New Zealand archaeology, of course, doesn’t have the distance of older cultures, when even Maori occupation only goes back a millennium or so. However, there is still enough to excite archaeologists and most recently a dig at the first permanent European settlement at Oihi Bay in the Bay of Plenty has yielded things of interest. It’s a joint project between the Department of Conservation and the University of Otago. The Rev Samuel Marsden preached the first sermon there on Christmas Day 1814. It was home to about 25 or 30 Europeans and a place of work and schooling for many Maori, and a focal point of early Maori/European interaction before it was abandoned in 1832.
So far they have discovered numerous writing slates and pencils, a toy cannon, a bronze bracelet, glass beads (commonly used for trading), nails, and pieces of ceramics. But they have been most excited by the discovery of a fireplace in what was probably New Zealand’s first schoolhouse. The researcher Dr Angela Middleton said "You know you’ve got a house when you find a fireplace. And the clay marble, the toy cannon, immediately you have the sense that there were children here."
There seemed to be layers here, the top layer of Maori cultivation, a middle layer of gravel and rocks and a much deeper layer showing signs of burnt (fire-cracked) rock, the results of Maori habitation.