3 Oct 2014

Waka a window on ancient world

8:15 am on 3 October 2014

Research on a 600-year-old waka published in a prestigious American journal is causing ripples in the science world.

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The segment was discovered in Golden Bay in 2011. It has been examined by scientists at the University of Auckland and their findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Architectural software was used to analyse it, and found it was carved in New Zealand from a single piece of Matai around 1400 AD.

Senior researcher Dilys Johns said it has connections to ancestral Polynesian culture, such as a turtle carved on the hull.

She says the waka piece is a window in New Zealand pre-Colonial maritime archaeology which has not been available before.

"We scanned it and then used that data and we were able to figure out where this piece fitted into. It's allowed us to get a window into old maritime archaeology, or pre-contact maritime archaeology in New Zealand which we hadn't had before - that's why it is so important."

Ms Johns said the piece can be regarded as an early adaptation of East Polynesian canoe technology to New Zealand.