Excavation update

sunsetKia Ora from the Bar.

I’ll post part 2 of Tupuna and Taonga on Monday – just thought I’d bring you up to date on what’s happening in the present day excavations first. As we thought, once the disturbed and ploughed surface layer was removed interesting things are starting to appear. In Area #1, close to where Jim Eyles and Roger Duff found the burials I mentioned last time, what is probably some kind of fire pit has begun to be revealed in one corner.


Like many of the things revealed in an excavation, it’s very subtle. Many of you may think that archaeologists are like Indiana Jones, racing around the world one step ahead of their rivals, finding treasures and ripping them out of the ground so they can be brought back to museums.


In fact, real archaeologists are appalled by this kind of perception of what they do. What they are really doing is looking for clues as to how people of the past lived and behaved, and just as much can be learnt from the location and context that artefacts are found in as the actual objects themselves.  Things that may seem rather unexciting compared to Hollywood movies can be the most significant findings in a dig. You or I (presuming you’re not another archaeologist) would probably not even have noticed the slight change in soil colour revealed in the corner of Area #1, but for the “pros” it was a source of much interest. A dark-coloured area with tiny pieces of charcoal and some stones with pieces missing  indicates that centuries ago someone lit a fire here, probably to cook with, and it was hot enough to cause their oven stones to crack.

fire-pitoven-stoneRemember that Wairau Bar was not a cemetery or burial ground – it was a large and thriving settlement, permanent enough to have its own cemetery, with a whole range of everyday tasks and activities going on, like any other small town. Previous work has given us an idea of the funeral rituals of these people, but we want to know more about how they lived day-to-day.

Over in Area #2 there are also some interesting results starting to appear. The cultural layer has started to be revealed (remember that’s the layer with human artefacts in it) and there are several pieces of stone adze sitting on the surface of it, just where they were left centuries ago.

cultural-layer1cultural-layer-21The largest piece is a “preform” – an unfinished adze that was abandoned halfway through creation, perhaps because the piece of stone turned out to be unsuitable or flawed.


Ok that’s all for now folks – sorry just a short post today – after a week of camping out on the Bar we’re heading into civilization tonight. Our brilliant hosts the Abbotts have spoilt us rotten, but the team are very excited about the prospect of hot showers, TV and junk food on a Saturday night (well, I am anyway!).

have a great weekend,



2 Responses to “Excavation update”

  1. 1 Yolanda
    January 11, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Hey guys! Hope you had a fab day off and are now replenished and ready to face another week. Remember, I’ll be watching you!


  2. 2 Sadie
    January 12, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Aside from being jealous of your incredible weather right now and the beauty of the area (the pictures are amazing, thank you!) I am just hooked on the day-to-day process and can’t wait for more.
    I have spent more than a few hours now looking up NZ history based on mentions made here.

    The moa alone just wows me. So many of us know about the dodo and other ‘famous’ extinct birds but it is just extraordinary that a bird of that size existed such a relatively short time ago.

    More thanks for the detailed account and great pictures.

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