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Ends of the Earth: culture change in prehistoric New Zealand and East Polynesia

Brown, AA; (2016) Ends of the Earth: culture change in prehistoric New Zealand and East Polynesia. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

East Polynesia is a vast region encompassing the 150 million km2 of ocean and scattered islands between Hawai’i, Rapa Nui and New Zealand. The societies in this region share common ancestry but distinct social and environmental conditions on different islands have shaped the emergence of unique cultures. In New Zealand, understanding of the pattern and process of change from the ancestral East Polynesian culture to the distinctive Māori culture has been undermined by a series of developments. In particular, a large-scale review of early radiocarbon dates (Anderson 1991) has reduced the established length of Māori occupation of New Zealand before European contact from around 1000 years to 500, halving the time in which change could occur. Despite these developments, no attempt has been made to integrate archaeological data with this new temporal framework. This research addresses this issue by re-evaluating patterns of change in material culture and population within a Darwinian framework. Classification and frequency seriation of material culture assemblages is used to develop diachronic sequences of change, which are tested against a null explanatory model of random drift. Both traditions show significant variation from this model suggesting other processes, such as selection, are more likely causes of change. Comparison of the diachronic sequences of change with the available radiocarbon dates also suggests that many characteristics linked with the later period in New Zealand emerged very rapidly, consistent with the idea of rapid adaptation to the new environment. The influence of population size and growth on culture change is also considered in this research. Summed probability distributions from collated radiocarbon dates show a variety of regional population trajectories, which can be linked to the patterns of change observed in the material culture. This is clearest in the southern region where large-scale population collapse may well be a major cause of stasis in the development of material culture. The comparison between the regional patterns in New Zealand and other East Polynesian islands reveals both similarities and key differences in the establishment and emergence of culture in the region.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Ends of the Earth: culture change in prehistoric New Zealand and East Polynesia
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: New Zealand, East Polynesia, Material culture, Demography, Prehistory, Maori
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology ASE
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1497135
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