'Aunty' revealed after 700 years
The picture made by Otago University scientists of a woman who was one of the first people to live in New Zealand and an ancestor of Rangitane people looked "just like the first Macdonald's wife", Rangitane spokesman Richard Bradley said.
Being able to look into the eyes of a person who was one of the first people to live in New Zealand and an ancestor of Rangitane people was "really cool", he said.
The face of "Aunty" is an artistic depiction building on the evidence-based facial approximation of the young female skull recovered from Burial 1 at the archaeological site of Wairau Bar, in Marlborough.
She is one of the individuals, buried about 700 years ago, from whom a complete mitochondrial genome was obtained. The original image was by Susan Hayes, and modified by Tim Mackrell, University of Auckland.
Mr Bradley, the iwi's development manager, was at the launch last week of Otago University research on the DNA analysis of remains found on the Wairau Bar in Marlborough.
"The drawing of this woman with dark eyes, looking straight at you . . . it's really cool."
The research "exploded" several myths, Mr Bradley said.
The researchers discovered that at least one of the settlers carried a genetic mutation associated with insulin resistance, which leads to type-2 diabetes.
"All these years we have always blamed the Macdonald ancestor for that."
It also dispelled the myth that Maori and the first settlers of New Zealand were a different people.
The research could also have an impact on Maori identity because it could extend links beyond the seven waka (canoes) that brought Maori to New Zealand.
The Otago researchers' breakthrough identified several unique genetic markers in New Zealand's founding population. Work could begin to obtain and sequence other ancient and modern DNA samples from Pacific islands and search for those same markers.
"If such research is successful, this may help identify the specific island homelands of the initial canoes that arrived in Aotearoa-New Zealand 700 years ago," study director Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith said.
- The Marlborough Express