Archaeology of Maungawhau

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The following places to visit are shown on the map adjacent. This is only a provisional map, done in 1980s and based on university student projects, but it will help you to find your way around the mountain.

Please stay on the road and formed paths please. Human feet can cause damage and erosion.

The Maori names for these place on Maungawhau come from George Graham (see Some books and papers to read). They are shown on the map.

1. Te ngutu - The main entrance to the pa.
This is located  on the northwest of the mountain, near the Mt Eden Road entrance.

2. Te ipupakore - The watersource for the pa.
A spring near the present Mt Eden railway station, outside the present reserve. There used to be a pond but this has been filled in.

3. Te maraeikohangia
This is at present the site of a water reservoir, but the name tells us that this used to be the town marae - the place for public meetings and ceremonies.

4.  Two summits to the south of the marae were probably fortified with palisades - large wooden fencing - although there is no evidence of this visible at present on the ground surface.

5.  Rua - you can see rectangular depressions around the mountain that are partly filled in former root storage pits. The formerly had roofs to keep the food dry and safe in the winter. The largest pit on Maungawhau can be seen on the low ground in between the 2 summits just mentioned.

6.  Te ipu a Mataaho - Mataaho's cup.
The main crater of Maungawhau, named after a mythical character of very large proportions who features in many Tamaki (Auckland) traditional histories.

7. Te tihi - the summit (highest place) of Maungawhau.
Archaeological investigations when the parking lot was resurfaced showed that this area was palisading on the outer edge of the crater rim, and many postholes from houses and food store pits. These are of course no longer visible. Early photographs show there were also formerly defensive ditches on both sides of the crater, similar to ditches on the rims of other of the Tamaki cone pa, such as Maungarei (Mount Wellington.)

8. Terraces - if you look down the slope below the summit, to the south, you will see some of the huge terraces built by Maori to form the town site of Maungawhau. These terraces are built by cut- and-fill, steepening the naturnal slopes and creating flat sites for houses, storage and living.

9. Te pou hawaiki - looking further from the summit towards the present College of Education there was formerly a ceremonial site on a small hill, "the stone pillar (of) Hawaiki".

10. Te aratakihaere - the path than leads down the southern slope of the mountain is an pathway of the pa.

Some information about  Maungawhau and its history.

Maungawhau, "the mountain of the whau", is named after the whau shrub, which grows on its slopes. The wood of the whau is light and cork-like and was used by Maori for floats for fishing nets.

There are many traditional stories and histories about Maungawhau, which was the head pa of Te Wai o Hua tribes, and is named after its founding ancestor, Hua Kaiwaka.

Maungawhau was one of the largest of 29 former cone pa in Tamaki-makau-rau (Auckland). It covered about 30 ha and was terraced down to its base around most of the mountain. There were 3 overlapping scoria cones, one of which has been quarried away (the area of Tahaki reserve at present).

Maungawhau was one of the richest pa in Tamaki in its garden land surround the cone for many miles,  where taro, kumara, kotawa (gourd fruit), ti (Cordyline), and uwhi (yams) flourished and supplied the many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of residents with. These fields were divided by long boundary walls, and stone and earth mounds and other structures, visible in early photographs from the mountain. And the harbours to the north and south virtually unlimited fish and shellfish and the forests on non-volcanic lands in between the cones also contributed to the prosperity of Maungawhau.

The Friends of Maungawhau Inc. 2000.
Revision of a pamphlet for Auckland Heritage Week, 1989.

Some books and papers to read:

Auckland City Council, 2006.
Maungawhau Mount Eden Management Plan.

Angelo, Faye, 1989. The changing face of Mount Eden. Mt Eden Borough Council.

Simmons, David R. 1987.  Maori Auckland. Including Maori place names of Auckland collected by George Graham. Auckland: The Bush Press.

Fox, Aileen. 1976. Prehistoric Maori fortifications in the north island of New Zealand. Auckland, Longman Paul.

The Terraced Towns of Taamaki Makaurau

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An important part of the cultural heritage of Auckland are the terraced cone paa of this region.  Scattered throughout a volcanic district of about 150 sq km, the largest and most prominent of the scoria cones were sculptured into town sites, with terraces cut into their slopes and levelled out to make living areas for many thousands of Maaori people. The map inside this pamphlet shows the location of the 29 cone paa.  Only fourteen  of these now remain in reasonably intact condition, the others having been quarried for gravel and rock, and their former sites built over by roads, factories and housing.  One, Takapuna, has even been rebuilt as a European fort, with little of the Maaori paa remaining. The surviving cone sites are a unique part of the city landscape, most being maintained as public parks and reserves.  They are part of a unique Maaori urban centre, beginning, probably, about AD 1,000 and developing until the cone paa were abandoned in the 1700s, shortly before Captain Cook's first visit to this country.

The scoria cones were ideal places for paa, fortified settlements, most being steep sided, and standing high above the surrounding country, providing an easily defended position. Their summits and crater rims were fortified with ditches and banks and palisading (heavy defensive fencing), where the residents were protected during an attack.

Equally significant were fields of volcanic loam and ash soils that surrounded the cones. These were among the richest soils for traditional agriculture anywhere in the country, and formed one of the largest agricultural regions. It is estimated that formerly there were about 8,000 ha of basaltic fields in Taamaki.  The different towns varied in size, partly based on the size of the cone itself, but also dependent on how much garden land was locally available. Some of the paa had only a few hectares of garden soils, while the largest, at Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill), had more than 1,000 hectares of fields.

The areas of former gardens have been studied by archaeologists where they survived the urban destruction. Only two proposed reserves now remain in Manukau City. The land system is based on large linear units defined by long walls that radiated out from the cones to the perimeter of the volcanic soils. The rocks were a precious resource; they were gathered to use in boundary walls, house terrace construction, house building, and garden features, such as terraces and mounds.  

The terraced towns on the volcanic cones varied a great deal in size and layout, making use of the natural shape of the cones.  The smallest remaining cone paa is the little paa on Motukoorea (Browns Island), only 1.4 ha in area, a ridge paa along part of the cone rim.  The largest is Maungakiekie, which at over 50 ha, was the capital town of Taamaki, home of the ariki nui, Kiwi Taamaki, the paramount chief of the entire region.  Kiwi Taamaki was the leader of a regional confederation of tribes, Te Wai o Hua, who occupied many of the cone towns, forming a unique kind of urban centre of population.

The remaining terraced cone sites are a precious part of our cultural heritage, and the fourteen that survive are now in public ownership, managed by either one of three city councils or the Department of Conservation.  

    Takarunga (Mt Victoria)  North Shore City Council
    Takapuna (North Head)  Department of Conservation (DoC)
    Motukoorea (Browns Island)  DoC
    Owairaka (Mt Albert)  Auckland City Council (ACC)
    Puketaapapa (Mt Roskill)  ACC
    Ta Taatua (The Big King)  ACC
    Maungawhau (Mt Eden)  ACC
    Te Kopuke (Mt St John)  ACC
    Remuwera (Mt Hobson)  ACC
    Taurere (Taylors Hill)  ACC
    Maungarei (Mt Wellington) ACC
    Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) ACC and Logan Campbell Trust    
    Otaahuhu  ( Mt Robertson) ACC
    Maangere Manukau City Council

If you would like to read more about these sites, a list of publications and reports can be found in

    "Sources for the archaeology of the Maaori settlement of the Taamaki volcanic district", by Susan Bulmer, 1994 (pdf).  Science and Research Series No. 63, Department of Conservation, Wellington.

    Other publications can be found above in the discussion of the Maungawhau site.

Notes by Dr. Susan Bulmer, 10 Tansley Avenue, Epsom, Auckland 1003.
    revised August 2008.