The First and Last Settlement

Jan. 20, 2020, 5:13 p.m.

Mangahawea Bay, one of the many stunning sites within Te Pēwhairangi is the location of a comprehensive archaeological site that is over 700-years-old.

Discoveries of moa bones and other artefacts during the 1980s led researchers and scientists to believe that this was possibly one of the first Polynesian settlements in Aotearoa. Evidence on the site, such as, the evolution of the gardening patterns, supports this theory demonstrating practices from the arrival of the waka to post-European settlement gardening practices. 

Archaeologist Andrew Blanshard of Department of Conservation said those early digs and discoveries of the 1980s was the drawcard that brought them back to island in 2017, where they’ve been working ever since.

“In 1981 however, nothing was written up or documented about the work done so in 2017 we went back in to re-discover some of the trenches they found so we could tease out that early signature” said Mr Blanshard. 

The Mangahawea Project is lead by local hapū Ngāti Kuta and Patukeha through Te Arakite Charitable Trust in partnership with Te Papa Atawhai, Heritage New Zealand and the University of Auckland. 

Hapū have been heavily involved, with local kaumatua Matutaera Clendon providing leadership on-site in regards to tikanga and supporting the researchers to incorporate traditional knowledge into their findings which is, according to Mr Blanshard  “working exceptionally well and leading us to some really exciting and new conclusions.” 

University of Auckland researcher Alex Jorgensen stated this about the value of this site to understanding the history of Aotearoa, “this is the very very last place humans reached and it's very very special and very important to study scientifically for that reason.”

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