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A land of plenty? colonial diet in rural New Zealand.

King, Charlotte L and Petchey, Peter and Kinaston, Rebecca and Gröcke, Darren R. and Millard, Andrew R. and Wanhalla, Angela and Brooking, Tom and Matisoo-Smith, Elizabeth and Buckley, Hallie R. (2021) 'A land of plenty? colonial diet in rural New Zealand.', Historical archaeology., 55 (2). pp. 250-268.


Colonial New Zealand was built on the ideal of creating better lives for settlers. Emigrants came looking to escape the shackles of the class-system and poor conditions in Industrial Revolution period Britain. Colonial propaganda claimed that most emigrants achieved their aims, but the lives the colonists actually experienced upon reaching New Zealand remain relatively unexplored from a biosocial perspective. In this paper we present a pilot study of stable isotope results of bone collagen from seven adults interred in the St. John’s Cemetery (SJM), Milton, New Zealand (ca. AD 1860–1900). We interpret the diet at Milton and broadly compare our isotopic results with contemporaneous samples from Britain. We show that, like contemporary Britain, the diet of our studied individuals was focused on C3 crops and terrestrial meat sources. Despite higher ????15N values in contemporary UK populations (which can simplistically be interpreted as indicative of higher meat intake), consideration of different local baselines makes it likely that this New Zealand population had relatively similar levels of meat intake. Interestingly marine resources did not form an important part of the Milton diet, despite the site's proximity to the ocean, hinting at the possible stigmatisation of local resources and the development of a European New Zealand (pākehā) food identity.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 18 February 2022.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Historical Archaeology. The final authenticated version is available online at:
Date accepted:20 December 2019
Date deposited:10 January 2020
Date of first online publication:18 February 2021
Date first made open access:18 February 2022

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