Sharp-eyed worker digs up his­toric site

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS -

A mid­den has been un­cov­ered dur­ing work at the Trans­mis­sion Gully project site of­fice at Lanes Flat, near Pau­ata­hanui.

Cockle shells and shat­tered rocks were found in the mid­den – a mound or de­posit con­tain­ing shells, an­i­mal bones and other refuse that in­di­cates the site of a hu­man set­tle­ment – sug­gest­ing it was once used as an oven.

The Trans­mis­sion Gully mo­tor­way project is a Public Pri­vate Part­ner­ship be­tween NZ Trans­port Agency and the Welling­ton Gate­way Part­ner­ship. The Gate­way Part­ner­ship has con­tracted joint-ven­ture Leighton Con­trac­tors and HEB Con­struc­tion to de­sign and con­struct the mo­tor­way.

Project direc­tor Mick O’Dwyer said that in line with the re­quired pro­to­cols, work stopped im­me­di­ately to al­low ar­chae­ol­o­gists and the lo­cal iwi, Ngati Toa, to in­spect the area and a 20-me­tre ex­clu­sion zone was cre­ated around the mid­den to pre­serve the site.

The dis­cov­ery was made at the eastern end of the 3-hectare site, which sits on the flood plain of the Pau­ata­hanui Stream, and near the foot of the steep slopes that lead up to St Al­ban’s Church. The un­der­ly­ing site there is Matai- Taua, Te Rangi­haeata’s pa of 1846.

Project ar­chae­ol­o­gist Mary O’Ke­effe said she was sur­prised at the find.

‘‘We didn’t ex­pect it given the dis­tance from the edge of the in­let, where the shells cooked in the oven were likely gath­ered,’’ she said.

‘‘But it did en­cour­age me to keep my beady ar­chae­o­log­i­cal eyes open while ex­am­in­ing the find, just in case.

‘‘Two ad­di­tional ar­eas of in­ter­est were found as a re­sult.’’

She said shell frag­ments will be sent away for ra­dio car­bon dat­ing. That has not been done in the area pre­vi­ously and will re­veal how old the oven is.

‘‘It may not look much – just a few shells and shat­tered rocks – but th­ese small ob­jects can tell big sto­ries about how peo­ple were living and trav­el­ling re­gion­ally and even na­tion­ally.’’ She was full of praise for the digger driver, Mal­colm McLeavy, who un­cov­ered the mid­den while strip­ping grass from the area be­fore the lay­ing of ad­di­tional fill.

‘‘ It can be as sub­tle as a change in the colour of the soil, but you do need to know what you are look­ing for, and he clearly did.

Photo: MARK TANTRUM

Ex­cit­ing find: From left, Good­man Con­trac­tors digger driver Mal­colm McLeavy, who made the find, flanked by se­nior en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­viser Reuben Mills and project ar­chae­ol­o­gist Mary O’Ke­effe.

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