The most common archaeological
site type in New Zealand is middens. These are the refuse of food
preparation, whether for eating on the spot or preservation for
later consumption. For pre-European Maori sites these are most visible
as shell middens, usually in coastal environments. These often include
fish bone and occasionally bird bone. Early period middens may also
contain bone of extinct moa and other birds. For the historic period
rubbish pits with cattle, sheep and pig bone are more common. Other
items also turn up in middens, such as fishhooks, stone flakes,
glass or broken crockery. Recently developed scientific techniques
allow us to examine soils for microscopic evidence of plant remains.
Identifying shell and bone to species is a specialist task. The
data can then be used to understand not only what people were eating,
but also the season of the year in which they were in occupation,
the methods they used to capture and prepare their food and their
dependence on the local environment. Understanding these subsistence
patterns is a basic task of archaeology.
CFG Heritage personnel include faunal analysis specialists with
a wide range of experience, from historic period farm animals to New
Zealand and Pacific fish bone and shell. We work closely with Microfossil
Research Ltd on pollen and starch grain analysis of soils.