Otago University archaeologists have identified what they believe to be the site of a 700-year-old dwelling on the Wairau Bar in Marlborough.
The find comes as part of a re-interment project for Maori bones excavated decades ago by Canterbury Museum.
A deal between local iwi Rangitane, the museum and Otago University means scientists have been allowed back for the first time in almost half a decade.
At the dig yesterday, the main focus was a mound of earth known by Rangitane as Mohua, where the remains of a house had been uncovered.
Team leader Richard Walter believed it might have been the home of a professional adze-maker. "There are adzes on the site that look like they are made by real specialists, but there are also fairly ordinary adzes, so what we suspect is the case is that there are a small number of people who were producing the highest quality materials, but probably every household had an adze-maker."
The Wairau Bar is considered one of New Zealand's prime archaeological sites. A thin slice of land separating a lagoon from the open sea just east of Blenheim, it was settled about AD1300. Bones and artefacts uncovered at the site in the 1940s and 1950s provided the first direct link with the islands of East Polynesia.
Walter said the team had already gained a fuller picture of the site's original inhabitants. "What we are finding now is evidence of the structures, the layout; we are beginning to uncover the plans of the village itself."
Walter is leading a large group of scientists and researchers who have been at the site since last week.
Graves from the area were dug up in the 1940s and 1950s and the koiwi (human remains) were taken to Canterbury Museum. Rangitane had campaigned for the return of the bones of their ancestors' bones, which were expected to be repatriated in April.
The archaeological team is on the site to prepare for the reburial of the koiwi and do fresh scientific research.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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