Story: When was New Zealand first settled?

Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory

Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory

Radiocarbon dating is one of the main lines of evidence of Polynesian arrival some time between 1250 and 1300. Since the 1950s, when this method was developed, scientists have learnt more about its application in the New Zealand setting. For example, they have found that some materials (such as moa eggshells) can generally be more reliably dated than others (such as the bones of omnivores). In the late 1990s moa eggshells from a moa-hunting archaeological site at Wairau Bar in Marlborough were radiocarbon dated at 1288–1300 by the Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, giving one of the earliest reliable dates for New Zealand settlement.

Using this item

University of Waikato
Photograph by Alan Hogg

This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) may infringe copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.

All images & media in this story

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/4254/waikato-radiocarbon-dating-laboratory (accessed 18 October 2021)

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