Story: When was New Zealand first settled?

Mummified rats, Pompallier House, Russell

Mummified rats, Pompallier House, Russell

In 2003 researcher Lisa Matisoo-Smith began DNA tests on mummified rats found preserved in Pompallier House, one of New Zealand’s oldest buildings. She was interested in what the rats’ DNA could tell her about their origins. In her earlier work examining the DNA of Pacific rats, she concluded that rats found in New Zealand are most closely related genetically to Pacific rats found in the Cook Islands and Tahiti. As rats could only have arrived in New Zealand with the help of humans, this research provides one of the strands of evidence that the Polynesian ancestors of Māori settled New Zealand from East Polynesia.

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Heritage New Zealand – Pouhere Taonga, Pompallier Mission
Photograph by Kate Martin

Permission of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga 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? - Rat DNA', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/4263/mummified-rats-pompallier-house-russell (accessed 18 November 2019)

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