23 Oct 2012

Hawaiki now closer to being found

10:01 am on 23 October 2012

Hawaiki, the ancestral Polynesian homeland of Maori, is now a step closer to being found thanks to researchers at the University of Otago.

Otago created the first ever complete genome of Polynesian mitochondrial DNA from the bones and teeth of four early Maori who were buried at Wairau Bar in Marlborough 700 years ago.

Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith said the next step is to find and decode the mitochondrial DNA of other ancient pacific people so they can discover which is the most similar to ancient Maori.

If a match is found, she said which island or islands Maori left to sail to New Zealand could be identified, giving some clue to where Hawaiki is.

Previously scientists thought the DNA of polynesian people was not varied enough to track their ancestry. Details of the new study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.