Discovery of pre-European artefacts at Huntly Bypass

The teeth of a pre-European ceremonial wooden comb, a heru, have been discovered during earthworks on the Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway. 

A machine operator uncovered an old midden site with an excavator. He realised the significance of the find and stopped work immediately to allow time for Kaiarahi Kawe Nikora to contact the site archaeologist, Warren Gumbley.

Mr Gumbley declared the area an archaeological site and identified where the small amount of topsoil that had been removed. The topsoil was searched and the heru teeth were found.

‘The heru teeth are a rare find as virtually all wooden artefacts decay over a relatively short time. In this case we were fortunate because the high resin content in the Rimu wood meant the Heru had not decayed.

“Part of the site where the heru teeth were discovered had been previously disturbed during the construction of Evans Road many years ago so we were very lucky to have the machine operator identify what he was looking at,” Mr Gumbley says.

Archaeological finds such as these can help to fill out historical details of how the early residents of this land lived. The Heru was worn by both males and females and a chief’s Heru is made of different wood to denote rank.

The contractors, Kaiarahi and archaeologist are now working with nearby landowners to see if further investigations can be carried out on the adjacent private land.

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