A public lecture by Professor Richard Walter for New Zealand Archaeology Week.
Over the last century archaeological methods in Aotearoa have improved steadily as archaeologists have engaged more and more with the emerging methods and theory of international archaeology. What was once a discipline driven by the imperatives of collecting antiquities for personal gain had become, by the late Twentieth Century, one that was driven by ideas, and by the desire to understand the deep history of Aotearoa and its place in the wider Pacific world.
Combining improved archaeological methods with anthropological and historical theory, and with the benefit of a rich record of oral history and tradition, archaeology seemed to be on track, by the turn of the last century, to address the big issues in Aotearoa history; when was the archipelago settled, from where, how did the Polynesian settlers adapt to the different environments of the new land, and how did a unique Maori culture and tradition develop from its roots in Hawaiki.
In the last decade, however, scientific discoveries across a range of different disciplines has resulted in the emergence of radical new methods and technologies that can be applied to archaeological research. As a result, we are now able to answer age-old questions with new levels of accuracy and precision. But more importantly, we can now ask questions of the archaeological record that we would never have been able to ask in the past.
In this talk, Professor Walter will discuss some of the new scientific methodologies that his team at the University of Otago are applying in their studies of Aotearoa archaeology, and some of the new ideas and results that are emerging.