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Settlement patterns in the early European Maori phase of Maori society.

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The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 88(2), 199-213

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In this analysis of Māori settlement patterns in prehistoric New Zealand, Ballara offers a detailed examination of the changes and continuities in Māori society from approximately 1800 to 1850, with a particular focus on the period following European contact.

Ballara critiques and extends L.M. Groube’s model of social organisation, initially established for the period post-1769, to encompass the later post-European period. She argues that while significant modifications in Māori habitations occurred due to European influence, many aspects of Māori society, particularly settlement patterns, exhibited a high degree of continuity. The paper presents a nuanced view of the temporality and impermanence of many pa (fortified village) structures, challenging previous assumptions about their permanence and continuous occupation. Ballara’s argument is built upon a critical analysis of ethnographic and historical records, highlighting the adaptive nature of Māori settlement practices in response to changing political, social, and environmental circumstances. This includes the strategic use of pa as temporary refuges during periods of warfare and the dispersed pattern of settlement in times of peace. Furthermore, Ballara addresses misconceptions regarding the siting of pa and villages, proposing a more complex understanding that moves away from simplistic generalisations about the shift to low-lying, unhealthy grounds. Her study underscores the diversity of settlement choices made by Māori communities, influenced by factors such as ease of cultivation, defence, and changing lifestyles. This article is significant for its contribution to the understanding of Māori settlement patterns during a crucial period of cultural transition. By focusing on elements of continuity amidst change, Ballara provides a more balanced view of Māori adaptation to European contact, emphasising the resilience and agency of Māori communities in maintaining certain traditional practices while also integrating new influences. Her work is a valuable resource for researchers interested in Pacific archaeology, ethnography, and the history of indigenous responses to colonialism.

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