This is the second article by Ian Bradford which shows that Maori claims that they are New Zealand’s indigenous people are unfounded. (Read the first article here)

Evidence of the Moa Hunters living in Hawke’s Bay

By Ian Bradford

This is about a surveyor, farmer, amateur archaeologist Russell Price who devoted 25 years to a very substantial archaeological dig at Poukawa, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. 

What follows is based on the extensive research of historian Martin Doutré. You can visit his website 

Russell became involved in 1930 as a surveyor when a canal was built to drain part of Lake Poukawa, about 20 km south-west of Hastings. The canal was completed in 1931 and enlarged later in 1961. The partial drainage of the lake brought about 1800 hectares into pasture. 

A section of mud exposed was found to contain many sets of long leg bones and feet of giant moa. Only the vertical leg bones were present. Later, Russell Price recounted to neighbour farmer Bill Buddo that he concluded that humans were responsible. He called these humans the Moa Hunters. 

The Moa Hunters drove the moa into the swamp (as it was then), where they became trapped. The Moa Hunters then simply cut through the legs so that the bodies could be removed. Many pairs of legs were left standing upright in the swamp. 

Sixty years ago well-worn moa tracks at various places were very prominent and could be seen easily. Price looked at the spot where the moa bones were found and then picked out the place where the Moa Hunters would have hidden before scaring the birds down into the soft mud. After cutting the body off the legs they would drag the body onto hard ground for plucking, cooking and eating. Cooking pits were found in later excavations. 

Russell Price begins his archaeological digs

Russell began his excavations in 1956. Archaeological investigations in New Zealand were at their peak and it was an exciting age of discovery. Sadly, after the early 1970’s the openness gave way to disruption, censorship and growing interference. 

In the course of building the canal, Russell noted that there were two stratifications of undisturbed ash from massive volcanic eruptions. 

  • One about 186 AD — the Taupo ash some 1764 years before 1950.
  • The other the Waimihia ash fall around 3440 years before 1950. 

These alone gave useful time signatures even without Carbon 14 dating. 

Russell was meticulous in his digs. Before he broke through the Taupo ash layer he cleaned off the surface above to make sure there were no fissures in case anything had dropped down through. When he excavated down through the ash he could conclude that anything found there was before the 186 AD Taupo ash shower. 

Price had a talk with a local Maori elder and laid out his strategy for the excavations. Anything found above the Taupo ash layer of 186 AD would be considered to contain residues from the Maori epoch of habitation. Underneath the ash, cut up and cooked moa bones bearing cut marks from obsidian knives as well as other man made artifacts were pre Maori. 

(As an aside Dr Richard Holdaway, a Christchurch scientist, found rat bones beneath the Taupo ash. The kiore rat had been in NZ for at least 1100 years before Maori arrived in 1300 AD. The rat could only have arrived with humans. This was a very unwelcome find in some quarters.)

Systematic and meticulous recording of the evidence

Beneath the Waimihia ash of around 1340 BC were more cooked and broken up bones which had cutting tool marks on them.  Artifacts in wood, bone, stone and shell were also found. After two digs Russell Price had undeniable proof of human habitation in New Zealand before 186 AD or 1100 years before the arrival of the Polynesian Maori. Russell then found another site with the same sets of vertical moa legs. He left them in situ and they remain there till the present day. 

Russell recorded his finds meticulously with cross sections, diagrams, sketches and photos. He listed artifacts made from bone, wood or stone as tools or ornaments including some worked greenstone.  

It is certain these objects came from below the Taupo or Waimihia ash bands thus dating the items to between 1000 years to 2200 years before the Polynesian Maori found New Zealand shores.    

Verification from top New Zealand scientists

Russell then obtained access to the DSIR radio carbon dating laboratory. Moa bones that had been sawn by man returned C14 dates of 2330 years before 1950. Artifacts found beneath the Waimihia ash bed returned dates of 3440 years before 1950. 

As a professional surveyor, Russell Price could lay out a site with great precision. Since he realised he was an amateur archaeologist, he constantly consulted noted professionals in archaeology, geology, stratigraphy and volcanology as well as experts from the DSIR carbon dating laboratory. Geologists from Victoria University visited the digs and confirmed Russell Price’s findings.

Leading New Zealand scientist W.A. Pullar also took a keen interest.   

Pullar considered the lower ash to be Waimihia lapilli from 3270 years before 1950. He then went on to say that items found below the pumice band raised implications almost too daring to be true.  Pullar remained guarded in his commentary, sensing that a firestorm may ensue. 

Along with other scientists he later signed a statement of belief in support of Price’s conclusions. The document was not for public release. 

The radiocarbon results have never been scientifically refuted though present operators of the radiocarbon dating laboratory have done everything possible to dissuade anyone wanting to view the results from scrutinising or believing them.  (More on this in the third article)

Having Thomas Rafter as head of The Institute of Nuclear Sciences Russell Price had the assurance that his 25 years of meticulous work at Poukawa were well supported by science. He was confident of the ash band stratification and the C14 results. Unfortunately in the turbulent political era of the 1970’s and beyond his result became a most unwelcome find. 

Another interesting find at Poukawa 

 Next door to an outflow stream of Lake Poukawa quite near to where Russell Price commenced his first archaeological investigations is a small hill with a lozenge shaped earthwork on its top. 

The location gives an opportunity to get precise solar fixes onto the winter solstice rise and set, the equinox rise and set, as well as the summer solstice.  This design duplicates the famous British artefact from the Neolithic age (8000-3000 BC), called the Bush barrow Lozenge. 

One point of the lozenge points exactly due North. The configuration of the site appears to be quite similar to the Bush Barrow. It appears that the original builders had a surveying and solar observatory function in mind. There is yet another stepped and truncated pyramid in the Poukawa area. The farmer has fenced off the area to stop stock disturbing the area.  These lozenges appear to be evidence of an ancient civilisation.  

(In my third article I will examine the “official” attempts to discredit Price’s meticulous scientific investigations.)