A priceless national treasure has returned home temporarily and is on display at the South Canterbury Museum.
The whakairo tawhito (ancient carving) is known as the Temuka Crescent Carving and is believed to be about 600 years old. It is the only known one of its kind.
It was found by a landowner at the Milford swamp in 1947 but not initially recognised as an item of value.
Canterbury Museum senior curator human history Roger Fyfe said the totara carving could easily have been thrown away.
"If it had been left much longer it would've broken up, as swamp water is quite acid," he said.
Mr Fyfe said the piece was possibly from the 14th or 15th century and was made with stone tools. Though it was unknown what the carving was used for, it is similar to images depicted in rock art. It is possibly a miniature of a water craft of some kind such as a reed canoe.
The whakairo tawhito is part of the Te Hikoi (the journey) exhibition which runs until December 1. The museum will hold a dawn blessing this morning and the public opening of the exhibition at 10.30am.
- © Fairfax NZ News