Other crops imported
by the Polynesians were the taro, yam and also the paper mulberry,
which was used to make bark cloth.
For the tribes further south, living in a much cooler climate and
where crops were less easily cultivated, hunting the Moa and the
seal remained the main activities for food resources.
When the Moa and other species of flightless birds eventually
became extinct a few centuries later, fish and shellfish become
the staple diet of the Māori, in supplement to the kumara. Seals
and whales were also hunted. Fishing was a very important economic
activity, and fishing rights still take extreme importance today.
With diminishing resources in other areas, the major food resources
now became the Weka (flightless aquatic bird), the Barracouta (fish
abundant in the southern hemisphere and related to the great mackerel
family), eels, and the Titi (muttonbird). The roots of the Ti kouka
(cabbage tree) were baked, producing a sweet sugary substance.
Food was preserved in various ways. The Barracouta, and other fish,
would be baked and then hung on very high poles, in order to dry
out and then preserved for the winter months. Birds were dried and
then packed in fat within large bags. The bird flesh was able to
be preserved for up to several years by this method.
Before the advent
of the "Pa" (a fortified village), the early settlers
lived in small undefended settlements known as "kainga".
These were mainly established in sheltered coastal locations, often
near to harbours or estuaries.
The kainga consisted of one or more inhabitations, and included
structures for storing food and an area for communal food preparation.
Food was cooked in the ground, on hot stones, a typically Polynesian
feature. The food would be either cooked out in the open, or under
a sheltered area which would be separate from the main dwelling
Kainga house plans have been located in New Zealand on sites at
Palliser Bay, in the North Island, and have been dated back to the
12th, 15th and 16th centuries.
The most famous of these sites is situated at Wairau Bar, in the
northern area of the South Island, and is dated between the 11th
and 13th centuries. It appears to have been a centre of stone adze
As time went by the kainga became larger, including some defences.
This began to happen when tensions started arising over rights to
areas rich in food resources.
Construction of the larger and more fortified "pa" has
been recorded as commencing over 500 years ago. A pa is a fortified
settlement, including ditches, banks and palisades as protection.
The fortified pa included a much more complex internal organisation
than that of the smaller kainga dwelling. Whereas the kainga had
only one cooking area, the pa had several. Pits for storing food
were established outside of the perimeter palisades. The well fortified
pa were practically invulnerable to attack. Each pa was dedicated
to a tribal god.
Inter-tribal warfare became frequent, and with the arrival of
Europeans and muskets, leading to the inter-tribal Musket
Wars, the pa took on a new type of fortification in order to
adapt. As the British troops discovered, during the New Zealand
wars, a well-fortified pa was extremely difficult to take. The battle
of "Gate Pa" was a perfect example.
Prominent landmarks indicated the boundaries of a tribal territory
- mountains, lakes or rivers.