Re: Inhabitants of New Zealand before Maori's?
18 Dec 1996 05:30:46 GMT

1000 B.P. would be an approximate consensus date for the
arrival of the first inhabitants of New Zealand, the ancestors
of the Maori. Some archaeologists would put it a few centuries
earlier, some a bit later. As I understand it, the earliest
solid radiocarbon dates are around 700-800 B.P. I too would like
to know where the 3500 B.P. figure came from.

An interesting recent development has been the discovery of bones
of the Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans) in several locations around
NZ, dated to ca. 2000 B.P. This animal is not native to NZ, but
comes from SE Asia and has found its way to islands all over the
Pacific as a passenger on Polynesian canoes. The likelihood of it
swimming or drifting here seems remote. The conclusion would then
be that there were humans here much earlier than previously thought.
Unfortunately all we have so far is rat bones (left in heaps by
birds of prey). No human remains or artefacts anywhere near that old
have yet turned up.

Ross Clark