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What's under the grass at Coralie Bay?

What's under the grass at Coralie Bay?

by Louise Furey
Sun, 1 Feb 2015

It's summer, and it's hot, so the fieldwork season must be here!

On Sunday 1 February 25 people from the University of Auckland and Auckland Museum travel to Ahuahu Great Mercury Island. Twelve students from the Fieldschool teaching course will be there for two weeks learning the techniques and processes of survey and excavation.


Fieldwork is the time when an interest in archaeology becomes a passion, or a future aversion. We hope that the students will be excited by the archaeology and become the next generation of new archaeologists.

This year we are working in the middle of the island excavating an eroding site in Coralie Bay on the eastern side of the tombolo. One of the aims of the project is to "tread lightly" and not cause too much damage to the surviving archaeology on the island.

View of Coralie Bay from the north. T10/360 is on the left side of the stream in the centre of the bay, close to the large pohutukawa. To the far left are the impressive White Cliffs, 180-200 m high vertical cliffs.

Furey, Louise. 2014.Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Although we record, describe and photograph as we excavate, we also destroy the evidence and it cannot be replicated exactly as it was. Therefore, if we can, we try to focus on sites which are already eroding or under threat from storm events.

The site recorded as T10/360 in the NZ Archaeological Association Site Record Scheme is one of those sites under threat from erosion. Large flakes of obsidian (volcanic glass) have eroded out of the toe of the sand dune, and there is a dark charcoal-rich layer indicating burning visible in the exposed section.

Behind the eroding face of the dune there is a large flat area which we will be excavating. Flat areas such as this one have most likely been artificially flattened by Maori to live on.

Furey, Louise. 2014.Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

We will mark out trenches or squares on the surface, remove the grass, then trowel off the underlying layers to expose what is there.

Follow the progress of the excavation as we reveal what is under the grass.

Follow the Ahuahu Great Mercury Island fieldwork season

  • Post by: Louise Furey

    Dr Louise Furey is the E. E. Vaile Curator of Archaeology at Auckland Museum. Louise has been an archaeologist for 35 years and has carried out site assessments and archaeological excavations in the upper North Island. She holds an MA (Hons) and a Doctorate of Science degree from the University of Auckland.

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