Master of Science (MS)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



The Otago Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand currently houses a collection of obsidian artifacts that were once in the possession of ancestral South Island Maori. Although the stone artifacts that reside in the Otago Museum are known to have been collected mostly in the South Island of the New Zealand archipelago, there is not much information as to where the ancestors of South Island Maori originally obtained the raw material to create the stone artifacts. Using portable x-ray florescence (XRF) analysis to non-destructively geochemically characterize the obsidian, a study was performed on the collection of stone artifacts to provide a source location of each object based on their geochemical signature and provide further insight into New Zealand’s ancient networks of exchange. The 443 obsidian artifacts that were selected from the Otago Museum collection were recovered from archaeological excavations along the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. For this study, the obsidian artifacts were sorted and assayed using a Bruker AXS portable XRF. Once the obsidian artifacts were assayed, they were assigned a geochemical source and a cost-surface analysis was performed. The geochemical characterization of the obsidian artifacts showed that most of the artifacts originated in the North Island of New Zealand. The cost-surface analysis, along with the obsidian frequencies at each site, provided evidence of two possible exchange networks and possible direct access from the obsidian sources to the sites within the exchange networks. However, further research involving larger obsidian samples and a model for maritime travel analysis from the South Island sites to the obsidian sources would provide a better understanding of the possible exchange networks.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

McKillop, Heather