Mangahawea Dig Monday 6 January 2020


Follow the 2020 Mangahawea Dig with updates from our archaeologist Laura Dawson. After spending two weeks at Mangahawea in 2019, she is back for the first week of the 2020 season.

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

For the third time in this project, and the fourth time overall, a crew of archaeologists, mana whenua and volunteers have once again arrived at Mangahawea Bay, on Moturua Island in the Bay of Islands, that was settled around 1300 AD!  

We’re back to uncover more information about the early settlement of Aotearoa New Zealand by the Oceanic people, in a project led by the Arakite Charitable Trust and in partnership with Ngāti Kuta Patukeha, the Department of Conservation and Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. 

This work will build on the excavations of last year, exploring areas just behind the beach that haven’t yet been examined. It will be like a game of connect the dots, joining up areas that were dug to try and understand more about the settlement patterns and depth of history at the bay. Last year there were some fascinating hints at a picture of life at Mangahawea Bay at some key points in its history, and now it is time to gather more information to complete the picture. 

The significance of the site is underlined in this Tuia 250 Encounters video that celebrated the unveiling of the pou carved by Rāwhiti-based Hohepa Hemana, at Mangahawea Bay late last year. 

Our site director, Dr James Robinson (Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga senior archaeologist), is with us once again, as well as kaumātua Matutaera Clendon and Andrew Blanshard. Many other familiar faces are back again, as well as some fresh blood, who will all be camping on the island for 7-14 days. There’s no running water or electricity again, only a bbq for cooking and some handy, basic facilities. There will be a good deal of swimming too I imagine!  

Day one was organisational, packing in gear from the DOC office and getting it out to the island, the pōwhiri and setting up camp. These things take a long time and a lot of effort, and it wasn’t until late afternoon we were able to discuss the archaeology.  

Once on site the discussion began about the best way to approach the area. Where do we put the trenches? How can we work to best understand what is happening in the bay? This year we are looking to join together excavation areas of the past in a long trench, joining the 2017 and 2018 areas, trying to find the transition between the hāngi, food storage and agricultural areas. Tomorrow (day two) the digging begins! Stay tuned for photos and updates. 

Profile: Laura Dawson is an archaeologist at Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, based in Wellington, and specialises in New Zealand and Pacific archaeology. She has worked in the industry for nearly a decade now, and loves to share the stories of archaeology. After spending two weeks at Mangahawea in 2019, she is back for the first week of the 2020 season.

  • Discussions on where to put excavation trenches

    Discussions on where to put excavation trenches.

  • Kipa Munro and the new Pou during the powhiri

    Kipa Munro and the new Pou during the powhiri.

  • The crew on the beach at arrival

    The crew on the beach at arrival.