Story: When was New Zealand first settled?

The Taupō and Kaharoa ash layers

The Taupō and Kaharoa ash layers

This photograph shows the ash layers that were deposited by the eruptions at Taupō (232 CE ± 15) and Kaharoa (1314 CE ± 12), exposed in peat at Waihī Beach, western Bay of Plenty. The Tāupo ash layer can be seen just above the water level, and the Kaharoa ash layer is the light band in middle of this view. Analysis of ash layers (made up of volcanic glass and other materials) deposited by volcanic eruptions, and of peat and sediment layers, is a method of dating human arrival: the surface layers are youngest, with those underneath becoming progressively older. No direct archaeological evidence of human settlement has ever been found beneath either of these ash layers.

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University of Waikato
Photograph by David J. Lowe

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How to cite this page:

Geoff Irwin and Carl Walrond, 'When was New Zealand first settled? - Radiocarbon dating', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 30 November 2023)

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