11 Apr 2021

Research identifies cultural threads in goldfield early settlers

2:41 pm on 11 April 2021

New research suggests some assumptions about the cultural make-up of early settler New Zealand are inaccurate.

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Researchers working at Milton cemetery Photo: Dr Rebecca Kinaston

The three-year study examined the skeletal remains from early goldfield settlers in Otago.

The University of Otago says when people think about the colonial period, they often think of British colonists.

However lead author Charlotte King said evidence shows that not everyone came from the United Kingdom, but instead from countries in mainland Europe.

Researchers at Lawrence Cemetery.

Researchers at Lawrence cemetery. Photo: Dr Rebecca Kinaston

"DNA evidence showed that people had European ancestry, but very different isotopic signatures - something that relates more to the specific geological areas they were from," King said in a statement.

"It seems likely that people buried there came from all over the United Kingdom and Europe. We found one person whose isotopic signatures could only come from a quite warm climate like the Mediterranean or perhaps one of Britain's more tropical colonies."

The research also found Chinese settlers on the goldfields came from different regions of China - contrary to common belief that Chinese came from the region of Guangzhou.

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