Interior Lives: the age and interpretation of perishable artefacts from Maori rockshelter sites in inland Otago, New Zealand
Rockshelter and similar sites in inland Otago have produced a relatively large number of Maori artefacts made in readily perishable materials such as flax leaves and fibre, tussock grass or tapa (bark) cloth. Regional preservation is clearly related broadly to the relatively arid climate. However, AMS radiocarbon dates on 11 samples from 10 sites shows that while a few date to the 17th century or earlier, the ages of most cluster in the 18th to early 19th centuries. We argue that this represents a phase of accelerated deposition in which material was left behind deliberately, as logistically-determined storage for future use in a strategic plan for exploiting inland resources. We propose that such a process of ‘furnishing the landscape’ with useful artefacts and stored raw materials became possible when territorial security was achieved by the extension of immigrant tribal authority over the inland region.