Faculty of Arts - Anthropology

Professor Geoffrey Irwin

MA (Auckland), PhD (ANU), FSA, FRNZ

Honorary Research Fellow

Professor Geoffrey Irwin


Email: g.irwin@auckland.ac.nz

Extension: 88571 (ph + 64 9 373 7599)

Human Sciences Building
10 Symonds St
Room 714

Research interests

Archaeology: Oceanic and New Zealand archaeology.


Current research

Geoff's research focuses on two main areas:

1) Excavation of a Waterlogged Māori Village. Kohika was a late Māori lake village in the Bay of Plenty occupied for a period in the latter half of the 17th century and unusually preserved because of its wetland location. Abandoned because of flooding, it remained untouched until 1974 and its excavation and analysis has been a thirty-year task by a number of scholars from different disciplines, making this the major New Zealand excavation of recent times. The diversity of the evidence uncovered and the specialist analysis done on the material reveals extensive information about the social and domestic activities of a village community well before the advent of the pakeha. The research covers diet, wooden artefacts, fibrework, obsidian, houses (including the oldest-known carved house), and animal remains. There is important information on the trade, economy, leisure, and social hierarchy of these early New Zealanders, and the site is an important contribution to our understanding of late prehistoric Māori culture in the North Island.

2) The Colonisation of the Pacific. The exploration and colonisation of the Pacific was one of the most remarkable episodes of human prehistory. Early seagoing explorers had no prior knowledge of Pacific geography, no documents to record their route, no metal, no instruments for measuring time and none for navigation. Geoff has done archaeological fieldwork in eastern Indonesia, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji. He has sailed on traditional New Guinea canoes and on one occasion took his own 11-metre yacht across the western Pacific retracing the route of the first Pacific explorers. This experience, plus computer simulation of voyaging, has influenced his view of how the Pacific was first settled.

Professor Geoffrey Irwin's Research

Recent publications

Irwin, G. In press. "Pacific seascapes, canoe performance, and a review of Lapita voyaging with regard to theories of migration". Asian Perspectives.

Irwin, G., R. Wallace, and S. Green. In press. "An archaeological collection of gourd artefacts from the Kohika lake village". In Vastly Ingenious: Papers on Pacific Material Culture, edited by A. Anderson, K. Green and F. Leach. Dunedin: University of Otago.

Irwin, G. 2006. "Voyaging and settlement". In Vaka Moana: Voyages of the Ancestors, edited by K.R. Howe. Auckland: Bateman.

———. 2006. "Pacific migrations". In Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Māori Peoples of New Zealand: Nga Iwi o Aotearoa. Auckland: Bateman.

Irwin, G., and C. Walrond. 2006. "When was New Zealand first settled?" In Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Māori Peoples of New Zealand: Nga Iwi o Aotearoa. Auckland: Bateman.

Irwin, G. 2005. "Kohika, a late Māori lake village in Northern New Zealand". Journal of Wetland Archaeology 5:129-141.

Irwin, G., and P. Ngaropo. 2005. "Renewed archaeological investigations at Kohika". Historical Review 52:7-15.

Irwin, G. 2004. "Kohika". In Enciclopedia Archaeologica. Americhe-Oceania. Rome: Instituto della Enciclopedia Italiana.

———. 2004. Kohika: The Archaeology of a Late Mãori Lake Village in the Ngati Awa Rohe, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. Auckland: Auckland University Press.

Horrocks, M., G. Irwin, M. Jones, and D. Sutton. 2004. "Starch grains and xylem cells of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) and bracken (Pteridium esculentum) in archaeological deposits from northern New Zealand". Journal of Archaeological Science 31:251-58.

Professor Geoffrey Irwin's Recent Publications

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