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New dating could provide pa site timeline

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/01/2017

New precision radiocarbon dating could help to provide a highly accurate chronology of the construction of major pa sites, according to Waikato University research.

New Zealand archaeologists, using a technique called wiggle-match, have been able to date palisade posts from Otahau Pa, in inland Waikato, at 1768, plus or minus four years.

The date was much earlier than local kaumatua from Taupiri Marae expected, says a study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

The author, Associate Professor Alan Hogg, says the construction of pa was an important part of North Island colonisation by early Maori.

However, dating of the hill forts has been difficult.

While the wiggle-match technique has been tested only in wetland pa sites, researchers hope to use it to build up robust chronologies of settlement tied in with oral history.

"Then, for the first time in New Zealand, we might be able to write a rich material and social history of a region in the period before European observation," the study said.

"The Waikato district would be ideally suited for such a regional study, having both a relative abundance of wetland pa sites with preserved palisades, and extensive archives of oral history."

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