Ancient Māori village discovered in Gisborne

By Regan Paranihi

The Southern Pacific Archaeological Research (SPAR) unit form The University of Otago has uncovered a Māori Village in Gisborne that is believed to have been from the 14th century. 

SPAR has recently completed their third visit to the site and amongst the findings were moa bones and other food items, fish hooks manufactured of moa bone and stone tools made of obsidian and chert.

The site was located on the edge of an old riverbed. The obsidian (volcanic glass) was used by early Māori settlers as simple cutting tools. The materials found are estimated to date back to the early 1300s.

University of Otago Professor of Archaeology, Richard Walter says, “We don’t know as much about the early occupation around this part of the coastline as we do in other parts of the country, There are not too many of these very, early sites and so this one is filling the gaps.”

The area has a significant history as the first landing place of waka which carried Māori to the district; and the first contact between Māori and explorer James Cook taking place on the river in 1769.

Walter says the chances of finding a village in the area are quite high due to the amount of material found on the site.

The site was discovered through Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga’s archaeological consent process.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga’s Director Regional Services Pam Bain says, “This really is a great example of  the archaeological consent process working well where all the groups involved have been working together to get the best possible outcome for this very important place.”

The artefacts and remains are currently being analysed by the SPAR team in Otago before returning them to their rightful owners.