A Māori ceremonial comb has been discovered in Huntly roadworks

April 3, 2018

Parts of a pre-European ceremonial wooden comb has been found by workers on the Waikato Expressway.

A pre-European ceremonial wooden comb has been found during earthworks on the Waikato Expressway. The teeth of the heru were discovered on the Huntly section when the topsoil was being moved to construct the new intersection of Evans, Kimihia and McVie Roads.
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. The area was declared an archaeological site by Gumbley who searched the topsoil and unearthed the heru teeth.
"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," Gumbley said.
"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.
"The Heru was worn by both males and females and a chief's Heru is made of different wood to denote rank. The New Zealand Transport Agency said the discovery is an example of the excellent processes in place on the site.
"Every person who starts work on the Huntly project undertakes a site induction which includes our Kaiarahi [Cultural guide] teaching them to be aware of the cultural significance of working in the Taupiri Range," Transport Agency portfolio manager, Peter Simcock, said.

As part of our working relationship with Waikato-Tainui, the Kaiarahi observes all topsoil stripping because this is the area of work on the Expressway where archaeological finds are most likely to be made. "This extra pair of eyes together with the careful operation of machines by the contractors is a very important component of the care necessary to find any cultural or historical artefacts that might be in the topsoil," Simcock said.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.
The heru teeth have been submitted for radiocarbon dating to establish the objects age.The find will be registered under the Protected Objects Act before being returned to Waikato-Tainui.

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