PhD Position: The archaeology of shellfish translocation by early Māori

PhD Position: The archaeology of shellfish translocation by early Māori

The impacts of modern human society on marine ecosystems are both significant and well understood. In contrast, the influence of early humans on marine ecosystems remains virtually unknown. New Zealand, the last major landmass settled by humans, provides an unparalleled opportunity to determine the significance of human-ecosystem interactions by a Neolithic Society – NZ Māori. Māori settled New Zealand as late as the 14th century AD, meaning that evidence of early-human impacts are less obscured by time than in countries with more prolonged occupation.

Genetic analyses (supplemented with Māori environmental knowledge) of toheroa (Paphies ventricosa), an endemic shellfish of cultural importance to Māori, led to the hypothesis that the present-day distribution of this species has been influenced by historical, human-mediated translocations. The PhD position advertised here is part of a multidisciplinary research programme which aims to test this hypothesis by combining archaeology and molecular ecology with Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge).

The PhD candidate will reconstruct the historical toheroa distribution and fishery from archaeological materials and historical collections. A first step will involve critical analysis of historical documents and identification of toheroa specimens presently held in museums and research institutions. This will identify archived material suitable for study. An analysis of archaeological authority reports will identify middens and sites where toheroa have previously been unearthed. Site visits will be conducted to examine middens and where appropriate, stratigraphy and radiocarbon dating will be used to examine temporal changes in shellfish distributions that could indicate the introduction of toheroa or other kaimoana (seafood) species.

The applicant must demonstrate:

– Good communication skills.

– Ability to work independently and as a team member.

– An Honours or Masters degree, although applicants may also be accepted on the basis of relevant and substantial practitioner/professional experience.

– Applicants should possess a background in physical geography, archaeology or environmental science, and be willing to undertake some fieldwork.

– Knowledge of dating techniques would be beneficial; particularly radiocarbon, archaeomagnetism, or stratigraphic dating.

The student will be supervised by Dr Phil Ross (ecology), Dr Bruce McFadgen (archaeology/dating), Fiona Petchey (archaeology/dating) and Alan Hogg (archaeology/dating). Liaison with additional research partners will support the student in developing and achieving research objectives.

The position includes University fees and a full stipend paid for three years. Funding to cover research costs has been obtained through a grant from the Marsden fund. Please contact Phil Ross via email for more information on the project