NZ's first missionary station uncovered

Ian Smith and Angela Middleton at the dig site.
Ian Smith and Angela Middleton at the dig site.

The site of New Zealand's first missionary's station and its first classroom have been discovered by archaeologists after two years of research and fieldwork.

Artefacts from the Hohi Mission Station at Kerikeri have uncovered details about the daily lives of the first permanent European settlers, researchers said.

University of Otago Anthropology and Archaeology Associate Professor Ian Smith and Archaeology Honourary Research Fellow Dr Angela Middleton led the excavation team.

"We found the remains of what is likely to have been the house of early New Zealand missionary Thomas Kendall and his family, as well as artefacts like ceramic shards, glass, a coin dating from 1806 bearing the profile of George III, and gunflints," Professor Smith said.

"We uncovered the site of New Zealand's first school - a modest-sized classroom - and other features including a Maori-style whare," he said.

"There were lots of slate pencils, and fragments of writing slates, and children's toys."

The place where the Hohi mission stood from 1814 to 1832 had been abandoned since that time. In 1907 it became the Marsden Cross Historic Reserve.

"Overall the archaeological evidence paints a picture of the hard struggle that these first European settlers had in making a living here, and how dependent they were on local Maori for food supplies and protection," Professor Smith said.

Dr Middleton said the site could be seen as a microcosm for the kind of developments that took place between iwi and missions in other parts of the country.


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