Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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New Zealand’s Earliest Inhabitants

Friday, May 17, 2013

OTAGO, NEW ZEALAND—A new study of three groups of skeletons discovered in a cemetery at Wairau Bar suggests that the first group may have come from Polynesia to colonize New Zealand some 700 years ago. The ratio of isotopes in their bones are similar to those found in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. The later groups of individuals probably grew up while covering a large area of New Zealand. “This is consistent with other archaeological evidence that the first settlers in New Zealand were highly mobile. That members of Groups 2 and 3 were still buried back at Wairau suggests that this village may have fulfilled both a ceremonial and home base function,” said Hallie Buckley of the University of Otago. Traditionally, Maori are buried in their ancestral lands.