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(Continued from "In the Beginning" )

Pre-European Exploration and Settlement

1500B.C   Before the time of Moses whilst the Hebrews were still captives of the Egyptians and before the breakdown of the Aegian civilization in 1200 B.C. - when Europe developed a distinctive Late Bronze Age culture which saw the emergence of the Celts - the ancestors of the Maori and other Polynesians, sailing from the west discovered and settled the Islands of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

300 B.C.  During this period - 200 years after the Hallstatt culture, the culture of the Celtic which covered most of Western Europe from 700 B.C. to 500 B.C. and embraced the first iron using phase, and which from 500 B.C. onward, saw the settlement of Celts in Ireland, Scotland and Wales - Polynesian voyagers sailing further eastwards discovered and settled some of the islands of East Polynesia - the Marquesas, Society and Cook Islands.

600-1000  Probably around the year 800, one or more groups of East Polynesian explorers discovered and settled New Zealand. Landfall was most likely in the north east of the North Island.  These people brought with them dogs and rats (kiore - an important food and clothing source to the Maori) and a number of cultivated plants such as kumara, taro, yams, gourds and a tropical species of cabbage tree.

1000  Much of the coastline and some inland regions had been explored and the first of many transitory occupations had taken place at the large moa-hunter site at the mouth of the Waitaki River on the east coast of the South Island.

1050  The impact of people on forest was being felt with bush fires and the expansion of bracken fern in Northland, the Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay and in the far south of the South Island.  Extensive kumara and gourd gardens were established and people lived in small settlements mostly at river mouths. An era of big game hunting began in the southern region of the South Island and this hunting of Moas and seals continued for 300 years before gradually declining.

1200  The country had been completely explored by this date and all the main stone resources used for tools and ornaments had been discovered.  Gardens of kumara were widespread in coastal regions of the North Island.  Moa hunting drew Maori people regularly to inland regions of the South Island.

1250  Vegetation was being cleared from the slopes of Auckland's volcanic cones to make gardens and Moa hunting was at its height in inland as well as coastal regions of the southern South Island.

1350   Auckland's youngest and largest volcano was formed by a series of eruptions which blanketed the neighbouring island of Motutapu with volcanic ash burying at least one settlement.  Flax was already in use for clothing and matting.

1400  Moa hunting was still taking place at the mouths of the Heaphy and Buller Rivers on the West Coast, but elsewhere in the South Island the largest species of moa had already become extinct and most species had disappeared from the North Island.  Large scale gardening was by now underway in the Auckland area.

1600   Fortified Pas were now being built throughout much of the North Island and as far south as Kaikoura.  During this period a slightly cooler weather pattern was experienced which may have been the most severe of several climatic fluctuations during Maori pre-history.  The cold may have had an adverse effect on kumaras growing in marginal regions such as Palliser Bay where gardens and villages were largely abandoned.

(Continued "European Discovery")

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