Story: When was New Zealand first settled?

Wairau Bar, Marlborough

Wairau Bar, Marlborough

This site is known as Wairau Bar, because a bar or bank of gravel has formed where the Wairau River meets the sea. Early Polynesians used the site as a moa-hunting camp, and archaeological excavations have revealed the butchered remains of countless huge birds, together with human skeletons. As the moa is now thought to have become extinct very quickly, possibly within 100–200 years of human settlement, those who hunted it must have been among the first generations of Polynesian arrivals. In addition, the types of cultural objects (artefacts) found with skeletons at Wairau Bar are of a distinct early form that has close affinities with artefacts from the Cook, Society and Marquesas islands in East Polynesia.

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Department of Conservation
Photograph by Kevin Jones

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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, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/3616/wairau-bar-marlborough (accessed 13 December 2018)

Story by Geoff Irwin and Carl Walrond, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 20 May 2016