Story: When was New Zealand first settled?

Kupe’s Sails

Kupe’s Sails

This huge sandstone slab, on the south Wairarapa coast, is named Ngā Rā o Kupe (Kupe’s Sails), as it resembles the sail of a Polynesian double-hulled canoe. Kupe is an early ancestor of many Māori tribes, and is said to have camped on the flats near this rock as he explored the coastline. But some oral traditions place Kupe later in genealogies, around 21 generations ago, or in the late 1400s – well after the accepted date of Polynesian settlement of 1250–1300. While genealogies are a rich and fascinating resource, they do not provide an exact date for human settlement.

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Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: E-011-f-004
Watercolour by William Mein Smith

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Geoff Irwin and Carl Walrond, 'When was New Zealand first settled? - Genealogical dating', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 July 2024)

Story by Geoff Irwin and Carl Walrond, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 May 2016