This archaeological map of Maungawhau was prepared in 1978 by Dr Susan Bulmer from work undertaken by graduate students. A more recent archaeological overlay map can be found in our book.
Te ngutu: The main entrance to the pā, located near the Mt Eden Rd entrance.
Te ipupākore: A spring and important water source for the pā.
Te Marae i kohangia: Now the site of a water reservoir, this used to be the town marae, a place for meetings and ceremonies.
Te Ipu a Mataoho: The food bowl or ceremonial resting place of Mataoho, god of volcanic and seismic rumblings. The crater is wāhi tapu, a sacred place to Māori.
Te tihi: The summit (highest point) of Maungawhau, 196m above sea level.
- Defensive palisades probably existed only on the high points of the pā. Archaeological investigations when the summit car park was resurfaced in 1981 revealed a complex range of occupation evidence including large postholes, oven pits and a stone-lined hearth. Much may remain relatively intact beneath the surface.
- Terraces built by cut-and-fill earthworks provided living space for perhaps a few thousand people. Food was grown in extensive stonefields down on the flat.
- Rua: The rectangular depressions you can see around the maunga are kūmara storage pits. Rua had thatched roofs on a timber frame with the eaves sitting on the ground. The semi-dormant kūmara needed to be kept at an even temperature and high relative humidity: if too warm, they sprout; if too cool, they rot.
- Te Pou Hawaiki: looking from the summit towards the present College of Education there was formerly a ceremonial site on a small hill, “the stone pillar of Hawaiki”.
- Te Aratakihaere: the pathway to the pā from the southern slope of the mountain. The pou near the Owens Rd entrance was sculpted by Carin Wilson. The inscription reads: Mai i Te Pou Hawaiki ki te kapu a kai o Mataoho me hikoina ēnei ara onamata e tātou ki ō tātou tūpuna. (From Te Pou Hawaiki to the food bowl of Mataoho, let us walk these ancient paths with our ancestors.)
Some information about Maungawhau and its history
Maungawhau, “the mountain of the whau”, is named after the whau tree, which grows on its slopes. Its light, cork-like wood was used by Māori for floats for fishing nets.
There are many traditional stories and histories about Maungawhau, which was the head pā 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 pā in Tāmaki Makaurau. It covered about 30 ha and was terraced down to its base around most of the mountain. Its extensive māra kai (food gardens) surrounding the cone provided kūmara, taro, kotawa (gourd fruit), tii kōuka (Cordyline sp.), and uwhi (yams). The fields were divided by long boundary walls, stone and earth mounds and other structures, which are visible in early photographs of the maunga. The harbours to the north and south provided virtually unlimited fish and shellfish, and the forests on non-volcanic lands in between the cones also contributed to the prosperity of Maungawhau.
More information and links:
The History of Mt Eden – The District and its People, ed. Helen Laurenson, Epsom & Eden District Historical Society, 2019
Sources for the archaeology of the Māori settlement of the Tāmaki volcanic district by Dr Susan Bulmer, 1994. Science and Research Series No. 63, Department of Conservation, Wellington.
An important part of the cultural heritage of Auckland are the terraced cone pā 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 Māori people. The map shows the location of the 29 cone pā. 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 Māori pā 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 Māori urban centre, beginning, probably, about AD 1,000 and developing until the cone pā were abandoned in the 1700s, shortly before Captain Cook’s first visit to this country.
The scoria cones were ideal places for pā, 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 Tāmaki. 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 pā 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 pā is the little pā on Motukorea (Browns Island), only 1.4 ha in area, a ridge pā along part of the cone rim. The largest is Maungakiekie, which at over 50 ha, was the capital town of Tāmaki, home of the ariki nui, Kiwi Tāmaki, the paramount chief of the entire region. Kiwi Tāmaki 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:
Te Tātua a Riukiuta/ Big King
Te Kōpuke/Mt St John
Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill