4 Feb 2020

Preserving archeological history in Hawke's Bay

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:27 pm on 4 February 2020

Tucked on the inside of the bay at Te Kauwae-a-Māui / Cape Kidnappers is an area believed to be a huge kāinga (village) dating back to 1400AD.

Te Kauae a Maui and  two DOC structures that will be used as a base

Te Kauae a Maui and two DOC structures that will be used as a base Photo: supplied

Sitting atop a sand dune, the site is under threat from coastal erosion.

“This [area] has been under the battering of the elements, the northerlies and the westerlies going in there,” says Marei Apatu of Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga.

Since 1984 the dunes have receded up to 20 metres, he says.

The erosion has revealed a 200 metre stretch of what is believed in total to be up to a kilometre of the kāinga.

Over a year ago, a tourist on his way to the gannet colony with a group of others discovered there was more to the site than first thought.

 “As they were having their lunch, one of them pulled up a human skull, a kōiwi.

“Fortunately this young man took it upon himself to call everyone away, he went over and of course saw there are other parts of the human skeleton that came to surface and he did the right thing, he put them all into a bag, he went and put them under a cover and rang Department of Conservation and police and ultimately that got back to an archaeologist…and she contacted myself.”

Apatu now wants to understand the nature of what they’re dealing with, with the help of archaeologists.

Heritage New Zealand has signed off authority for an archaeological investigation to take place, supported by the Department of Conservation, mana whenua and the land owner.

One of the goals is to return the kōiwi to the whenua in an area not in danger of coastal erosion.

Uncovering the 600-700-year history of the site is also a key objective.

“It will help to weave a story of what occupation Hawke’s Bay coastline had,” Apatu says.

“I don’t think it will be a mission too impossible.”


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