Rare find in earth­works

Waikato News - - NEWS -

The teeth of a pre-Eu­ro­pean cer­e­mo­nial wooden comb, a heru, have been dis­cov­ered dur­ing earth­works on the Huntly sec­tion of the Waikato Ex­press­way.

The Ful­ton Ho­gan-HEB Joint Ven­ture team made the find while top­soil was be­ing moved to con­struct the new Evans, Kim­i­hia and McVie Roads in­ter­sec­tion, part of the NZ Trans­port Agency’s Waikato Ex­press­way Huntly Sec­tion construction. A ma­chine op­er­a­tor un­cov­ered an old mid­den site with an ex­ca­va­tor. He re­alised the sig­nif­i­cance and Ka­iarahi Kawe Nikora con­tacted site ar­chae­ol­o­gist, War­ren Gum­b­ley. The top­soil was searched and the heru teeth were found.

‘The heru teeth are a rare find as vir­tu­ally all wooden arte­facts de­cay over a rel­a­tively short time. In this case we were for­tu­nate be­cause the high resin con­tent in the rimu wood meant the heru had not de­cayed. Part of the site had been pre­vi­ously dis­turbed dur­ing the construction of Evans Road many years ago so we were very lucky to have the ma­chine op­er­a­tor iden­tify what he was look­ing at,” Mr Gum­b­ley says.

The Heru was worn by both males and fe­males and a chief’s heru is made of different wood to de­note rank.

“Ev­ery per­son who starts work on the Huntly project un­der­takes a site in­duc­tion which in­cludes our Ka­iarahi [cul­tural guide] teach­ing them to be aware of the cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance of work­ing in the Taupiri Range,” says Trans­port Agency Port­fo­lio Manager, Peter Sim­cock. “As part of our work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Waikato-Tainui, the Ka­iarahi ob­serves all top­soil strip­ping be­cause this is the area of work on the Ex­press­way where ar­chae­o­log­i­cal finds are most likely to be made.

The con­trac­tors, Ka­iarahi and ar­chae­ol­o­gist are now work­ing with nearby landown­ers to see if fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions can be car­ried out.

The heru teeth will be car­bon dated to es­tab­lish age. The find will be reg­is­tered un­der the Pro­tected Ob­jects Act be­fore be­ing re­turned to Waikato-Tainui.

Photo / Sup­plied

A rare find dur­ing ex­press­way earth works the teeth of a pre-Euro­pean cer­e­mo­nial wooden comb.

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