By reviewing the bearing on Maori culture history of the excavation of Moa-hunter sites in New Zealand the previous chapter serves as an introduction to this account of the Wairau site, which is the most important Moa-hunter site yet recorded.
So haphazard is the progress of archaeology in New Zealand that although this camp occupies more than 15 acres and is situated on an accessible beach about seven miles from the town of Blenheim, it was not discovered until 1939. It was first ploughed about 1922, when the tenant, Mr C. Eyles, was surprised at the number of bones uncovered. Being unfamiliar with moa bones, he believed the larger bones were those of the bullocks formerly employed to cart wool along the boulder bank, and the smaller to be human. Presumably miscellaneous artifacts were also revealed by the plough but only a number of stone adzes were recognized and retrieved. Of these the only one saved is a massive example of Type 1, A one of the most distinctive Moa-hunter types.
The site was not identified as of Moa-hunter age until some seventeen years later, when Jim Eyles, the thirteen-year old grandson of the former tenant, decided to emulate the spasmodic activities of local collectors who occasionally visited the site in search of ‘Maori curios’. He opened up a trench on the edge of a convenient mound and immediately found the first of seven burials each, as subsequently established, with a moa egg grave offering.