Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Major historical find in Otumoetai

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Archaeologist continue their dig, after items were found while a foot path was being constructed on Maxwells Rd near Pillans School. Photo/John Borren
Archaeologist continue their dig, after items were found while a foot path was being constructed on Maxwells Rd near Pillans School. Photo/John Borren

Food storage pits dating back to before the 1800s have been uncovered in Pillans Point providing evidence of a large Maori settlement in the area.

The archaeological site was uncovered during roadworks in Pillans Point. Maxwells Rd is being widened to create more car parking spaces while existing underground services are upgraded.

The site was being investigated by a team of archaeologists from Opus International Consultants in advance of roadworks and they have since discovered the remnants of approximately 25 subterranean food storage buildings and evidence of a pataka - a raised food storage building.

Together the features are evidence of intense occupation and industry by Maori on the Otumoetai peninsula.

Tauranga City Council communications adviser Marcel Currin said the site was a 3m to 4m strip along the east side of Maxwells Rd.

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"Archaeological evidence was identified during a site walkover and confirmed during archaeological monitoring of earthworks in January. The works are being undertaken under an archaeological authority from Heritage New Zealand."

Mr Currin said the archaeologists believed the site was used before the 1800s and would have been occupied between 200 to 400 years ago. However, the archaeologists would need to send samples for radiocarbon dating to confirm this.

Mr Currin said the find was quite significant.

"Kumara pits similar to those found on Maxwells Rd are apparently found quite frequently in the Bay of Plenty, however we understand none have been found in this area of Tauranga to date. Some of the pits are very large at over 8m in length and nearly 2m deep. The archaeologists tell us these are of some interest and are relatively rare with the site being evidence of a large Maori settlement."

The site had been recorded by drawings and photographs with samples being sent for environmental analysis, he said.

"Artifacts including obsidian (volcanic glass) and fragments of stone adzes have been found in the area which will be analysed by a specialist with a report being provided to Heritage New Zealand detailing the finds."

The archaeological find has put the roadwork back about three weeks, he said.

"People will need to exercise a bit of patience over the next few weeks. It will be difficult to park in the usual places while the work is ongoing, so if possible it will be best to park a bit further away from the site and walk the rest of the way."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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