Discovered skull could rewrite New Zealand's history books
Tue, 05 Aug 2008 8:40p.m.
A skull believed to be that of a European woman from 300 years ago has been found on the banks of a Wairarapa river.
The find was a big enough of a mystery to warrant an investigation by the Masterton coroner, who called in the forensic pathologists.
"She was obviously female and her age was obviously assessed at 40 to 45 years of age," coroner Jock Kershaw said.
Carbon dating indicates that the skull is at least 250 years old.
"You're looking at perhaps a European female wandering around the 1740s," Mr Kershaw said. "Which is much earlier than I understood there to be a European settlement."
The skulls was found three years ago by a local man, after a flood exposed it on the bank of the Raumahunga near Featherston in the Wairarapa and the find is against the flow of history and the tides.
"It's possible that a group of explorers capsized and a body got washed up in New Zealand," Jock Phillips from the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand speculates," But that would have been washed up on a West Coast beach. It wouldn't of ended way up in the Ruamahunga River."
Sealers and whalers did not arrive in the area until the 1790s, so for a woman to be found from the 1740s is definitely a turn-up for the history books.
"If that was going to be the case you'd expected other sorts of evidence," Mr Phillips says. "There would have been oral evidence within the Maori community. There'd be literary evidence, people writing about it. There'd be other artefacts, other skulls that were found none of those things have happened."
Another local research institute is offering to do further DNA tests on the skull.