent settlements.
By about the 15th century, however, 'new adzes in fine-grained basalt and metasomatised argillite were no longer being made, but existing adzes in these materials were reworked and modified, after blade damage and breakage during use'. From this period onwards there appears to be a move away from any manufacturing taking place at the source sites with material being transported back to settlements for working. At the same time there is a change in manufacturing techniques which relies primarily on hammerdressing which required much less expertise and had less risk of breakage. So, 'by the 15-16th centuries the era of the great quarry-workshop complex was over and the power of the expert adze-maker diminished'. It should be noted, however, that in the northern South Island new argillite adzes continued to be made after the 15th century which is a probably a reflection of its immediate availability.
The Oparapara (Samson Bay) argillite quarries are located in an area known as the Nelson Mineral Belt or the Nelson Ultramafic Belt which is the most common source of metasomatised argillite. This belt extends over a length of 129km from D'Urville Island in the north to Tophouse (near Lake Rotoiti) in the south. It varies between a few metres to over 10km in width and is characterised by low vegetation cover through which craggy outcrops and scree deposits are visible. This belt comprises a number of rock types including serpentinite, harzburgite, dunite, diallage and rodingite. These rock types are known as ultramafic referring to the high amounts of magnesium and iron in minerals like olivine and pyroxene that they contain.
The rocks in the mineral belt have been uplifted from the ocean bottom during the Middle Permian (260-245 million years ago) by the subduction of the Pacific Plate beneath the Indian Plate. During this process pieces of the ocean bed were broken off and mixed with the soft magmatic material. The ophiolites (material from the ocean floor) metamorphosed and the ultramafic rocks such as harzburgite and dunite were largely converted to serpentinite.
Through faulting mixed zones known as melanges occurred where the ophiolites such as mudstones and sandstones as well as the igneous ultramafics came together. The blocks within the melanges were altered extensively under tremendous heat and pressure. The primary alteration was due to the formation of new minerals, particularly albite and tremolite while the serpentinite and other ultramafic rocks were emplaced in the earth's crust. These minerals occur in the argillite as microscopic crystals and the tremolite has fibres which create an interlocking mosaic which provides toughness. This toughness, the ability of the stone to fracture conchoidally, the lack of flaws, and the degree of high polish which could be achieved made the metasomatised argillite highly desirable for tool manufacture.
Two melanges have been identified in the Nelson Mineral Belt - the Patuki which is a 4.5km wide band on the eastern side of the belt; and the Croisilles Melange which is discontinuous but is most developed between Squally Cove, Croisilles Harbour (where the Oparapara (Samson Bay) quarries are located), and Elaine Bay. The material used by Maori for tool manufacture is metasomatised argillite, reflecting its origins within the melanges. Standard argillite tends to be a mudstone that has not metamorphosed to the same degree and does not have the necessary properties to make it suitable for manufacture and use as a tool.
The altered or metasomatised rocks are often referred to as 'baked' argillite and are most frequently dark grey in colour. Weathering typically provides a pale surface cortex and because the outcrops tend to be tough they are more resistant to weathering than the soft serpentinite matrix around them. These outcrops tend to be distinctive amongst the typical low scrub in which they occur.
HISTORY OF STUDY:
There has been interest in the exploitation of argillite since the late 1800s but one of the earliest influential thinkers about this exploitation was H.D. Skinner who published information about the Rush Pool quarry (O27/22) located behind Nelson in 1914. Leach notes that Skinner promulgated the idea that:
‘Maori workers used both fire and hammerstones to remove the outer weathered coating of the argillite boulders and crags. He interpreted the fracturing around the base of the rocks as the result of heating followed by water-quenching, but he did not mention finding charcoal. In his view, ‘fire...is the only possible explanation of the fractured surfaces in places where there is not room to swing a hammerstone'.'
Others have provided information and ideas about the exploitation of argillite over the years. One of the more well-known is Roger Duff who studied quarries in the region, particularly Hebberd's (O27/20) in the Whangamoa River valley. Duff did not believe that fire had been used to extract the raw material at Hebberd's quarry since he believed that ‘fires would simply extend the zone of useless weathered rock into the interior of the boulder'. This view is reinforced by the fact that the site is located over 300m up a ridge with no water sources nearby.
It is the Hebberd's quarry on which the well-known diorama displayed at the Canterbury Museum is based. This diorama displays Duff's belief that argillite was quarried by the hurling of large granite boulders on to unweathered argillite exposed in a trench below. Duff also believed that ‘the Wairau Bar site had acted as a trading centre from which D'Urville Island material moved south as far as the Waitaki, while the Nelson quarries had supplied Golden Bay and the Westland coast as far south as Haast. There was no doubt in his mind that baked argillite was the material preferred by the moa-hunters'.
Jack Walls published a synthesis of known argillite quarries in 1974. He suggested that there were about 40 quarries and other sources of argillite in the Mineral belt. At the same time he grouped them into five categories based on the size of the resource and the extent of exploitation. Mt Ears, Ohana and Rushpool fell into his major category while the Oparapara (Samson Bay) quarries fall into his minor category being described as having ‘limited resources intensively exploited'.
Kevin Jones reassessed these quarries a few years later and the Oparapara (Samson Bay) quarries were part of his Rank 1 along with Mt Ears, Ohana, and Rushpool as being sites of ‘importance to New Zealand and/or the Maori people'.
Two studies in particular have focused on the extraction of argillite and the influence of the stone on artefact form. One study went as far as developing a model for adze manufacture and distribution during the Archaic.
An excavation of a quarry/working site exploiting argillite boulders in the Maitai River, Nelson revealed evidence of a specialist workshop production system. A series of these site types were destroyed along the Maitai River were destroyed for construction of the Maitai Water Reservoir. On the basis of excavation, Dan Witter developed a model for adze manufacture and distribution during the Archaic period. This model requires a highly organised system of specialist workers who would be supported by others within the community. His basic model is as follows:
1.Workshop party - 'breakers' source blanks for 'flakers' to produce preforms.
2.Base camp - workers operate out of base camps where women and children maintain the camp and provide food.
3.Preform transport - intermediate depots may be required in order to transport the preforms to the habitation sites on the coast.
4.Finishing workshops - the remaining hammerdressing and grinding would take place at these habitation sites.
5.Local adze use - some of the finished adzes would be used locally.
6.Exchange system - the finished adzes would be a commodity for trade with other communities.
7.Recipient settlements - the number of adzes and their size may be a measure of prestige.
8.Adze use and recycling - through damage and breakage adzes may be recycled into smaller ones before eventually being discarded.
Aidan Challis summarises the evidence of argillite use and tool manufacture in his paper on the archaeology of the Nelson-Marlborough region published in the New Zealand Journal of Archaeology and considers that a processing range of 100km can be inferred by the quantity of argillite flake material that appears in sites from Farewell Spit to Wairau Bar.
Kevin Jones undertook a small excavation of the highest of the Oparapara (Samson Bay) quarries in 1983. He excavated an area of about 2m2 behind a large boulder with flaking debris around it. Jones analysed the type of flakes that were present in order to infer whether the form of the raw material had a direct impact on the type of adze being manufactured. He developed a model for two ways in which the raw Oparapara (Samson Bay) material was used depending on the desired cross-section of the completed adze. To produce larger quadrangular or triangular adzes natural tabs were selected which were then reduced to the appropriate shape through flaking. He considered that the cutting edge or bevel of the adze was created at this time and some finishing through hammer dressing occurred prior to transport out of the area. More work was required to create smaller plano-convex or lenticular adzes which necessitated the preparation of large cores which were then gradually reduced through flaking to produce the outline of an adze and to form the cutting edge. Hammer dressing was used to reduce high points on the adze before transport.
As a highly distinctive and clearly extremely valuable stone resource, argillite source sites form an important cluster of archaeological sites that are restricted to the specific geographical area of the Nelson Mineral Belt. The Oparapara (Samson Bay) quarries represent a discrete subset of this wider group which is in very good condition and illustrates the process used to obtain and then process the material. While individually these quarries do not contain the spectacular quantity of waste material like Rushpool, they are fine examples of early industrial extraction in New Zealand.
These sites form part of a complex network of systems involving quarrying and initial manufacture at source sites, followed by distribution to coastal habitation sites for finishing before distribution through trade and exchange networks. The quarry sites should therefore be considered as important components of a complex social network that was initially based on East Polynesian models and which subsequently developed into Maori culture.
Argillite appears in an important legend, versions of which occur throughout the country; that of Ngahue and Poutini. It is suggested that this legend provides a detailed oral map to assist in locating the important stone resources from the earliest times that would have been known to every tribe.
Ngahue was the god of pounamu and was assisted in his guardianship by the taniwha Poutini in the form of a giant water monster. Ngauhue's nemesis was Hinehoanga and her taniwha Whatipu. Their dispute entangled the taniwha and Poutini was driven out of heaven with Whatipu hot on his heels. Poutini's first refuge was Tuhua (Mayor Island in the Bay of Plenty) before being chased to Tahanga (Coromandel), Whangamata on Lake Taupo, Rangitoto (D'Urville Island), Whangamoa (hills between Pelorus and Nelson within the Mineral Belt), Onetahua (Farewell Spit), several places in Buller before ending up at Arahura. This story identifies a number of the major stone resources including obsidian from Mayor Island, basalt from Tahanga, argillite from D'Urville Island and the Mineral Belt, and greenstone from the West Coast of the South Island.
According to tradition, Waitaha were among the earliest occupants of the South Island and the Mitchells, who have written on the history of Maori at the top of the South Island, attribute the extensive evidence of quarrying to Waitaha. Of the current iwi in the top of the South Island, Ngati Kuia are acknowledged as having a close relationship with many of the argillite quarries. This is by virtue of the fact that on the basis of tradition they can claim to have the longest history of continuous occupation in the region.
The ancestors of Ngati Kuia are believed to have arrived during the thirteenth or fourteenth century on the Kurahaupo canoe. Following its initial landing on the east coast of the North Island the canoe continued and landed parties at various locations around both islands. At Te Taitapu in western Golden Bay Awaawa-whete and two other crew made landfall. Awaawa-whete stayed at Te Taitapu but the others slowly made the journey towards the east before settling in Pelorus.
It is considered likely that Ngati Kuia had been in residence for some time (and intermarried with Waitaha) when a later migration of Kurahaupo descendants (Ngati Apa, Ngati Kuia and Rangitane) arrived in the region some time in about the seventeenth century. The Waitangi Tribunal Report on customary rights in the Northern South Island defines the Kurahaupo descendants in the following way, ‘this description serves as a kind of short-hand for a complex genealogical history which includes the ‘original peoples' whom these three iwi had found on their first arrival in Te Tau Ihu in the seventeenth century'.
Mark Moses from Ngati Kuia made a submission to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust on the proposed registration of the Oparapara (Samson Bay) argillite quarries. He advised that Ngati Kuia ascribe the following customary values to argillite:
'Pakohe forms part of the Ngati Kuia distinct tribal identity. It is imbedded in Ngati Kuia karakia , waiata , whakatauki korero putake . Ngati Kuia have names for the different types of Pakohe; Marutea a light grey, mud colour pakohe found in Te Hoiere; Popo and Uriuri a black colour pakohe found on Rangitoto.
Ngati Kuia and their tupuna before them resided on the pakohe for generations. The pakohe area spans Ngati Kuia's primary sphere of occupation, from Nga Paepae Tangata (the Richmond Range) across Whakatu, Koko-toru, Whangamoa and onto Rangitoto.
Ngati Kuia were part of a pakohe industry which operated up until the introduction of metal tools. Its manufaction stretched across pakohe source areas to associated costal communities for quarrying and flinting. Specific quarries, flinting, paths, staging, exit areas were developed; such as at Whangamoa and Kokotoru. Technologies where developed to work the Pakohe. Hammer stones found from Te Taepa o Kereopa (Boulder Bank in Nelson) through to Kohi te wai (The Glen) were taken to the upper Mahitahi sites for use.
Ngati Kuia workers of Pakohe made tools, weapons and pendants. One renowned Ngati Kuia Pakohe Hei Tiki was named Hine Popo after the famous tupuna who swam from Kapiti to Rangitoto.
The pakohe industry and its use diminished with the arrival of new technologies, settlers and iwi such as the Taranaki and Tainui tribes in the 1820s and 30s circa Ngati Kuia considers Pakohe a taonga and continues to take and use Pakohe from the area.'
It is acknowledged that other iwi may have interests in pakohe and the protection of sites. To date no other submissions have been received from iwi but further information may become available in time.
The quarries comprise a dispersed group of outcrops located on a broad ridge that runs north from the main east-west axis of the range that separates Croisilles Harbour and Tasman Bay from Pelorus Sound. Mt McLaren is located within this range.
The vegetation has been affected in the past by firing and forestry. Generally, the lower slopes are covered in bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum) with Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) in the gullies. Above the road there is remnant beech (Nothofagus sp.) on the slopes of Mt McLaren whilst the slopes on which the quarries are located are covered predominantly in stunted Manuka and turpentine (Dracophyllum sp.). Active sheet erosion occurs above 350m altitude. Commercial forestry occurred on the slopes during part of the twentieth century but the area is now regenerating. Gorse and wilding pines pose management issues as do wild pigs who are damaging some of the flaking floors.
There are four main argillite sources that comprise this registration.
Outcrop quarry and flaking floors (after Jones 1984) (P26/166):
This site is a large argillite outcrop at the head of Falls Creek. The area around the outcrop is littered with densely packed argillite flakes, particularly on the north and eastern sides of the outcrop. There are some areas of quarrying clearly visible on the outcrop itself and fragments of sandstone hammerstones have been recorded from this site in the past. Flaked boulders have also been observed in Falls Creek.
Pit Quarry and flaking floor (P26/245):
This site is located approximately 150m to the west of the above site and comprises an outcrop that has been quarried to below ground level. There is a pit that is roughly 3 x 8 x 1.5m deep which appears to have been excavated to provide access to material below the ground surface. There are a large number of flakes present. This site is currently overgrown in gorse.
Plateau Quarry (P26/251):
This site is located at about 450m above sea level and is defined by outcrops of rock that surround a low saddle approximately 1km north east of Mt McLaren. The outcrops themselves are unsuitable for tool manufacture because they consist of coarse sandstone. There is an extensive flaking floor in the saddle and on a gentle slope to the north. This flaking floor extends down to the east and west into small gullies. Vegetation obscures further flaking evidence on the western side. Flaked material is visible over an area of about 100 x 150m. The occasional spalls from broken granodiorite hammerstones are visible amongst the flakes.
There are no remaining boulders of stone suitable for tool manufacture and it is possible that this area was completely quarried out.
West Pelorus Quarry (P26/300):
This is the most recently recorded of the quarry sites and was only discovered in 2002. It is located on the eastern slopes of the Mt McLaren range and overlooks West Pelorus.
Scattered cores and flakes are recorded around the base of the northern side of the outcrop over an area of approximately 20 square metres. A spall from a large granodiorite hammerstone as well as smaller hammers of green Pelorus sandstone were noted at the time of recording.
Thirty metres to the west of this outcrop is another smaller outcrop almost hidden in Manuka. The south west side of this outcrop has been quarried along with several large adjacent boulders. The working floor covers an area of about 10 x 30 metres and contains a large number of flakes, roughouts and quarried blocks. One small sandstone hammer is recorded in this area.
25th May 2008
Report Written By
S Best, 1977. The Maori Adze: An Explanation for Change. Journal of the Polynesian Society
M Johnston, 1987. High Hopes. The history of the Nelson Mineral Belt and New Zealand's first railway. Nikau Press, Nelson.
K L Jones, 1984. Polynesian quarrying and flaking practices at the Samson Bay and Falls Creek argillite quarries, Tasman Bay, New Zealand.
World Archaeology 16(2): 248-266.
J and H Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu o te Waka - A History of Maori of Marlborough and Nelson, Wellington, 2004
Volume 1: Te Tangata Me Te Whenua - The People and The Land. Huia Publishers, Wellington.
New Zealand Journal of Archaeology
New Zealand Journal of Archaeology
A Challis, 1991. The Nelson-Marlborough Region: An archaeological synthesis, 13: 101-142.
New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA)
New Zealand Archaeological Association
Site Record Form P26/166; Site Record Form P26/245; Site Record Form P26/251; Site Record Form P26/300; J Y Walls, Argillite Quarries of the Nelson Mineral Belt, New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter 17(1), 1974, pp. 37-43
Waitangi Tribunal Report, www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz
2007. Te Tau Ihu O Te Waka A Maui. Premliminary Report of the Customary Rights in the Northern South Island. Wai 785
Journal of the Polynesian Society
Journal of the Polynesian Society
H M Leach, Archaic Adze Quarries and Working Floors: An Historical Review, 1990, 99(4): 373-394.
I W Keyes, 1975. The D'Urville Island - Nelson Metasomatised Rocks and their Significance in New Zealand Prehistory, 23: 1-17.
Louise Furey & Simon Holdaway (eds), Change Through Time: 50 Years of New Zealand Archaeology, New Zealand Archaeological Association, Auckland, 2004
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central region office.
Other Heritage Listings:
This place is included in other heritage listings. The reference is P26/166, 245, 251 and 300 in the New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Recording Scheme.
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.