What in Earth????

By Brigid Gallagher 19/02/2013

So you are looking to buy or develop a nice piece of land on our beautiful New Zealand coastline?

I can see it now…the long gin and tonic, the slice of lime, the sound of native birds hopping about a canopy of lush green native flora…


Whats that?

There is an archaeological site in your land??!?!

What in earth is an archaeological site anyway?

In the New Zealand Archaeological Associations digital database ArchSite it is a small red dot usually with a large black rectangle attached to it, and a number next to it.

On the New Zealand Historic Places Trust register it is probably not there.

On your local district plan it might be a green dot with, a number  next to it.

A LINZ or PINZ report will show it as a small mark, like a dot, too.  With a larger shape attached encapsulating a larger area.

My dot, oh I meant point, is that archaeological sites are typically not as small as a single dot when seen in reality.  Very often you cant see them when driving your car for the hundredth time past your perfect bit of land… Very often they are invisible from the surface,

Archaeological sites are literally IN the earth.

They have the potential to be lurking anywhere just under the ground surface.  And reason they are in the earth… is because they were here before any of us.  They are the physical remains of peoples ancestors…real people, real New Zealanders.

Just like people today, when a family or a community decides to put down roots and build a house, or a village, or a swimming pool complex,

they spread out, some mess is made and sometimes that mess and rubbish is left behind after the building, or playing, or living is done….

well the same happened with people who left their mark in the earth many many moons ago.

In the scenario in my head…perhaps out came the tools, then came the wood, in went the windows, somebody cooked the lunch, and over there is where the rubbish went every day after lunch.  And no, like you, I don’t like sitting next to rotting rubbish while I eat my lunch…and I can’t imagine many others do either?

So, lets put that rubbish a few meters away in this hot summer sun, and then it doesn’t matter much if the birds come and help themselves to the left overs, the ants wont become bothersome, and my nose can retain the sweet smell of our beautiful nature and I can still enjoy the sound and vision of the waves gently crashing against the sand.

Ah, space!  The great kiwi outdoors!  Wide open spaces, lots of places to roam, many places to explore!  The best campground ever!  It has always been the same…

Our past heritage is more than just a drop in the ocean of time…sorry a dot in the landscape,

Archaeological sites make way more sense when you connect the dots and understand that nobody makes a single piece of mess in a lifetime, loose their possessions in one small defined place or has a house that they never leave; we and our ‘things’ have the potential to spread!  

The conclusion: New Zealands human past took place in one large camp site…across wide open spaces, with lots of places to roam.  But all of them connected in some way.

Moral: When the campground needs to develop and make additions, it is quite likely that the physical remains of earlier camp dwellers will be found in the earth, and not just where the council, the NZAA or the NZHPT have put their dot. This is no nasty trick, this is just what happens.

And that folks is archaeology.  More than just a dot in space and time….its a hidden landscape in the earth.

cin cin!

(the author is not responsible for the quality of her content…she has diminished responsibility on account of repetitive questioning regarding the existence and size of archaeological sites 🙂

(note: I am not referring to a real campground, this is a metaphor 😉