New Zealand has a shorter human history than any other country.
Māori traditions tell of the navigator, Kupe, who discovered Aotearoa New Zealand navigating by:
- ocean currents
It was not until 1642 that Europeans found New Zealand.
Hunting, gathering and growing
Māori were expert:
- gathered food
- grew vegetables from Polynesia
- transported food
- stored food
- cooked food
For fishing, Māori:
- wove fishing nets from harakeke - flax
- carved fishhooks from bone and stone
When hunting Māori caught native birds using a wide range of traps and snares. The early settlers lived in small groups living mostly off seals and moa, until moa were extinct.
Birds, fish and shellfish were important in the Māori diet. The Polynesian dog and rat (kiore) were also brought here. Domestic pigs and chickens were not brought or did not survive the journey from the Pacific Islands.
Māori quickly adapted to life in New Zealand and lived on average to 30-35 years of age, the same as Europeans. The Māori population, before Europeans arrived in New Zealand, could have been as high as 100,000.
Māori passed on history and legends orally. Reciting whakapapa (genealogies) was and still is an important way to share knowledge. Whakapapa links people, ancestors, relationships and connection to the land.
The concepts of mana (status) and utu were strong in Māori culture. Although this led to wars, they usually lasted for only short periods of time. To protect themselves from being attacked by other iwi, Māori built pā (fortified villages).
Māori also lived for part of the year in seasonal camps that were unprotected.
Craft and trade
Early Māori were skilled carvers of:
Māori traded food, tools and stone ornaments with early European whalers and sealers.
Ready for a quiz? Try the "Māori Arrival in Aotearoa" activity.