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New archaeological site on Auckland’s North Shore

In early April 2010, 3 moa leg bones, pearl shell fish hooks and an adze head were found in Torpedo Bay, Devonport, Auckland, by workers at a site for a new navy museum. The museum includes renovated defence buildings from a naval base founded at the site in 1866.

Mica Plowman, an archaeologist with Opus International Consultants Limited (the principal design consultants for the museum project), said the find was of significant historical value.

She said the bones were from moa that were killed, cooked and eaten by Māori approximately 500 years ago or more. Both the bones and the adze head were found in a large fire pit.

The moa were several species of large flightless birds hunted to extinction by the Māori prior to European arrival. Moa bones were a valuable commodity in early Māori society – they were used to make fish hooks and other tools. However, these particular bones were discarded, indicating that moa bones were in plentiful supply at the time.

Mica Plowman said such ‘first-settlement sites’ were very rare as they were often beachfront sites, which did not survive. The archaeological site was about 50 metres back from the harbour, but 500 years ago, the site would have been on the water's edge.

In 2001, skeletal remains were found close to the Masonic Tavern in Devonport during stormwater drainage work. The remains were believed to be from a Māori battle at Torpedo Bay in 1793 between Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Paoa.

The artefacts found at the old naval base site are currently undergoing further analysis, including carbon dating.

Activity idea

In relation to this news story, your students may like to investigate the C-14 carbon dating process using this interactive activity.
C-14 carbon dating process

Students could investigate middens and what they tell us about the daily lives of people in the past.


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