Wellington, Oct 6 :
The six-metre piece of the canoe, or “waka”, was one of only two Polynesian canoes known to pre-date European contact, the other being a waka excavated in the Society Islands, more than 4,000 km away, University of Auckland researcher Dilys Johns said.
The relic was found in 2012 at Anaweka, the remote north-west end of South Island, after a storm scooped it out of its resting place in a sand dune.
“I had never seen anything as large and complex come out of a site,” Johns said in a statement Monday.
The piece was radiocarbon-dated to around 1400 AD, a period of maritime exploration and inter-island travel, and it had a rare carving of a sea turtle.
Turtle designs were rare in Maori culture and were only seen before on four prehistoric stone amulets.
Turtles were held in high regard by Polynesian societies and only high-status people were allowed to eat them.
Turtles featured in visual art, myths, and rituals and also represented gods.
The waka also featured carved interior ribs, together with evidence of repair and re-use, and had similarities of age and structure to the Society Islands waka, which was excavated from a waterlogged site 30 years ago.