Mangahawea Dig Friday 10 January 2020

10/01/2020

Follow the 2020 Mangahawea Dig with updates from our archaeologist Laura Dawson. Areas 9 and 10 are done and dusted, work has moved onto areas 11 and 12.

Rākaumangamanga titiro ki Rapa Nui
Rapa Nui titiro ki taputapu atea
Raiatea taputapuatea titiro ki rākaumangamanga
Rākaumangamanga titiro ki motu Rangiātea
Motu Rangiātea titiro ki Mangahawea, Moturua ka tau

Another day out on site and the weather has been beautiful! We have been feeling very lucky, considering the wind we had on the first few days. We have even been swimming in the afternoons, post excavating.

Today’s work began in earnest, areas 9 and 10 now done and dusted. Focus then shifted to the new Areas 11, from yesterday and 12 that was started this morning. Now that we have a good grasp on the stratigraphy, the types of things we will be finding and generally more organised, the work can happen much faster. Area 11 is actually nearly finished! It didn’t have the deeper, early occupation layer that we have in Areas 6 and 7, just the agricultural features we see elsewhere. We anticipate that Area 12 will be similar.

Areas 6 and 7 have slowed down considerably, as hangi features have appeared in the lower layers. This is messy digging, and we often pop out with charcoal all over ourselves and our clothes. These are being meticulously excavated so we can get good samples from them for radiocarbon dating.

Finds today were much of the same, industrial moa bone - that used for fish hook manufacture, as well as some interesting sea mammal bone, perhaps that of a small dolphin. Quite a bit of Cellana denticulata (Cook Straight limpet) was found in the sieves today by our amazing volunteers, more indicators of an early archaeological site. This limpet went extinct within 100 years of Māori arrival in New Zealand.

Tomorrow will be a workday for us, even though it’s a Saturday. The plan is to finish Area 12, continue with 6 and 7, and open a new trench first thing. It will be busy, that’s for sure! The new area will be about half way along the bay, maybe 30 metres from where the other areas are, in an old stream bed. A trench that was close to it last year had some interesting gardening features and we want to see whether the water was exploited in the past for wetter agriculture.

We had over 100 visitors to the site today, which kept things busy. Visitors are more than welcome and we love sharing the story of the bay. There is a full open day on Wednesday 15 January where we will have all the trenches open and artefacts ready to show people, all are welcome.



  • Sam Kurmann covered in charcoal while excavating a hangi


  • Area 7, with Area 6 in the background


  • Vanessa Tanner, Kathryn Hurren and Russell Hook in Area 11


  • John Clendon and Darryl Colier working on the big sieve

  • Dr James Robinson and Andrew Blanshard working on Area 12


  • Iain Richardson preparing bags for artefacts