2000-year-old Moa bones uncovered in Central North Island

By Ripeka Timutimu

Moa bones, thought to be around 2000 years old, have been uncovered in the Central North Island.

A group of students and staff from the Māori studies department at Victoria University helped to uncover the bones.

They are old treasures that are rarely seen.

Peter Adds says, “We recovered the bones of at least 21 birds and maybe 50 depending on how we count them.”

A controlled excavation for moa bones similar to this has not been undertaken for the last 45 years.

“In that excavation we quadrupled the number of bones found on the volcanic plateau and so its significant for that reason alone,” says Adds.

Last month, a group led by Peter Adds had an opportunity to excavate farmlands at Otiku, the tribal area of Ngāti Paki and Hinemanu.

Adds says, “Māori tended to know location of bones anyway and this particular iwi have those traditions in their kōrero and there are places named after the moa also.”

Despite the sheer number of bones found, Peter Adds says there are still bones missing, a big mystery he's looking to answer.

“Those bones could have been taken away by the Haast eagle which is also extinct now, but we know used to hunt the Moa, maybe eagles hunting overhead saw the drowning birds and went and got a free feed and took those bones away.”

Next month, the group will travel back to the site to excavate the bones that remain there.