Accurately dating the Māori past

Precise and accurate radiocarbon (14C) chronologies are essential to achieve tight chronological control for the 750-years since Polynesian explorers first settled New Zealand. Achieving this goal has, however, been elusive.

Cross Creek Site

An initial project investigating marine 14C variability around New Zealand has given us the first temporal 14C marine model for the South Pacific (Petchey and Schmid 2020). This new knowledge is being applied to archaeological sites around Aotearoa is enabling us to explore critical questions about Māori settlement and cultural development afresh.

Latest findings

New results from the investigation of radiocarbon dates associated with kūmara indicate a delayed dispersal of kūmara cultivation to the south and inland regions (Anderson and Petchey 2020).


Petchey F. (2020). Temporal variations from the Marine20 radiocarbon calibration curve. Recommendations for New Zealand. Archaeology in New Zealand, 63(3):24-28.

Anderson, A., & Petchey, F. (2020). The transfer of kumara (ipomoea batatas) from east to south Polynesia and its dispersal in New Zealand. Journal of the Polynesian Society129(4):351-382 .

Petchey, F., & Schmid, M.M.E. (2020). Vital evidence: Change in the marine 14C reservoir around New Zealand (Aotearoa) and implications for the timing of Polynesian settlement. Scientific Reports10(1):8 pages .

Furey, L., Petchey, F., Sewell. B., & Green, R. (2008) New observations on the stratigraphy and radiocarbon dates at the Cross Creek site, Opito, Coromandel Peninsula. Archaeology in New Zealand, 51(1):46-64 .

Related News

Motourua Island archaeological dig.  RNZ, 18th Jan 2019

Mangahawea first human settlement.  Te Ao Māori News, 18th Jan 2019

Mangahawea Bay excavation

Mangahawea Bay excavation, Bay of Islands. Jan 2020 (Photo F. Petchey).


This research was supported by a Marsden Support grant from the University of Waikato. We wish to thank the Mangahawea Bay Partnership project (Patu Keha and Ngati Kuta, Department of Conservation, University of Otago, and Heritage New Zealand), Professor Atholl Anderson (ANU), Dr. Bruce McFadgen, Dr. James Robinson (Heritage New Zealand), Dr. Gerard O’Regan (Otago Museum) Dr. Louise Furey (Auckland War Memorial Museum), Dr Magdalena Schmid (University of Kiel).