Exciting archaeology excavation of an early Maori site


An exciting archaeology excavation of an early Maori site at Moturua Island in the Bay of Islands is progressing well, with some really interesting finds made.

Mangahawea Bay excavation
A view of the site. Image: Heritage New Zealandexpand/collapse

The excavation is a joint project between Ngati Kuta and Patu Keha, the Department of Conservation, University of Otago and Heritage New Zealand. A powhiri at Rawhiti Marae on 15 January outlined tikanga protocols for the project, which runs until 27 January, and kaumatua Matu Clendon will be on site for the whole excavation.

The project will re-excavate a site at Mangahawea Bay on the island that was first excavated in 1981.  Modern techniques of recording and dating will be used to further focus a chronology, nature and extent of early Polynesian settlement of Aotearoa.  This is also a site where early European explorers interacted with Maori.  All involved in the project believe this is a very important early site and needs to be explored so that the findings can be distributed to a wider audience.

Mangahawea Bay excavation

Heritage New Zealand archaeologist, Dr James Robinson, says to date some of the 1981 excavation squares have been located again and the cleaning down and re-recording of the stream section has begun.

“This work has confirmed that only minor natural erosion damage has occurred,” says James.

“Previously recorded midden, hangi and occupation layers have been found and we are starting to investigate them.  Structural features located include shell midden and hangi.  Artefactual material found includes fragments of a carved bone fishhook and obsidian – some of which is sourced to Mayor Island off the Coromandel coast.


“Yesterday some historic material found at the top of the site includes unidentified metal and clay tobacco pipe fragments.  And just today some moa bone was found in a midden deposit.”

We will keep you up to date with how the excavation progresses - keep an eye on Heritage New Zealand's Facebook page 

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