Moa Hunter Site


  • Moa Hunter Site.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5979 Date Entered 25th May 1983 Date of Effect 25th May 1983


City/District Council

Marlborough District


Marlborough Region

Legal description

Pt Marlborough Board endowment, Blk I, Clifford Bay SD


Setting: Sited at the head of a spit separating an expanse of lagoons from the open sea (Cloudy Bay). The head of the spit also forms a bank of the Wairau River Estuary.

Archaeological Features: An extensive (over 15 acres) Moa -hunter site, containing a large number of human burials, artefacts, remains of slaughtered moas and other wild fowl, cooking and living areas; providing a considerable quantity of data on the site's former inhabitants.

Supporting Evidence: The site of the Wairau Bar Moa-hunter camp is the largest (over 15 acres) surviving example of its type known and has already revealed a considerable mass of evidence relating to occupation and burial on the site. Grave goods associated with inhumations and the pattern of occupational evidence so far revealed have lead to a considerable advance in the understanding of New Zealand’s early prehistory but have also posed a number of fundamental research questions that could probably be answered by further investigation of the site. The date of occupation (Duff 1977, p. 354) are indicated by the following results:

1956 Results

Y204 charcoal: between 935 years (+/- 110 years) before present.

NZ250 duplicate of Y204: 850 years (+/- 50 years) before present.

1974 Results

NZ1838 moa bone: 590 years (+/- 60 years) before present.

NZ1837 shell: 680 years (+/- 50 years) before present.

NZl835 human bone (burial 42): 780 years (+/- 90 years) before present.


The size of the site, together with its range and abundance of scientific data and excellent conditions for their preservation are an extremely rare combination for a site of this antiquity anywhere in New Zealand. It has already provided the key to a new understanding of the changing lifestyles (Mon-hunter to classic Maori) of the country's early inhabitants and, because of the limited nature of previous excavations and the unusual range of previously recovered artefacts, is considered still to hold much, possibly unique, evidence of this early period.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

27th April 1982

Report Written By

B. Sheppard

Information Sources

Canterbury Museum

Canterbury Museum

Houghton, P., 'The people of Wairau Bar', Records of the Canterbury Museum, 1976, vol. 9(3), pp.231-246

Duff, 1956

Roger Duff, The Moa-Hunter Period of Maori Culture. Government Printer, Wellington, 1956.

Other Information

Information in this report is from the citation prepared for the NZHPT Archaeology Committee at the time of the registration.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.