An Exploratory and integrative study of Māori kurī (Canis familiaris) at the NRD archaeological site in Aotearoa New Zealand
This multidisciplinary study analyzes kurī skeletal remains from the Northern Runway Development (NRD) archaeological site (AD 1400-1800) to develop an “osteo-history” and help us better understand 1) human-dog interactions; 2) the role kurī played in early Māori societies; and 3) to potentially use kurī as a proxy for human behavior at the site. We combine dental analysis with stable isotope analyses of bone and tooth dentine to investigate the kurī diet. Additionally, we use strontium isotope and mitogenomic analyses to explore the migration histories of the kurī and, by proxy, the humans they lived among at the NRD site during the late pre-contact period in Aotearoa. Through our exploratory investigation of the kurī skeletal remains, we found evidence of extensive interaction spheres with nearby and potentially distant communities. Furthermore, the kurī were healthy, demonstrated minimal tooth wear, and they subsisted heavily on a protein-rich, marine diet. This study demonstrates that variability is present in the origins, diet, health, and treatment of kurī at a single locality. Because of this, we believe it is important to include kurī in future archaeological investigations in Aotearoa to help build our foundational understanding of variability across sites and regions.