July 11, 2018
Bone fragments rich trove for first contact study
DNA analysis of fossil bone fragments set aside by archaeologists as too small to identify by traditional means is giving new insights into the impact of early Māori on the environment.
University and museum researchers from both sides of the Tasman have worked together on the project, which compared bones excavated from caves that predate human arrival, with bones from ancient human kitchen waste or middens.
More than 100 species were identified, including 14 which are now extinct.
They characterised the biodiversity that has been lost, including finding 10 distinct lineages of the flightless green parrot Kākāpō, compared with just one now.
University of Otago anthropology professor Richard Walter says the new methods will allow archaeologists to model patterns of early Māori mobility, seasonal behaviour patterns, and resource management strategies.
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