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Home arrow Human Interest arrow Local arrow 'Maori Pompeii' yields treasures
'Maori Pompeii' yields treasures PDF Print E-mail
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Human Interest - Local
Written by Craig Borley, The New Zealand Herald   
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Tawhiti Rahi Island (rear) in the Poor Knights group was inhabited by pre-European Maori. Photo / Northern Advocate
Tawhiti Rahi Island (rear) in the Poor Knights group was inhabited by pre-European Maori. Photo / Northern Advocate

A New Zealand archaeologist has uncovered an untouched "time capsule" of Maori life almost 200 years ago.

The remains have lain hidden beneath the impenetrable undergrowth of the Poor Knights' northern island, Tawhiti Rahi, since December 16, 1823.

On that day, or in the few days prior, a raiding party from Northland's Hikutu hapu landed at the island's only safe landing spot - choosing a time when the island's Ngatiwai iwi chief and men were off on their own raid.

The island fell, its inhabitants massacred, and was barely ever set foot on again.

That created what is known as a "Pompeii premise" - where an archaeological landscape is left intact.

The island is covered with archaeological features.

While the Poor Knights' southern island, Aorangi, has long been known as the home to a permanent pre-European Maori population, Tawhiti Rahi was believed to be little more than a seasonal camp. It had until now escaped detailed examination because of its difficult access.

But Otago University archaeologist James Robinson and his team spent 12 weeks over the past three years combing its landscape.

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