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The Source, Composition and Typology of ‘Limestone’ Adzes from Eastern North Island, New Zealand

Phillip R. Moore, Campbell S. Nelson


Collections of stone adzes (toki) from the eastern North Island of New Zealand include a number of typologically early (Archaic) forms made from what has been previously described as ‘siliceous or silicified limestone’. Seventy five finished adzes and preforms of this material were recorded in the present study. Their geographic distribution is primarily restricted to southern Hawkes Bay – Wairarapa, and they apparently originated from a single manufacturing centre at Owahanga, on the northern Wairarapa coast. Chemical and mineralogical analyses (by X-ray fluorescence, portable XRF, vacuum gasometry and X-ray diffraction) of two artefacts from Owahanga show they contain about 20–30 per cent CaCO3 (as calcite), while samples of the presumed local source rock have a slightly higher carbonate content but comparable silica (quartz) and Rb concentrations. The rock type used in the manufacture of adzes was therefore not a true limestone but calcareous mudstone, compositionally distinct from siliceous limestones in southern Wairarapa and probably derived from the Whangai Formation. Possible reasons for the use of this stone material are discussed.


adzes; chemical analyses; limestone; calcareous mudstone; New Zealand; typology

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ISSN (print) 1179 4704; ISSN (online) 1179 4712
Published with the assistance of the Department of Anthropology & Archaeology, University of Otago.
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