Cook Strait (Raukawa Moana) was an area of intense strategic importance. It was both a barrier and a bridge connecting two fundamently different pre-European economic systems: horticultural in the north and hunter-gatherer in the south. Cook Strait was also an important scene of early interaction between Maori and European.
Bridge and Barrier is multi-disciplinary in approach, incorporating archaeological, ethnoarchaeological and historical research. Initially the focus is on changes in subsistence economy. The roles of fish and shell fish in the diet are being determined by the analysis of existing archaeological assemblages. Ethnoarchaeological evidence about the yield for effort involved in the cultivation of kumara and the gathering of fern root (aruhe) will be obtained in partnership with local iwi. Sites of early Maori-European interactions in the Marlborough Sounds will be surveyed, and selected examples excavated to identify changes in diet and economy in the period 1770 to 1850.
Future areas of study will include Maori use of stone resources in the region, particularly D'Urville Island, warfare and settlement patterns, movements across Cook Strait, and changes in technology and material culture.